HOBT’s work strives to build creativity, empathy, and interconnection among the people we impact.
CREATIVITY: People unleash their own creativity as a tool in their lives.
EMPATHY: People see, hear, know, and support others across difference.
INTERCONNECTION: People see themselves as part of an ecosystem that must be cared for.
What We Do
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 spring HOBT creates and wholly produces the beloved, fantastical MayDay Parade and Pageant, celebrated by tens of thousands in Powderhorn Park.
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.
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. From 1977 to 2015 Sandy Spieler served as Artistic Director of the theatre. From 2015 - 2019 she along with Bart Buch, Alison Heimstead, and Steve Ackerman, acted as an Artistic Leadership Team.
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 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.
Today, The Avalon is ideal for theater, music and dance performances. For more information about renting the Avalon Theatre, click here.
HOBT is located in south Minneapolis at 1500 East Lake Street, one block west of Bloomington Avenue. Across the street is the vibrant Mercado Central, full of authentic Latino food and goods. Four blocks to the west is the Midtown Exchange building, in the former Sears tower, and its Midtown Global Market, while Ingebretsen's Scandinavian Deli & Gifts - an 80-year old Minneapolis institution - is two blocks east. Click here for map and directions