Sandra Lee Spieler · Resume

Director, Designer, Conceptualizer, Sculptor, Painter, Performer, Teacher, Graphic Artist, Perpetual Student

Works For the Water

Multi-year initiative of performances, events, residencies, and rituals about Water.
  • Participatory Lectures and Residencies: varied venues, ongoing
  • Water Connects Us All: at the Hennepin County Government Center, Commissioned by Forecast Public Art and the Hennepin County Multicultural Arts Committee 2018.
  • It's Substance Reaches Everywhere: about the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Illinois 2011, Fargo 2014
  • Water Water Everywhere: community performance/ education/ water advocacy residences: Fargo-Moorhead, 2010; Bemidji, 2009; Ely, 2009; Winona, 2008.
  • Are You Thirsty? touring show, 2007- present
  • Invigorate The Common Well # 3 : Decorate the Well In Gratitude: Dedication Event for the new drinking fountain in the lobby of In the Heart of the Beast Theatre with an all day street fair about Water with inventive games, performances, information booths, videos, and art making. (bi-lingual) July 2008
  • Invigorate The Common Well # 2: Beneath the Surface: Where does the Water come from, and where does it go? A mainstage circus about Water quality, the urban Waterworks, bottled Water, and the Mississippi Watershed. March 2008
  • Invigorate The Common Well # 1: Come to the Well: A de-centralized performance event about Water quantity and ownership issues with puppets, video, writing, conversation, water drinking, and a «what you can do room». March 2007
  • Homage To Water: featuring water itself as the major performer. (co-created with Will Hommeyer, video artist) 2003
  • Circle of Water Circus, Mississippi River Tour: Outdoor Circus exploring the story of the Mississippi River and the physical and spiritual importance of Water in our lives. Mississippi River states from Minnesota to Louisiana, 1983, Sweden and Denmark, 1985.

Annual MayDay Parade and Ceremony

(Founder & Director) 1974-2019
In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre
Epic yearly outdoor pageant of community renewal with topical theme generated through a community brainstorm process each year. Parade is built and enacted by 1,000 + participants, the Ceremony enacted by 300 performers of all ages, musicians, a canoe flotilla and huge puppets, 1974 – present
  • Beloved Community (Be Love, Come Unity, plant 1,035 trees) 2019
  • What You Feed, Grows (About transformative power of Love) 2018
  • Imagine Heal Resist (Come together for the work at hand and ahead) 2017
  • Radical Returnings (the first step of Reparation begins in the heart) 2016
  • ...And Still We Rise (for Racial Justice and in Affirmation that Black Lives Matter) 2015
  • Wonder? Wonder! (Love this Earth in defense of its destruction) 2014
  • See the World (For the health of the Children) 2013
  • The End of the World As We Know It (the beginning of the world as we make it. Now!) 2012
  • Caws To Unite! (united in anger about economic and justice disparities, international protests) 2011
  • UPROAR! (the growing discontent of people, and the continued grace of the earth) 2010
  • Our Common Treasury (the virtual world of «credit», the real value of soil) 2009
  • A New Bridge: Infrastructure for the Future Beings, (blueprint for sustainability) 2008
  • Somos Agua, (For the Water) 2007
  • The Time Is Now! to Come Together for the Common Good! (about the Common Good), 2006
  • Where Do We Go From Here? (about Disarmament), 2005
  • LEAP! (vision of the Holy Fool) 2004
  • This Is Our Child (about violence to Children and the Bill of Rights for children) 2003
  • MAYDAY! MAYDAY! (cry of distress, call for Peace) 2002
  • Prayer for the Flowering of Compassion (about the teachings of the Dalai Lama) 2001
  • Divining Economy (about wealth and health) 2000
  • Somos Uno (25th celebration honoring the red and green roots of Mayday) 1999
  • Sing! (about Music) 1998
  • May Abundant Blessings Flow (about gratitude and community wellness) 1997
  • Be A Bridge (to prevent violence in the community) 1996
  • Gorgeous Fever of Consciousness (as the virtual world expands, thanks to our body's senses) 1995
  • In Honor of Seeds: Awesome Vessels of Power (in honor of seeds!) 1994
  • Let The Sleeper Awake! (call for deeper layers of consciousness) 1993
  • I Am Another Yourself (against colonial mindset in every way) 1992
  • Return to Turtle Island (honoring Native American contributions to the world, and the Tree of Great Peace treaty) 1991
  • Wheel of Change Ever Whirling (applauding the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and Nelson's Mandela's freedom) 1990
  • Voices of Trees (honors reciprocal relationship of humans and trees) 1988
  • We May Be Family After All (from Chief's Seattle's famous speech) 1987
  • Corn (honoring corn as the intrinsic physical and spiritual sustenance of the Americas) 1986
  • Our World Home (think globally and locally) 1985
  • In Honor of Time and Change bringing of Hearts, Hands, Minds (10th Mayday, honoring teachers and 10 year olds) 1984
  • Water (in honor of water) 1983
  • Water (in honor of water) 1982
  • In Honor of Change 1981
  • The Year of the Child (in alignment with United Nations theme) 1980
  • Wake Up! (honors Spring and people's work) 1979
  • Changes (honors the change bringing of earth and of people) 1978
  • 3rd Mayday, 1977
  • The Ark (like Noah's carrying us through the storm) 1976
  • First One (bring us back together from the years of the Vietnam War) 1975

