To bring people together for the common good through the power of puppet and mask performance.
What We Do
Puppetry’s power lies in the act of transformation – of bringing something inanimate to life. This act in itself speaks to our lives, which rise and fall and rise again. As we share this act of building and performing, we find that theater brings people together. It builds community. It is with great respect and awe that we see the power and joy of this ancient art flourish in unsuspecting ways and places.
HOBT uses water, flour, newspaper, paint, and unlimited imagination to tell stories that explore the struggles and celebrations of human existence. Drawing inspiration from the world’s traditions of puppet and mask theatre and its lively roots in transformative ritual and street theatre, HOBT creates vital, poetic theater for all ages and backgrounds.
Each year, we produce a season of original plays and tour productions; create specially commissioned pageants throughout Minnesota and beyond; and teach puppetry and pageantry through residencies and workshops to youth, students and teachers, and communities.
In addition, each spring HOBT creates and wholly produces the beloved, fantastical MayDay Parade and Pageant, celebrated by tens of thousands in Powderhorn Park.
Inspired by Bread and Puppet Theater in Vermont, David O’Fallon and Ray St Louis founded HOBT (originally called Powderhorn Puppet Theatre) in 1973. The theatre initially worked out of the basement of Walker Church in Minneapolis’s Powderhorn neighborhood, and was closely connected to Powderhorn Park from the very beginning. The first MayDay Parade & Festival took place in 1975 and has come to be celebrated annually by tens of thousands of people. In 1977, Sandy Spieler became Artistic Director of the theatre and remains so today. For more information on our name and our facilities, see below.
Since it’s founding HOBT has been creating original productions, touring performances, annually producing the MayDay Parade & Festival, teaching in schools, and working with various communities and activists to create theatre that brings people together for the common good. For a more detailed look at the rich history of HOBT and the many people who influenced and shaped the theatre, see our store to purchase the book Theatre of Wonder: 25 Years In The Heart of the Beast.
In the Heart of the Beast Puppet & Mask Theatre 300-seat theatre and administrative offices are located in the Avalon, an art deco cinema designed by architect Perry Crosier in 1937.
It screened top Hollywood movies, and later, art films, but, by the 1960’s, it had devolved into showing pornography. Neighborhood residents organized and, finally, in 1984, the theater was closed. It then stood vacant until 1988 when HOBT became a tenant. HOBT has raised more than one million dollars to purchase (in 1990) and renovate the building.