Ok, so you read a lot about me in this blog. One thing that I have yet to mention is my love for Russian culture. Why would I mention that, you’d ask. And the answer is, I never thought I would have to. It’s a weird piece of fact about me that most people don’t know. But I studied Russian in college, and for years read only Russian history books for fun. I know, I’m a nerd. But I’m cool with that. A lot of the things that makes me love Russian history, the drama, intrigue, random weird facts, the soap opera like romances, are probably the same reasons why I love Detroit. We have a strange relationship with prohibition and Canada, The Purple Gang, The Scott Fountain, the fires, Woodward Ave., all of these things give Detroit a history just as exciting as that of Russia.
Why do I write about it today though? Well, I just attended a show at the PuppetART Theatre in downtown Detroit. The story was “Kolobok” the Russian version of the Gingerbread man. It was amazing! One the fact that I love Russian history was super cool. And two because I learned so much about the Detroit / Puppet history!
Did you know that in 1929 a puppeteer by the name of Paul McPharlin created the Marionette Fellowship located near the corner of Woodward and Hancock! In 1936 the Fellowship held the first National Puppetry Conference Festival in Detroit! The conference events were held at the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Hotel Webster Hall and the Artisian Guild. The Festival brought together prominent Puppeteers from all over the United States and Canada to celebrate puppets and share new works. This event conference led to the formation of the Puppeteers of America the following year.
My love of Russia and my love of Detroit come together in the most unusual way today when I met Luda Mikheyenko, Irina Baranovskaya and Igor Gozman. These 3 Russians met in 1990. They have all been classically trained in Russia and are Master Puppeteers. Igor, with his not so thick Russian accent, was a delight as he walked Martin and I around the Puppet Museum. He told us about the great history of Detroit and Puppets, showed us some of the famous puppets in his collection. Told us stories about how he used to take the puppets to schools around MI, and at one point a family came into the PuppetART Theatre and 3 generations had seen the same puppet and all remembered it! How amazing is that! I don’t think I have stories like that… but I’m going to start!
We also met Irina, she makes all the puppets and sets by hand. What an amazing woman! The detail and perfection that goes into all of the puppets and set’s is really quite breathtaking! Kolobok is one of the few puppet shows that uses “floor puppets”. But wow were those puppets ever amazing! Above is photograph from the show, and while the photo portray’s the scene well, it doesn’t do justice to the detail and care put into each puppet! The Fox in that photo has the most beautiful green emerald eyes! I could see them all the way in the back of the 70 person theatre. Really beautiful! But the marionettes that are hanging around the PuppetART Theatre are really a testament to the work and craftsmanship that Irina puts into these puppets. I can not wait to see the performance next month, as they change the shows up each month.
And then Luda, she is the Business Director and Manager of Kolobok, she was manning the lights for the show, and the expressions on the kids faces when the lights went down - priceless! When the music changes and the actors rush off stage, the deep breathes and excited laughter fills the space – WOW! All in Detroit!
I am so thrilled that I was able to see the show and hear a little of the Russian that I faintly remember learning from college. It was a magical experience for me, and I’m almost 30. I suggest that you take your kids, parents, cousins, friends, and strangers to the PuppetART Theatre. The show was amazing, the history is as rare and unique, it’s Detroit but also bigger than Detroit. It’s a place that I can’t express any better in words… But it is a must see. We will have more pictures up soon, but please go and see it. It’s amazing!
And Inside Detroit has partnered with PuppetART Theatre to provide one hour Urban Safari Walking Tours for kids and adults after the Thursday morning performances! Also, Hard Rock Cafe has thrown in a 20% off coupon with your ticket into the show, and the Detroit Children’s Museum has offered free admission until Sept 3rd to any PuppetART Theatre Thursday ticket holder! And people say there is nothing to do in Detroit with your kids! Ha!!!
PuppetART was formed by a trio of Russian puppeteers, all theater professionals in 1995. They began as a touring company and performed throughout Michigan, and in other parts of the US. In 1998, the troupe established its own theater in downtown Detroit.
PuppetART is the only professional resident puppet theater in Southeast Michigan offering year round weekly performances in conjunction with hands-on puppet making workshops and museum tours. For more information or to book your group, please call our office at (313) 961-7777. Find us on the web at www.puppetart.org. PuppetART is located at 25 E. Grand River in Detroit.
Detroit Children’s Museum:
Hard Rock Café:
Located within walking distance, Hard Rock Café will offer PuppetART ticket holders 20% off your entire food bill when you dine in on the day of the performance. If you decide to lunch at Hard Rock, park in the adjacent structure for free parking validation in the restaurant. www.hardrock.com(313) 964-7625
Inside Detroit Tours:
This well-known Tour Company located just steps from PuppetART is offering deep discounts on a special family-friendly tour. On this one hour tour of Detroit, parents and kids alike will discover some of Downtown Detroit’s urban wildlife! Detroit’s unique architecture is full of exotic animals. This urban safari engages tour goers by having them find lions, tigers, bears and more as we explore Downtown Detroit. The tour will leave from PuppetART after your puppet making workshop. Tickets are $3 for children and $7 for adults. www.insidedetroit.org (313) 962-4590
To book the Urban Safari Tour click here! – http://urbansafari.eventbrite.com
I hope to see you on a tour soon!
