PuppetLab 2015

Thanks to all who attended one of our world Premiere PuppetLab performances. We had record-breaking numbers at the box office, and we are so grateful for your support of genre-pushing, boundary-smashing, artist-supporting work.

To all the PuppetLab artists of 2015, and everyone who helped them paper mache, sewed their costumes, made their videos, took photos of their work, offered moral support, didn’t complain (or at least didn’t complain too much) about long long nights in the studio in this ~ the fifth ~ year of PuppetLab, congratulations! You DID IT! You made it!

To all emerging puppet artists: Keep your eyes open for the applications for the 2016 cycle in the fall.

Thanks again,

Mpls Lantern Fest Lights the Winter Night

The inaugural Mpls Lantern Fest, a partnership between the Minneapolis Downtown Council and In the Heart of the Beast, was held on Saturday, February 21, 2015. Lantern workshop participants built more than 800 lanterns at workshops throughout February and then converged on Marquette Plaza in Downtown Minneapolis to Light the Winter Night!

Didn’t get enough of Mpls Lantern Fest? Check out these photos:

Photos: Mpls Lantern Fest Lights the Winter Night

Photos: Mpls Lantern Fest Workshops

Behind the Scenes: Constellation Lanterns Being Built 

Slide Show by Alan Wilfahrt

Read more about the Mpls Lantern Fest:

Twin Cities Daily Planet

Downtown Journal

City Pages


Mpls Lantern Fest

Learn more about building the giant constellation lanterns: 

WCCO interview with artist Mark Safford (he built the giant bear lantern)

La Natividad Thank You!

A big THANK YOU to La Natividad volunteers, cast and crew, our partner St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, and to YOU! We had such a successful run and we couldn’t have done it without the support of the over 1500 of you who walked through the streets of south Minneapolis with Maria and José.

Didn’t get enough of La Natividad?

Read about La Natividad in the Star Tribune
Watch a segment about La Natividad on TPT’S Almanac

For our Annual Winter Appeal, we say…

ThanksMagnetTHANKS! We are enormously grateful for the generous community of friends, artists, patrons, funders, partners, colleagues and neighbors who are blazing this new path with us! We would not be here without you. Thank you for recognizing us, and for your patience and commitment to the collaborative work of building an open and caring world. We at In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre stand ready to embrace the new year with passion, energy, clear vision and joyful camaraderie!

If you’d like to support our work, please donate now.


Give to the Max Gratitude

WOW!  Truly an amazing 24 hours!!  How can we ever thank you?  Your generosity propelled us way over the top.  We made our stretch goal and then some!  While we don’t have the final total yet, preliminary numbers indicate that this is HOBT’s best Give to the Max Day ever!

If you donated, we are immensely grateful for your support!  In addition to helping pay for the materials and time to make MayDay happen, your continued support reinforces our commitment to this work and to making MayDay a sustainable community event for future generations. If you missed it yesterday but believe in MayDay and what HOBT does, you can still make a donation at www.hobt.org/donate/

If you want to support HOBT in other ways, please consider buying tickets to our bilingual holiday show, LA NATIVIDAD.  Told with humor, visual beauty and soulful live music, La Natividad combines puppetry, street theatre and community participation.  You don’t want to miss it!

Again, THANK YOU for supporting In the Heart of the Beast!  We are so honored by your kindness and big-heartedness.

Welcome to our Interim Executive Director!

October 9, 2014

The In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre Board of Directors has wonderful news! We are thrilled to announce that effective October 6 HOBT has hired Catherine Jordan as its Interim Executive Director. One of the most respected and skilled arts leaders in the Twin Cities, Catherine brings to HOBT a renewed sense of calm, confidence and stability as she starts working closely with staff, the Board, and our circle of partners and stakeholders. Thanks to supporters like you, we’ve been able to secure the services of a top-notch interim executive director with decades of arts leadership experience to oversee the day-to-day organizational operations and help us envision a new HOBT.

