puppet updates

In 2021, In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater (HOBT) has been working to restart our organization and adapt to the impacts of COVID-19.

As we looked to the future, we considered every path forward that would put us in the best possible position to live out our mission and carry the important work of the MayDay Council into the future. To that end, HOBT has two important updates for the community:

In conversation and with the input of HOBT staff and the MayDay Council, the HOBT Board of Directors has voted to sell the Avalon Theatre, our home since 1988.

As we rebuild from the impacts of COVID-19 we are right-sizing our organization. It’s time to find a new, smaller home that will allow us to live into our vision of a decentralized MayDay. That includes moving into a new space that is more sustainable and accessible.

Interest or inquiries in regards to the Avalon Theatre can be directed to [email protected] 

HOBT is also in the process of moving out of our storage warehouse, which was rented to store the thousands of puppets in HOBT’s collection.

HOBT has been working over the summer with artists to ensure their puppets return home with them. We are also in conversation with museums, both locally and across the country, who will be able to house and steward these beloved and iconic puppets. 

HOBT will keep a small inventory of puppets to support the work of the organization moving forward. A circle of HOBT founders and longtime legacy artists continue their work archiving decades of HOBT’s written and visual materials for storage at the University of Minnesota.

We have come to these decisions out of a fierce commitment to the power of puppet and mask performance to create new ways forward together with our beloved community. We give abundant gratitude for all the brilliant work done over the past 48 years: the many artists, staff, board members, and volunteers who have given their whole hearts to the work of HOBT.

What's Next

  • This fall and winter we plan to create a ritual of transition; coming together as a community to grieve, to release, to dream forward with intention. Celebrating both what has been and what is yet to come. We'd like for the process of creating this ritual to be collaborative. If you'd like to participate in planning or share input, please email [email protected]  or fill out this short form. 


  • HOBT will be looking for a new home. Ideally, a storefront in the Phillips or Powderhorn neighborhoods with a small performance space, a classroom for teaching workshops, and a small storage area for the puppet collection we plan to keep. We see a space brimming with possibilities, a vibrant community art center, and a performance space that is authentically accessible and welcoming.


Now is the time to give thanks, and release what HOBT has been. As we sell the building and move out of puppet storage, we are turning the page on this chapter of our organization. With hope, we are embarking on a new journey: finding a new space, creating new decentralized MayDay experiences, and choosing a new name for our puppet and mask theater.

FAQs from HOBT's Board of Directors & Staff

What are the current plans for May Day?

The MayDay Council is planning to work with a small group of partner organizations to create a series of decentralized MayDay experiences in spring 2022. At this time, HOBT and the MayDay Council do not plan to produce a full-scale parade, and instead will focus on smaller-scale, neighborhood-led celebrations that are rightsized with HOBT and partner organization's capacity and funding. Having a new space will allow us to live into our vision of a decentralized MayDay in deeper ways: by partnering with others, centering community voices, and offering MayDay programming across the city and throughout the year.

Elina Kotlyar, MayDay Experience Innovator 

How much does the Avalon cost HOBT every year?

Our annual expenses to maintain the building are approximately $71,000.  This includes costs such as utilities, building maintenance (examples of HVAC or roof repairs), and insurance premiums for the building.  We also make monthly payments on our building mortgage which is approximately $22,000 per year.

Victoria Cox, Board Treasurer

How will HOBT move forward without space to store puppets?

While we do plan on keeping a healthy-sized group of puppets as a working collection that the organization and the community can pull from, it is important to remember that MayDay was always created afresh every year and those mountains of creations mostly traveled home with their creators after the festivities.  Looking forward to the MayDay Council’s dreams for 2022 with new partners and series of events in multiple locations, we have confidence that puppet and mask art will spring forth from those creative hands and minds, and not the coffers of a storage unit.  The making of “the art things” is often the most important part of the Spirit of MayDay- that is where the conversations happen and the deeper connections are made for change.

Laura Wilhelm, Board Vice Chair

What does HOBT lose by selling the Avalon? What does it gain? 

Without a doubt, the Avalon is an important part of our organization’s legacy. It is the physical home we have had for the past 30+ years. It is a space we have worked to transform, and we have been lucky to be an anchor in our vibrant and changing community for the last three decades. These are no small losses, however, we will gain the opportunity to be more agile, and intertwined with our community. We will be able to focus more on the spirit and cultural impact of our organization, as opposed to working to also maintain a space. We will be able to focus more on standing shoulder to shoulder with our neighbors and bringing the heart of our organization to every corner of the city the way we have to our corner of East Lake Street since 1988.

Ade Salami, Board Co-Chair


Is HOBT sunsetting? 

The HOBT Board and Staff are doing everything we can to move our organization into a sustainable new chapter. We are exploring all possible ways forward, and believe the sale of the Avalon is our best opportunity to continue the important work of HOBT and the MayDay Council. 


How does this impact MayDay 2022?

Our highest priority is to support the landmark work of the MayDay council as they work to carry truly equitable, sustainable, and decentralized MayDay Experiences into the future. When we say “decentralize” MayDay, we mean creating a variety of ways throughout the year to celebrate and honor the roots of MayDay that isn’t limited to one large celebration on the first Sunday in May.

What about the Avalon Cohort? 

​​We did not receive enough funding to launch a supported Avalon Cohort. The spirit of the Cohort lives on as we look for potential buyers for the building. To the best of our capacity, we want to uphold this sale against our value of the Avalon Theatre operating as a community-held space for BIPOC and queer artists and interdisciplinary art forms.

Where will the puppets be going?

HOBT is keeping a right-sized group of puppets to be a working collection of puppets and masks as the theater moves forward. Puppets are moving into the care of artists that created them as well as several museums locally and nationally to be preserved and exhibited.

Why choose a new name?

HOBT has overgone tremendous change over the past three years. As early as 2019, consultants encouraged HOBT to choose a new name to reflect the new direction of our work. As HOBT begins to emerge from Chrysalis we are now ready to claim a new name. We see this as an important opportunity to honor and give thanks for what HOBT has been, the caterpillar who entered the cocoon,  while allowing us to truly embark on a new chapter, with a new identity, the butterfly who is emerging.

What are you going to do to prevent gentrification?

We share the concerns expressed by the community about avoiding the gentrification of Lake Street.  We will do everything in our power to make sure the Avalon Theater moves into community hands in a way that is in alignment with our values. We can control who we sell to, but we cannot control who that person may sell the building to next.