Friday, September 5, 2008

Bread and Puppet Dreams II

So although I have never been to Vermont or seen the Bread and Puppet Theater troupe on its tours, I have undertaken to build my own puppets in shameless imitation. I put together a small library of how to books--Schumann needs to write one, I am mystified about how he builds his amazing creations--and with the cooperation with my Rector at St. George's Episcopal Church put together a process and built some puppets myself.

The first one I built was one of the local Episcopal Saint, Sister Constance.

In 1878 Memphis was a busy city of some 46,000 people. In the heat of the summer a plague of Yellow Fever begand it stgeady movement up the Mississippi River. At the time they did not know this plage was caused by an infected mosquito moving from the swamps of New Orleans steadily north emptying cities and villages along the way.
By mid August the plague was at the door of the city.With remarkable speed 25,000 wealthy and middle class residents ecacuated the city moving north and away from the river as fast as they could manage. The remaining, 21,000 people were too poor or too ill to leave. Sadly most of the Protestant ministers fled too leaving the Episcopalian and Catholic priests, and the sisters of the three Memphis religious communities elected remain behind dedicating themselves to helping the sick and dying at the risk of their own health.

As the plague raged over 90 percent of the citizens were sick and quickly filling the cemetaries. The three communities of sisters, the Episcopalian Society of St. Mary, and the Catholic communities the Sisters of Charity of Bethlehem Academy and the Nashville Dominicans not only rolled up their own sleves but also sent for reinforcements from their sister communities in other cities. Remarkably, reinforcements came to the River of Death.Constance, the sister superior of the Society of St. Mary, was the first to perish. When the first frosts came, 38 sisters and priests lay dead. Only 800 inhabitants remained of the 46,000 who had been there in May.

Building this puppet was a real experiment as I had never built anything like this. Constance I were totally alone in our effort. But I am pleased with how she turned out. I selected the radiant blue cloth and gold skin to suggest the spiritual brightness of her sacrifice.Constance was a delight to build and we had a lot of fun honoring Constance on her Feast day.

Putting her together was a real challenge. Here is what she looked like in process.

What I learned about the process with Constance, I applied to a puppet of St. George. He was a wild experiment as I tried lots of things to reduce the weight of the head. It was not really successful, but still was fun.

No comments: