After the holiday “door-buster” sales insanity, In The Heart of the Beast Puppet And Mask Theatre re-connects us to something priceless with its production of Winter Dreams. Transcending all religious traditions, this magical performance reunites us to the deeper rhythms of our natural world.
Heart of the Beast is, at its essence, a collaborative endeavor. But director Alison Heimstead first created Winter Dreams in 1998 and 2000. Heimstead longed for a revival ever since, and this production was well worth the wait. Through diverse global cultures of puppetry, from giants on stilts to delicate shadow puppets, a spell is conjured from a synergy of scientific facts and humans’s ancient origins.
Heimstead told KFAI Radioabout her scientific inspirations (with help from the Bell Museum of Natural History). It’s fun to find out that bears aren’tthe only creatures that hibernate.
“Frogs freeze almost completely. Bats’s heartbeat slows down to ten beats a minute. Turtles stop their hearts,” she explained with excitement. Showing these creatures (and others) relating to winter is done with wit and art.
An inquisitive white rabbit, a rowdy young wolf exploring apart from the pack, luminous geese flying south and a humorous chipmunk family face blizzards, increasing darkness and growing hunger. The moon comes alive as a nocturnal force, with stars embodied in what feels like a joyous ritual dance of centuries long past. On a more basic level, the animals try to stay warm or struggle with slipping on ice—concerns people grapple with, too, during a long Minnesota winter.
Duane Tougas’s fantastical set, with George Meyers’s evocative lighting design, moves from a colorful autumn of swirling leaves to gentle snow and strong storms creating a shimmering, frozen world. Musical Director Jim Parker with fellow musician, Sean Egan, makes a sound-bed that ranges from the melancholy to the magnificently wacky.
Winter Dreams is a delightful introduction to Heart of the Beast, a Twin Cities theatrical landmark, which has created plays at the old Avalon Theater since 1988. This is a show for children and adults, anyone with the capacity for wonder.
“This time of shorter days and longer nights can be a time of slowing down and reflection,” Heimstead observed
Winter Dreams reveals that paper mache, fabric and wood, imbued with imagination, can make all but the most cynical see our planet with new eyes.
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