Community Building through Jataka Fable Puppetry, Concept + Logistical Details

Below, please find the DESCRIPTION, CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT, and the LOGISTICAL DETAILS (including budget)

DESCRIPTION “Jakata Fables” summons “The Parrot and the Burning Tree,” “The Monkey and the Crocodile,” and “The Wind and the Moon,” three of South Asia’s most beloved fables, passed down and reinterpreted through the ages.

Through contemporized takes on traditional South Asian song, dance, and puppetry styles, “Jataka Fables” is re-imagined for community members of all ages, weaving together temple dance, mask, song, and shadow play against the setting sun.

We believe this project will add a wonderfully eclectic educational entertainment-option for Beantown’s neighborhoods. We plan to develop three stories, featuring two to three puppets each. Each tale will last 10-15 minutes. The three selected stories promote values of community responsibility, personal agency, sportsmanship, friendship, respecting and valuing differences, and seeking guidance from those with more experience.

=== CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT===

The ExpressingBoston Public Art Fellowship is interested in supporting artists who live and/or work along the Fairmount Cultural Corridor. What community are you a part of along this corridor and what do you love about this community?:

As teaching artists, we, Dey and Pampi, have a working connection with the Upham’s Corner community. Dey is a teaching artist in the area through Eliot School’s K-8 Innovation School that provides quality arts education to Boston Public School students, many of whom live along the Fairmount Cultural Corridor (FCC); Pampi collaborates with arts facilitators in the Upham’s Corner area. Last year Pampi dedicated the piano she was commissioned to design for the Boston Street Pianos Festival to the story of Scott Joplin and Josephine Baker. She specifically requested that the piano be stationed at the Strand Theatre, the only Boston-side neighborhood to receive a piano. After all, where else but the Strand would a tribute to Joplin and Josephine be more appropriate? When the piano was set to be recycled, her friends at Upham’s Corner Main Street and the Strand rallied to keep it. Today, it still sits at that special corner representing a history that is often lost or forgotten and continues to be played by neighborhood youth and adults and visitors alike. Dey is also active as a theatre artist for Vida Urbana, which develops community-centric interventions that resist gentrification and promotes community empowerment and well-being. Pampi plays a supporting role: she has attended a sit-in and participated on their live radio broadcasts. Many constituents of Vida Urbana live along the FCC.

We love this inspiring, resilient community, because its culture creators work alongside neighbors to celebrate the vibrant stories, both present and historic, that works to help the community have ownership of their places of residence, work and leisure. Dey and I thoroughly believe that when a people know their history, they own their history, build themselves up, and fight for the places they live. We look forward to the not only supporting continued efforts by community organizations to engage our neighbors – many of whom are marginalized as working class people of color –  to resist rising property costs, but to do so through creatively incorporating time-tested community empowerment strategies, as can be facilitated by initiatives such as the Design Studio for Social Intervention (DSSI). We hope also to bring back what we learn here at FCC to other areas of the great Boston area facing similar pressures.

What type of art do you do? How does it represent one or more of your community’s rich history, cultural traditions, identities and assets?:

We, Dey and Pampi, are community-centric multi-media performance artists and educators. We strive to create art that uncovers hidden stories and critically explores complex sociopolitical dynamics that shape the presentation of history. Issues of race, identity, language, and community are fundamental to our work. Performatively, through re-interpreting our own cultural practices, we enact how we code-switch between the perverse, the disparate, the familiar, the reconciling, and the resilient aspects of our ever-shifting plural identities. When we teach these techniques to our youth, we experience first-hand the power of the creative process and the urgency for creative, constructive, and self-accepting self-expression.

The region along the FCC boasts an eclectic population: Fields Corner and Upham’s Corner have a significant Vietnamese, Cape Verdean, and Caribbean immigrant population (especially people from Haiti, Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago). The reason this is exciting to us is because we all share colonial histories. It would be an opportunity for cross-cultural interaction, learning, and empowerment.

Dey and Pampi are Caribbean gals. Dey is Puerto Rican. Pampi is a second-generation South Asian American who grew up in Florida amongst Cuban peoples. In addition, Pampi has a strong command of South Asian diasporic history. Many Caribbean families are a mix of various generations of peoples who were compelled to work as enslaved and indentured laborers from all over the colonized world.