We thank outgoing Executive Director Loren Niemi for his service and commitment to HOBT and his leadership of the organization for the last four years. We wish Loren well in his future endeavors.

We want to give a big shout-out to our awesome staff – artists and administrators – who have worked diligently to ensure we keep making amazing artwork and serving our partners and community during this transitional time. Everyone will soon begin planning for the 2015 MayDay Parade and Festival.

Before MayDay materializes, don’t forget we’re taking the Nativity Story to the streets! Tickets for our popular holiday show, La Natividad, are on sale now with special group discounts available. Performances begin at the theatre – and following a colorful torch-lit procession – culminate two blocks away with a fiesta at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. Told with HOBT’s signature visual beauty and soulful live music, La Natividad is a truly unique community celebration.

We can’t thank you enough for your commitment to HOBT. We are heartened by your generosity in all ways, shapes and forms.

Your feedback is welcome, as always, at hobtboard@gmail.com. Have you seen HOBT’s Facebook page? If you’re not currently a fan, please be sure to “like” us!

Thank you for your support!

September 23, 2014

As you may know, HOBT is weathering stormy seas! We can’t thank you enough for your support during these challenging times. First of all, you answered our call for donations during our year-end appeal. In fact, you helped us double our goal! Your generosity produced more than $60,000, which we’re using to bring the theatre back in balance.

But we are not out of rough water just yet. The Board of Directors has commenced efforts to fund and recruit an Interim Executive Director who will identify and implement the changes necessary to advance the organization.

Artistic Director Sandy Spieler and HOBT’s fabulous staff and contract artists continue to create amazing art, and to seek new artistic partnerships and opportunities.

We remain at the Crossroads of Change but look ahead to the future. Please stay with us as we take HOBT to the next level. Your support has been essential and vital – and it truly is why we exist!

As always, we welcome your feedback at hobtboard@gmail.com. If you don’t currently receive our e-newsletter for the latest news and information, please subscribe at www.hobt.org/subscribe.




Kirstin Wiegmann, HOBT Board Chair | kirstin.wiegmann@gmail.com | 785.766.8150


(Minneapolis; August 15, 2014) – In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre (HOBT), the funder and organizer of the annual MayDay Parade and Festival and one of Minneapolis’ most beloved community assets, announced today that it is embarking on a new path to reimagine its future with the aim of ensuring the organization’s long-term viability and success.

HOBT’s vital mission – to bring people together for the common good through the power of puppet and mask performance – will remain at the core of its puppet center identity, along with its performance, education and community-building work.

While HOBT continues to lay the foundation for its sustainability into the next decade, it is currently faced with inadequate cash flow to support the full range of programming it has offered in the post-recession economy. The reasons include the inability to replace overhead funding lost after the expiration of a multi-year operating support grant (and the increasingly limited availability of similar grants); and the unexpected need to fund a more than $20,000 refinancing of the Avalon Theatre mortgage as a result of a precipitous drop in the theatre’s appraised value along with the subsequent reduction of a credit line used to moderate cyclical cash flows. As a consequence, HOBT ends its budget year with insufficient cash reserves to carry out a full artistic program.

Out of necessity and with careful deliberation, HOBT’s Board has laid out a plan for the 2015 fiscal year (which commences September 1, 2014) that decreases staffing and programs. The building will remain open for project work and rentals, and all existing contractual responsibilities will be fulfilled. Throughout the restructuring, HOBT is committed to meeting all financial obligations. The Phillips Project, an educational partnership, will continue along with Saturday matinees and touring shows. HOBT will also co-host the Handmade Worlds Festival in collaboration with Open Eye Figure Theatre and the Puppeteers of America in September. La Natividad, this year’s holiday show, will be staged in partnership with St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and the Basilica of St. Mary’s. And planning for HOBT’s signature event, the annual MayDay Parade and Festival will begin in the fall. Staff and salaries will be reintegrated as sustainable cash flows permit.

