Seed: Awesome Vessel of Power
September, 2002 & 2000
Curated by Beth Peterson
Seeds hold within them all strands of life that have come before us, as well as the potential for all growth that is yet to be.
Through lyrical storytelling, science, original music, and humor, Seed explores the magic and wonder of this tiny but powerful life force, and examines the ominous undercurrents of genetic manipulation and potential global control of the world's food supply. Join us as we journey into the mysterious secret life of the seed.
“Oh sacred world now wounded, we pledge to make you free of war, of hate, of selfish cruelty. In this small corner we plant a tiny seed. May it grow in beauty to shame the face of greed.” -Pete Seeger
“The time has come to reclaim the stolen harvest and celebrate the growing and giving of good food as the highest and most revolutionary act.” -Vandana Shiva
Written in February 2000 for the first production of Seed
At this early February time in the midst of winter we dream of the first stirrings of tiny seeds. Like an intricate wild garden this journey of SEED: Awesome Vessel of Power has carried us down pathways both unfamiliar and ancient. The subject matter calls to us strongly – the wonder, beauty and gritty endurance of the seed, the enduring faith and brilliance of the farmer. We also join the world wide wake-up call for all of us food-eaters to learn what we can about corporate control of seeds, patenting of seeds, and biogenetic seed technologies. These are crucial issues of our time. Decisions we make now on these matters will radically affect future generations on the planet.
This performance was created by five puppeteers and three musicians – each taking leadership in different areas and enjoying the collaborative work of the group. In addition another group of artists created beautiful installations in the lobby.
In the fall, our research carried us to a southern Minnesota seed farm. The warehouses were empty as the farmers decided which seed to clean – biogenetic or conventional – based on demands of the market at home and in Europe.
We also talked with a biodynamic grower from Holland who spoke about Europe’s successful movement against biogenetic grains. He noted, “We did not tell the corporations not to grow this grain. We just looked at it from the perspective of what choices we have the power to make. And we said to them ‘You can grow this, but we will not buy it,’ and look what happened.”
We visited family farms, organic farms, food coops, community gardens, youth farms, congressional staff, museums, international trade policy organizations, parents, grandparents and teachers. Through print, video, radio and e-mail we heard the perspective of sheep farmers in France, physicists in India, restauranteurs in California, activists in Seattle and seed savers in Minneapolis.
All are raising questions about the future of agriculture, environment and food security. One southern Minnesota farmer noted, “We do not agree on many of these complex issues, but two things are clear. First, farmers will do what they need to do to survive. Secondly, these issues are forcing us farmers to explore our collective consciousness about the nature of our core beliefs and values, and what choices that we need to make for the future based on these values.”
We have no answers here tonight. Rather we offer you an eclectic group of meditations on the seed – a subject deep, rich and urgent at this time.
-Beth Peterson, curator
Heart of the Beast venerates the seed that feeds dreams and generations
Is it too early to breathe in the sweet smell of spring, and dream of fields full of flower and fruit?
In a word, yes. It's February, after all.
But to feed the optimist in us, Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre has turned its thoughts to the fertile kernel with its latest production, SEED: Awesome Vessel of Power, a mostly charming 90 minutes of stories about earth, change and the links between generations symbolized in the rebirth of the growing season.
Heart of the Beast has always worn its politics on its sleeve, so of course these tales champion the hardy and independent farmer who feeds us while promoting the earth's biodiversity. A jaundiced eye is cast at corporations that produce and patent designer seeds and at scientific processes that genetically modify foods.
That could turn off viewers with a different philosophy, but the action disarms with intriguing theater and gentle humor that makes the point but does not come off as shrill--most of the time. Further, the storytelling usefully reminds us that whatever our stance, when technology butts up against traditional agricultural ways, there is undeniably a wrenching social dislocation and human suffering. Even advocates of change acknowledge as much, though they may choose more clinical terms--the cost of progress.
One lengthy vignette tells the story of how farmers in India dealt with multinational seed companies that tried to streamline diverse farms into single-crop producers. The farmers, in 1983, rebelled at this change, which upset their lifestyles. They developed local seed banks that sheltered their method of growing crops. That seems so starkly political in the brief retelling, but in its childlike portrayal with hand puppets the polemic of the message is softened and sweetly told.
It's this ability to use the magic of theater --giant sand lizards, huge iconic masks, dozens of sight gags--that makes Heart of the Beast a charming evening, particularly for children. The production is a bit ragged around the edges with some clunky scene changes and only the most basic lighting design, but an ambitious music group augments the emotions evoked by the players and puppets.
SEED will conjure visions of working your hands into the warm earth on a spring day. Right up until you step outside the theater, back into the Minnesota winter.
By Graydon Royce, Minneapolis StarTribune