“Inside Detroit” Aims to Change Attitudes of Locals, Visitors
To listen to the audio – http://wdet.org/news/story/InsideDetroitFeature/
An effort to change perceptions about Detroit – one bus tour at a time – continues to develop in the old Woolworth Building on Woodward Avenue. WDET’s Rob St. Mary goes “Inside Detroit”.
(click the audio link above to hear the feature)
On a Saturday morning, a bus full of about 20 people mostly from the suburbs and some former Metro Detroiters are being shown some of Detroit’s more noteworthy places. The tour guide is Jeanette Pierce – co-founder of “Inside Detroit”.
“We’re going to see the bad stuff… we’re going to talk about how we got to where we are but more importantly what people are doing to solve some of these problems and where we’re going in the future.”
Over the past five years, “Inside Detroit” has worked to give out-of-towners as well as Metro Detroiters a new understanding and appreciation for the Motor City. Pierce says when she started “Inside Detroit” the city tour business was dead. Aside from some maps at places like Cobo Hall – there wasn’t a place where groups could go to learn about Detroit from an insider.
“We wanted to tell the story of what it’s like to live here. To live in the city, to be a part of it and give people that insider’s perspective of things and there really wasn’t anybody doing that.”
Pierce says while she seeks to give out-of-towners an understanding of Detroit she says her real goal is to get the locals to confront the perceptions they have about the city.
“I do feel that I have to work harder with people that are in the region because of that assumption that they know… that they know things… and because of watching the local news and reading the local newspaper… and yeah, I guess if that’s all you saw of Detroit was the crime and the violence and the government mishaps and stuff… it would seem pretty depressing… but that’s not the story of Detroit that we know… that I know as someone living here. So, but yeah, the short answer is yes, there is a worse perception from people in the suburbs that out of the city or out of the state. Also, people from other places out of the state, know cities. So, if they are traveling to Detroit chances are they have traveled to a lot of other places or they are from another other city and I think that the more people know cities and have been to multiple cities and they see similarities in cities across the world, then they understand Detroit a little bit better. Where in the Metro Detroit area Detroit is the city that we know.”
Hitting key places like Eastern Market, the Heidelberg Project and a few community farms as well as the boutiques in Midtown many on the tour say they were experiencing these Detroit landmarks for the first time or through new eyes.
One of the people on the tour was former Metro Detroiter, now, Bostonian, Hope Koski.
“I lived and grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and I had a lot of preconceived notions… and I haven’t lived in Michigan in 8 or 9 years… but it was a really refreshing sort of picture of Detroit and I liked how she was really positive about a lot of the things that are up and coming… a lot of people who are making things happen… a lot of the grassroots stuff that’s coming out of the city. It really gives me a really nice view of what’s going on here and I want to learn more… I want to search more on the Internet tonight about Detroit… I want to spend more time here. So, I feel it really drew me into the city.”
Koski says negative feelings about Detroit were always around here where she grew up.
“You know, I grew up in a white suburb. So, there was a lot of racism… a lot of fear was the main thing… like fear of the city, fear of being in an area where black people are. There was like this big thing among my friends like when you cross over into Detroit you lock your car doors and you don’t really relax until you get to your destination. You know we would come to clubs down here… but there was a lot of fear associated with this city… and poverty. But it was mostly fear… fear of black people.”
Today, Koski says she’s considering moving back from Boston to live in the City of Detroit. She says she wants to be a part of the exciting changes taking place.
A few weeks later, another Saturday, another tour for “Inside Detroit” is taking place. This time a group of about 20 ladies from Scotland is being shuttled around the city. They were in town as part of a national curling tour.
Carolyn Clark is from Helensburgh in western Scotland. She says this isn’t her visit to Detroit. Clark says she came years ago with a Scottish field hockey team and was struck then by the factories. But she says this time she was looking forward to seeing how Detroit had changed. Clark says she came away very impressed with the city’s downtown.
“I think there is evidence of your industrial past, still… but you’re doing everything in this city that I think is being done worldwide. You know projects that you’re doing here are projects that we’re doing at home. So, I think we’re all in the right lines.”
Jeanette Piece says whether tour members are from western Scotland or the western sububs… her goal at “Inside Detroit” is the same.
“If we can get them to the point that they don’t hate Detroit… then, that’s a step. If they go back and go “guess what I learned today?”… and it starts dominoing… that we are in all this together. And I mean, every study shows, you can’t have a hollowed out core and then develop… there’s no such thing as economic development as a donut… which is Sandy Baruah’s from the Chamber’s spiel.”
And in the end, Pierce says she often leaves those who take an “Inside Detroit” tour with a few questions to consider – like yes, it might be a blighted house, a vacant lot or an empty field… but what is your vision? What do you see? And… why don’t you come be a part of what Detroit can be in the future?
I’m Rob St. Mary – WDET News.
For more information: http://www.insidedetroit.org/