“The board and staff of HOBT are making the hard choices needed to continue the work on business and financial plans. We’re eager to continue as a partner to sustain such a unique community asset,” said Kate Barr, executive director of the Nonprofits Assistance Fund.

Moving forward, the HOBT Board will be reaching out to local experts to help assess current practices and policies, and explore new sustainable business models that will get the organization back on firm financial footing and pave the way for long-term success.

A key component of reimagining the theatre will be engaging the community, the support of which is needed now more than ever. HOBT will host a series of town hall meetings like those it hosts to plan and build the MayDay Parade, with the intention of helping reenvision HOBT’s future.

Kirstin Wiegmann, president of the HOBT Board, said, “We believe a challenging time like this can actually serve as a catalyst to propel us to our next growth phase. With so much incredible creative talent and an engaged community surrounding HOBT, there is unlimited potential for continued service for another 40 years. As such, the Board is actively taking steps to be innovative and co-design – with our stakeholders – an organization that is vibrant, sustainable and deeply supportive of artists, staff and community.”

Even while facing financial challenges, HOBT’s work retains its relevancy and urgency. The societal concerns that are coming to the forefront now – social justice, clean water, climate change, sustainable agriculture – are the same issues that the nonprofit has been addressing for four decades.

In the Heart of the Beast continues to receive recognition to its community work. The McKnight Foundation recently honored Artistic Director Sandy Spieler as its 2014 Distinguished Artist, noting that “Within and beyond the walls of HOBT, Spieler’s extensive artistic résumé includes everything from puppet shows performed in a suitcase to community collaborations, performance installations, public art commissions, and streetscape designs — all driven to engage and lift up the broader community.”

Deeply rooted in its longtime home on East Lake Street, HOBT has weathered some of the most difficult years along the corridor, arm-in-arm with the residents and businesses of the Phillips and Powderhorn neighborhoods. The Board and Staff are committed to staying in the Avalon Theatre and supporting the health and well-being of these great Minneapolis neighborhoods.

As a puppet center, HOBT will continue to serve the vibrant Twin Cities puppet community and the community-at-large through beautiful, thrilling, joyful, educational and thoughtful community engagement.

Over the last two years, the theatre has made significant programmatic shifts to embrace a new direction as puppet center, focusing energy on the critical educational and community engagement work of the theatre and beginning the process of determining how to best serve the vibrant Twin Cities puppet community and the community-at-large.

The 40-year old nonprofit has faced this kind of challenge before and each time has found the appropriate combination of good will, volunteer energy and financial support to emerge a better organization. HOBT’s Board and Executive and Artistic Directors believe strongly that this austerity year will give the organization the time to revamp in order to remain one of the most highly regarded professional puppet and mask theatres in the country.


In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre is excited to co-present such great puppetry!

Registration is now open for HANDMADE WORLDS: A Festival of Puppet Theatre, Sept. 25 – 28, 2014 in Minneapolis. Check out the line-up of incredible performances and workshops and help us spread the word. Support the festival by purchasing your full festival pass today!

Join us in the heart of the Twin Cites thriving puppetry scene for a festival celebrating puppet theatre. The aim of the festival is to bring the best puppet theater that we can find to Twin Cities audiences. This is not a festival just for puppeteers, but this will be an event that puppeteers will not want to miss.

You can attend one or two performances or workshops or register for the entire festival. A full festival pass will ensure that you don’t miss anything and gives you a tremendous savings over purchasing tickets to individual events.

More info: http://www.handmadeworlds.org/

ALSO Discount passes are available until August 1st!


War Horse Puppetry Workshop

Photo courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust.

Photo courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust.

Hennepin Theatre Trust will be partnering with HOBT during the month of June, for a one-time puppet making workshop, in conjunction with the Orpheum Theatre’s presentation of War Horse. Children who participate in the workshop will create their own table-top horse puppets and learn how to animate them.

This event will be held Thursday, June 13th5:00pm, at the FAIR School (10 S. 10th Street in downtown Minneapolis). Tickets will be $5 per participant.

Best suited for children ages 9 and up.