For this proposal we are pitching an interactive puppet show that would allow us to engage audiences in stories of community and facilitate dynamic cross-cultural conversations on lost histories and the questions they leave behind  through community theater and movement techniques specifically developed to facilitate community dialogue. Theater and movement allows the body to release hidden stories that may not be able to be released vocally, not the least of which is that English is a second language for so many people. The tales we plan to present will be retracing the popular Jataka fables of South and Southeast Asia within a Caribbean context. Dey and I will pose as entertainers of a traveling show that arrives from far away, only to discover much commonality with the communities we visit along the FCC.

Our puppet show summons selfless parrots, wary monkeys, cunning crocodiles, and a bickering crane and deer in three of the most enduring Jataka fables: “The Parrot and the Burning Tree,” “The Monkey and the Crocodile,” “The Wind and the Moon.”

As contemporary puppet artists we will draw inspiration from folkloric traditions around the world. The Jataka Tales are the basis for many of our most beloved fables, passed down and reinterpreted through the ages. We would like to see if we can trace histories in sharing these fables through contemporized takes on traditional South Asian song, dance, and puppetry styles. We will re-imagine these fables for community members of all ages, weaving together temple dance animal bodies, mask, song, and shadow play against the setting sun. Locations will take place along the FCC stops – at parks and important civic spaces.

Artist Website URL The first link is to Dey’s bio and projects. The second link is to Pampi’s bio. Her projects are the subsequent posts.

How do you see your art engaging people in public?:

Jataka Tales would like to celebrate all the identities in every body – the struggles to incorporate multiple identities and the beauty of the fusing of identities. We would like to acknowledge the historical distrust between people in our former homelands and the shames we experienced living in mixed cultures into one of common understanding.

Jataka Tales would offer a unique blend of aesthetic cultural representations rooted in South and Southeast Asian Hindu-Buddhist philosophies that may be familiar to some of the residents, especially those hailing from Vietnam, Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago, all places we can fondly refer to as curry cultures. (As part of the event, we would love to offer various world curries from the regions represented along the Corridor. Nothing brings people together as community quite like the nurturing qualities of food.)

We believe this project will add a wonderfully eclectic educational entertainment-option for families living along the FCC. We plan to develop three stories, featuring two to three puppets each. Each tale will last 10-15 minutes, including an interactive component where participating audience members learn one of the animal bodies, act out a like-story happening in their community through the puppets forum theater style, and bring up culturally familiar observations that strike them as they watch each performance. The three selected stories promote values of community responsibility, personal agency, sportsmanship, friendship, respecting and valuing differences, and seeking counsel from those with more experience.

How will this opportunity to make your art more public in your neighborhood impact you and your community?:

We envision that participating families will learn about each others’ history, and through the community empowerment techniques, the impact that re-claiming lost histories has on community resilience.

Puppetry and mask work are often considered the lowest of the art forms; yet, historically, because it is the most accessible, community musical dramas have a long history in spearheading awareness and building solidarity amongst neighbors that leads to the kinds of resistance that allow people to claiming citizenship and civil rights.

We hope that these Jataka Fables will lead to an appreciation and adaptation of the puppetry arts amongst our neighbors as a means for community resilience through story-telling.

What do you hope to learn or gain through being a part of an artist fellowship with the Design Studio for Social Intervention and a community of practice with other artists creating public art along the Fairmount Cultural Corridor? :

We, Dey and Pampi, are excited for this tremendous opportunity to participate in fellowship with DSSI to research and problem solve how to most effectively apply Augusto Boal’s forum theater techniques to puppetry as a  model for community empowerment. We believe that exploring and breaking the audience-artist barriers are crucial when working in communities.

We would be delighted to be in the same room with the other participating community artists to strategize possibilities for lifting up and being uplifted by the vibrant communities that live along the FCC.

