By Martynas Limantas
Puppet Palooza, a series of puppet shows hitting local parks, streets, and courtyards this summer, kicked off the season with A Giant Puppet Romp on June 12 at East Somerville Public Library.
In a joint effort, the Somerville Arts Council and East Somerville Main Streets is presenting a series of puppetry shows to bring awareness of different art forms in hopes of engaging the community in an interactive, safe, and fun way for all.
“Bringing art into a neighborhood enriches lives on multiple levels and strengthens the cultural and economic development of the community,” said Mrs. Balchunas of the benefits of the events. “It gives people the opportunity to gather, know their neighbors, and share in the experience.”
“The Arts Council has wanted to do more events in East Somerville for quite some time,” according to Balchunas. “Taking a page from our Dancing in the Street Series, we are looking to do events in non-traditional spaces.”
Executive Director Greg Jenkins toured the area and keyed in on a few sites perfect for outdoor puppet shows. Thus, with the help of Puppet Showplace Theater, Puppet Palooza was born.
With the evening commute down Broadway as a backdrop, a number of giant puppets were dancing in the street to a jig by an accordion. Ancient Egyptian gods of different shapes and colors greeted the passersby. Children were welcome to participate, with extra costumes available. Some puppets even ventured across the street with cars honking and passengers waving while the music kept playing. Many stopped in their tracks to acknowledge the commotion.
With the sun peeking through the clouds and a gentle breeze bending the trees, more and more participated in the dance. After a friendly greeting from the organizer, Heather Balchunas, the festivities continued. “There is only one rule, dance and have fun,” said Balchunas, and the music carried on in that note. The crowd was cheering and hopping about with the statuesque giants waving their paws and hooves. All present were encouraged to take part in the fun.
The sound of the accordion and the giant bobbing heads, accompanied by laughter and cheers, attracted more to join in and have a go at the fun. The puppets shuffling this way and that kept dancing, interacting with the crowd, and drawing the attention of onlookers, young and old. Every time the accordion stopped, the crowd cheered and once it picked up again cheered even louder and resumed the dance.
“Puppetry is unique in the sense that it includes all the art forms: sculpture, music, movement/dance, acting, and visual art,” elaborated Balchunas on the message to the community. “The community has asked us to do more programming in east Somerville and we look forward to doing so. The Somerville Arts Council is always looking for new and dynamic programming to bring to Somerville. So, I am sure that there will be more puppets in the future.”