As I work very hard these days to surmount the curve of learning crucial to scaling the walls of the published writer world, I feel so fortunate to have a strong foundation in the work through which I have traveled the world and put smiles on countless young faces. This past weekend, I performed for the New Orleans International Puppet Festival, organized by Pandora Gastelum of Mudlark Public Theater, and the experience was energizing and inspiring – mainly because of the opportunity to spend time with the other participating puppeteers. So, whether or not I attain the highly competitive position of published author, I came to a more certain appreciation this weekend of the tribe I have been, and always will be, a member of.
Finding a tribe is a totally worthwhile endeavor bringing deep satisfaction, because these things I know are true:
Passion is a powerful force, and I feel very fortunate to be able to effortlessly throw myself into my work. It’s still work, of course, and can be sleep depriving, frustrating, exhausting, and physically demanding. But the passion for it assures there is nothing else I can imagine doing. Certainty in that, even with financial ups and downs, keeps momentum up. And belonging to a tribe with shared passions is doubly energizing.
As I watched Sierra Camille this weekend operating her giant painting puppet, for the very first time on stage, I could empathize with the idea process she must have gone through to choose to build something this magical and large and difficult to operate.
Tribe members face many of the same obstacles, and so have an unspoken appreciation of what came before, and what complications may come after.
When Harry Mayronne, during his cabaret style marionette show, had to deal with sound system problems totally beyond his control on one evening, Remo di Fillipo, (participating puppeteer from Italy) and I were cringing in the back of the theater, in excruciating empathy with him.
When much can go unspoken, and questions do not need to be asked because the tribe members have been there themselves, there is a level of reassurance that surpasses many differences that might otherwise create barriers.
Despite language obstacles, Remo had no trouble learning from the other festival puppeteers what was needed to find a partner and location to perform on the street and earn needed income.
I cannot deny I have wondered sometimes about the value of work as a puppeteer, in the greater scheme of the world. But this tribe of impassioned people gives support. I have never heard such passion about children’s need for puppetry as I have from Venezuela’s esteemed Eduardo di Mauro. And Argentina’s Mara Ferreyra believes so strongly in the necessity for puppetry for all that she works tirelessly to organize an annual festival bringing puppetry to isolated, rural communities. So, in the face of the media’s power to devalue that which is not connected to fame and fortune, it is the tribe that keeps values in place – strengthening my belief in the crucial importance to establish one’s own standard of success, disconnected from the media machine.
The best sort of tribe shares freely, with a faith that there is enough of all needed resources, including work, to go around. Giving support to one gives support to all. And sharing that helps raise quality of work for anyone is good for everyone. It is good for the life of the art form. Not all tribes are like this, sadly, but world wide, from my experience, puppeteers generally are.
Puppeteers are one of the most open, warm, and supportive of each other groups I have ever encountered – and these are world wide traits, crossing culture, language, and level of financial stability. I have met puppeteers from my own, and from other cultures, who have experienced other tribes, and all remark on the difference – the sense of family over competition.
So, I feel very fortunate to have followed a winding path leading to this tribe, long before I realized there was such a thing. I can’t recommend enough – nurture and grow your passion, and find your tribe!