===LOGISTICAL DETAILS===

The logistics of the piece include

a. Set-up time:

Included in the magic of our production (see #10 below for details)

 b. Run time

One hour thirty minutes

 c. Technical elements required

Lighting and Sound (all portable). We are providing our own portable PA system. Lighting included in budget (see #8 below). Food.

d. Number of performers

We would like to have two-three additional performers to support this project. Loreto Ansaldo, whose bio is provided below, will be providing production and well as performance support. Pampi directs a contemporary temple dance company, In Divine Company, and will ask one-two of her seven dancers, to provide additional performance support. We are additionally keeping an eye out for a talent Afro-Indo-Caribbean artist/musician to collaborate with.

Loreto has been working with Pampi for fourteen years on community projects, producing dozens of events, from street rallies to stage dance productions, and collaborating with artists of all genres. Her love of puppets and marionettes started in childhood, when she asked Santa Claus for a puppet theater and five puppets to stage her own shows for cousins and neighborhood children.

e. Style of puppetry

The aesthetic of the Jataka hand-puppets, shadow puppets, and masks is inspired by the intricate work of South and East Asian puppetry traditions. We plan to use a creative amalgam of recycled materials to design our animal puppets and masks for the dancers to re-interpret the old and make it new: a foldable keyboard as the body of the crane; sprockets for the hinged knobby limbs of the doe; broken computer chips as the ribbed back of the crocodile.

Color, color, and color! South and East Asian handicrafts work in jewel tones. We plan to keep up with that tradition and introduce a neon-esque base to the bold colors and make them glow when the light in the sky goes.

The dance body will reflect the marionette and hand puppets in terms of dress, masking and movement. Movement will be spry like an animal’s but pop occasionally to show off the body’s beautiful isolations and jointed nature. Movement form being developed as a contemporary temple dance form by Pampi.

UNIQUE BLEND OF THE TRADITIONAL AND CONTEMPORARY THROUGH RECYCLED MATERIALS    
Traditional design Contemporary with recycled metals
PLAY WITH SCALE AND CONTEXT    
Hand puppet/ marionette. Marionette will be showcased on a puppet stage. Mask on dancer. Dancer will enact the animal body right within the crowd.
DANCE BODY AS THE GIANT PUPPET    

f. Range of audience size

A target size per show would be at least 25-30 people.

g. Sight-line concerns

None

8. Budget:

$2000 for puppetry show design and construction + $1,000 for performance stipends (includes four performances) + $600 for lighting equipment and materials + $800 for food at event

Negotiable

Lighting Equipment:

Battery powered string lights $25

LED lantern 3 $75

Stage lamp clip lights

Wireless pa $250

4X5 screen

Headlamps 2 $30

Push light $15

Led spotlight 6 $75

Total Lighting Budget:    $220

Materials

Membership to Extras for Creative Reuse (Recycled Industrial Materials Warehouse for most of our raw materials) $50

Paint (6 Colors, Half-Gallon Each) $90

Brown Kraft Paper (48” Roll, 200 ft) $26

Wheat Paste 3lb Bucket $20

Rebar Tie Wire 400 ft $6

Air Dry Clay (50 lbs) $40

XActo Blades (40) $15

Sintra Plastic sheets 3 sheets $90

Heat gun $25

Utility blade $8

Polyester thread $10

Total Materials Budget $380

Performance Stipend (incl. transportation)

$250/performer (4 performers), 4 performances

Total $1000

Puppetry Show Design and Construction

$500/artist, 3 artists + 1 producer

Total $2000

Food

$200/performance, 4 performances

Total $800

SUM PROJECT TOTAL $4400

9. Site-specific elements: How will your piece “fit in” to your proposed location?

The ideal location is an outdoor garden at last light. We would work with light, shadow and nature, and integrate these elements into the puppetry and live dance. We will arrive as a troupe on bikes singing and chanting. One of our bikes will be fitted with a harness pulling a wheeled trunk set up as a decorated bus (ubiquitous in India) that we roll into an open field. Three actors will cycle around people in circles, singing and chanting, calling people to gather. The actor pulling the trunk will dismantle the trunk and begin laying out the space and will be joined by one other to set up the trunk that unfolds into the necessary sets and props.

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10. If you have a desired location, please state:

The ideal location we envision for these performances are prominent outdoor civic spaces and parks.

Listed below are some of the places we will be researching for suitability and finalizing based on what neighbors along the FCC recommend.

MBTA Fairmount_Line_map.