Going to the Wild & Scenic film festival this past weekend with several of my fellow PeaceUp folks reminded me of why I find this work so rewarding; the power of community. We arrived at Nevada City, California on Friday afternoon and met our very gracious an amazing hosts, Debra and Tom Weistar, at the festival headquarters. They immediately made us feel at home and soon had us unloading a truckload of puppets and puppet parts that we had brought along to present the Climate Trial. That same night we met the volunteers who we would be working with for the next two days to make our show a reality in this new environment.
For those of you not familiar with the Climate Trial puppet show, we have several puppets, three of which strap onto actors and are an imposing ten feet high when assembled, and we perform what should have been the trial that Tim DeChristopher received. Did I mention that nobody in this group had done this before and that we had never taken the puppets on the road? Well, we’ve SEEN the Climate Trial puppet show before and we’ve worked on the actual puppets, but actually strapping them onto someone and making them work right, well that was a new experience for Roni and me. We had a “dress rehearsal” that night and learned a lot about how ten foot puppets act in a fairly small space with no headroom and inexperienced puppeteers! With hands falling off of puppets, three foot paper mache heads bobbing and weaving and actors reading their new roles, we realized there were a few bugs to work out before the show the next day.
On Saturday, we moved the puppets up to the Miner’s Foundry where the puppet show was to be presented. We had about half an hour, in the dark during a film, to assemble the awkward representations of Dr. James Hansen, a very top-heavy U.S. Government and the child-like federal judge behind the screen where the film was showing. With the help of a roll of duct tape and dumb luck, we all installed ourselves in the structures we would be moving around in for another half hour without too many hitches. As I was standing there in the guise of James Hansen waiting for our turn on the stage, I was visualizing how I would trip somewhere and Dr. Hansen’s head would go flying into the horrified audience, or I would walk into Government or the judge starting off a chain reaction of pratfalls. Well, thankfully, none of that happened and the show went off great. The audience loved our performance and was so impressed that several people wanted to know if we would do it again for their event and how they could use our methods for their own shows! Later that day the show was repeated in the street which created some of its own challenges, but we pulled through and seemed to impress everyone.
The whole weekend was full of challenges, lots of work and fun, and huge success. Here we were in a town which was originally founded around the hugely destructive industry of mining and has transitioned to a place where awareness for environmental and other social issues can come to light and reach a diverse audience. I was introduced to many people that I will not soon forget and who have my great respect. I learned, once again, the power of people coming together for a common purpose and how that power can push me and others to places we could only imagine. This wonderful community of beautiful people has reinforced my hope that the challenges of the future will be met with joy and resolve and that they can rise up to those challenges.