Barebones presents Metamorphosoup- by Lisa Spiral Besnett


Photo by Bonita Blumenauer

In the Twin Cities we are blessed with a wide variety of performance art options. Some of my favorite events are community based, like the May Day Parade. At this end of seasonal cycle Barebones Productions puts on its Halloween Extravaganza. This is an evening event, outdoors in a park late in the fall in Minnesota. For the 21st annual production Barebones presented Metamorphosoup.

This year the weather has been perfect for this kind of event. Sunday night when I
attended the temps were in the cool, but comfortable 50’s. Much better than some years, but still nice to be bundled up. This year’s presentation seemed shorter than some. There is often a theme or story associated with the production. This year seemed more pageant than play.

photo: Lisa Spiral Besnett

photo: Lisa Spiral Besnett

The audience entered through the mouth of the great whale and found their seats on hay bales under the trees. We watched the new moon setting over the trees as we waited for full dark, for the audience to settle, for the main show to begin.

BB3Actors/street performers dressed in Halloween visions of carnival characters directed people to seating and kept us engaged. There are 5 performances with a total attendance around 8,000 people (maybe more this year due to the fine weather). Complete with puppets, aerialists, fire spinners, dancers, singers and musicians we watched the cycle of birth and death and rebirth play out before us.

This was the story of the cosmic soup, the great cauldron of creation. This was a pageant of evolution and destruction, of limited resources and greed, and the bounty of stone soup. There were moments of profound loss and grief and  moments of awe and joy. There was an acknowledgement of ancestors lost and of remembrance.


Photo by Bonita Blumenauer

That description hardly does justice to the wonder that is the Barebones. There were dinosaur puppets, bones perhaps not to scale, but certainly representative of the size and scope of actual dinosaurs. The great wave of water brought
the scene to the ocean filled with floating luminescent creatures lighting up the darkness. Fire spinners dances in glorious numbers, circles and forms. Each time they appeared the fires beneath the great cauldron seemed to glow brighter and the cauldron grew bigger and bigger. In the end there were the ancestors, and the stars.

Photo by Bonita Blumenauer

Photo by Bonita Blumenauer

BB6Even after the presentation there is still production happening. This is not just a play, but an event, a community ritual.
There is a beautiful Hungry Ghost Altar set up around the tree for people to spend time honoring their ancestors, beloved dead and unknown dead alike. There is paper to leave notes and messages, candles available to light, offerings made with the great tree as witness to all that happens at its feet.

Photo by Bonita Blumenauer

Photo by Bonita Blumenauer

The Jack Brass Band (the Brass Messengers on other nights) played music into the night. The brass band echoing on the wind is reminiscent of a New Orleans style funeral procession, somber on the way in but joyous and celebratory on the way out. Sisters Camelot had hot food available for those who stayed and needed a warmup.There was also some merchanting, another source of funding for this amazing production.

Still playing October 30-November 1
7pm at Hidden Falls Regional Park (North Gate Entrance)
1305 Mississippi River Blvd. S., St. Paul  (arrive early for parking)
Suggested donation $10-$20 – new this year they will accept credit cards!

For more information:

Lisa Spiral Besnett

Peek at BareBones 20th Anniversary Extravaganza

image provided courtesy of BareBones theater collective

image provided courtesy of BareBones theater collective

Both Maren Ward, Halloween Artistic Co-Director, and Mark Safford, Section Designer and a performing puppeteer in this year’s show, refer to the annual BareBones  theater production as a ritual. This tradition, always staged during Halloween season, explores where life juts into death. For its 20th anniversary, that ritual explores grief.

Barebones theater, a collective of acrobats, puppeteers, actors, 2-dimensional artists and interested volunteers are an exotic staple of Twin Cities Halloween celebrations. This year’s play, Carry On: a Requiem for 20 Years, hosts visiting artists from years past and even includes the reprise of the character Jack Pumpkinhead, taking the ne’r-do-well on another misadventure as played by Julian McFaul. Participant-creators describe this year as invoking a little bit of Dia de Los Muertos and a little bit of Kali Ma.

Among other returning artists is Roger Peet, a printmaker and visual artist. He did this year’s poster design and is creating the two dimensional images used in the spectacle.

Every year the story is developed at a community brainstorming session. This year, several primary designers suffered significant personal losses and those sorrows gave direction to the show.

The implicit story explores grief as process and time as predator. Says Ward, “[The actors] are going to have grief-cases with little stories of their own personal grieving – a story about a person that they lost, about not having children, about global warming, grieving the glaciers -looking at different ways of being impacted by grief at a personal level.” Time itself will appear as a giant cuckoo clock that processes mourning with a carnivorous energy, acting as a giant grief monster. Other surreal moments in the evening’s journey will include a dance of marigolds, tea with spiders and ultimately coming face to face with a giant grief monster.

The community art collective is well known for its tradition of aerialism, puppetry and pageantry – this year acted to the sound of a 20 piece orchestra, with minimal dialogue.  Each production has grown the pageant in increasingly complex ways. The very first production began with a scuba diver emerging from the Mississippi River and a bicycle-operated 60 foot skull. In other years, shows were staged near the Ross Island power station; later on BareBones moved to private land. A particularly ambitious year featured the production in three locations: Marina on the Saint Croix, Audubon Park in northeast Minneapolis and the Ross Island Power station. Says Safford, “Traditionally this was the local bard’s show. We could do whatever we wanted.”

What initially drew a few dozen audience members expanded over the years to over 1000, enough for the city of Saint Paul and Hidden Falls Park to increase its park use fee from around $50 to $7500 to cover the use of porta-potties, insurance, security and technical gear. In addition BareBones had to pay its artists and fund the pieces used in each production. The years the collective has received help in the past from Bedlam Theater and Heart of the Beast Puppet Theater. This year, in addition to these fees, the company is attempting to raise funds to pay for the show and its attached party, as well as to cover the travel costs of some of the collective’s returning artists.

Safford makes sure to mention something even frequent visitors may be unaware of another BareBones tradition: free food after the show. “A really important part of this show is that we eat together. Waffle, the person that travels from Florida to cook for the show is a really important part of the process. There are moments that are heartbreakingly beautiful. I remember last night seeing people from a long time ago and more recently a guy came from New York riding the rail; he was on walkabout and ended up helping Waffle cook. The food is terrific and sustaining and Sisters Camelot  helps facilitate that.”

Safford describes the company’s work as “High magic, low tech.” He also adds, “It really comes out of nothing but the hearts and minds of the people participating in it.”


All performances are at Hidden Falls Regional Park. When planning your attendance this year: dress warm, bring a blanket, try to carpool and they do supply bike racks. Visitors need to bring flashlights; no alcohol is allowed. All shows are followed by a performance from the Brass Messengers.  The food and drink after the show is supplied by Sisters Camelot. The afterparty runs until 10 pm.

If you wish to contribute to BareBones Theater extravaganza, visit their IndieGoGo page.  All funds raised provide free food to theater crew and audience, cover travel costs of visiting actors and pay for the show the following year.

Show Dates:

All shows start at 7 pm.

Saturday, October 26thwith ASL interpreter

Sunday, October 27th

Thursday, October 31st

Friday, November 1st

Saturday, November 2nd

Suggested donation of $5 – $20 upon entry

Bike racks available. Carpooling strongly encouraged.

Weather cancellation hotline: 415-640-2116 after 3 pm on performance dates