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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Monday July 15th 2024

Theatre”'s Community Soul


Perhaps it seems like a contradiction to be a professional theatre with a community soul.  Our internal dilemmas—about speaking our artistic voices while also giving community participants a voice; about providing our company with livable wages while keeping the theatre work inexpensive and affordable—are not separate from the external dilemmas of the larger world.  Indeed, such a path contains all the recurring dilemmas of seeking to live a soulful life in the midst of our nation, where everything is valued primarily as a commodity of the marketplace.  Walking this dilemma is part of being “in the heart of the beast.”

In 1979, company member and poet Stephen Linsner suggested the name “In the Heart of the Beast” as a metaphor for our theatre.  He wrote,

“To be puppeteers in the Heart of the Beast

”¦is to find ourselves in the great world Beast made of families, races, ages, classes, corporations, and nations, people, (and creatures!) all different, working out a way to live together.

”¦is to work puppets. To hold life in our hands, to sense how we are all like puppets—worked by instincts, voices, and forces above and below us.

”¦is to carry and protect something very old like a heart within us, a secret, a promise.  Like carrying a flickering candle through a dark place.  Like carrying a family in a horse drawn wagon.

”¦is to travel the roads of history and loss, in search of something like a new heart: new communities, new families, new work, new holidays.

”¦is to tell the story of people who live in the heart of the beast””as courageous and resourceful as they really are.”

This name was inspired by a phrase written by the Cuban poet Jose”' Marti, though often attributed to Che Guevara.  Che had urged North Americans who wanted to be part of the Cuban revolution to “stay home and work in the place where you live, where you find your community, in the heart of the beast.”

Sandy Spieler is Artistic Director of HOBT

*This is an excerpt from the 7th Chapter “From the Mud””Puppets From the Pulse””Song Twenty-five Years of Puppet Theatre on East Lake Street” written by Sandy Spieler within the book, THEATRE OF WONDER: 25 YEARS IN THE HEART OF THE BEAST, published by University of Minnesota Press, 1999. Excerpts from page 45-46 and page 50.

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