Performances with In the Heart of the Beast Theatre (partial list)

  • The Story of Crow Boy: honoring the life story of Japanese author / illustrator Taro Yashima, 2016 - 2018
  • La Natividad: The Christmas Story performed in episodes at El Mercado Central, In the Heart of the Beast Theatre, in the street, and St Paul's Lutheran church, with 130 performers of all ages (bi-lingual) December 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2014
  • We the People, WAKE! Pageant enacting the transformation of «Uncle Sam» into «We, the People», depicting a disarmament into the very cells of the Earth. Performed for the Puppeteers of America Conference, 2007
  • Lake Street Excavations: A funky walking tour investigating the layered history of the 3 block area around In the Heart of the Beast Theatre with mini-performances in 8 different sites, July 2005
  • Homage to Water: featuring water itself as the major performer. (co-created with Will Hommeyer, video artist) 2003
  • Gyre: Song for a Millennium: A gyrating meditation to open the human heart and soul to the immense majesty of the Universe; performed with the Twin Cities Gamelan Orchestra and Percussive Dance. Nov.- Dec. 1999
  • Illuminations: Torchlit path of performance installations culminating in a large remembrance ceremony to honor the legacy of feminine spirituality. Co-created with local artists and the College of St. Catherine. Oct. 1998
  • Befriended by the Enemy: story of forgiveness between a KKK leader and a Jewish family. 1993, 1996
  • 3 Circles of 500: An epic quincentennial, ritual pageant with 100 performers examining the multicultural roots of our nation and the conquistador energy of the past, present, and future. Oct. 1992
  • On the Day You Were Born: A mythic science fair based on the book by Debra Frasier. 1991, US Tour 1993, 2002, ongoing touring version.
  • The Nightingale: surreal adaptation of the fairy tale classic addressing exploitation of the female body.1986, 2002
  • The Reapers’ Tale: A Celebration in the House of the Dead Featuring the Grand Feast of the Skeletons and their Reenactment of the Great Voyage of Christopher Columbus in Honor of the Life of the World. A phantasmagoric tale in which the dead rise up to expose the “genocide” story of Christopher Columbus, according to his own words and the words of Bartolome´de las Casas; ending with a prayer for the life of the world. Oct. 1989
  • Table, Table: visual poem based on The Origins of Corn by M. Le Sueur contextualized by current farmer suicides, 1987
  • Lightning: an opera, a modern love story. 1985
  • The Hunt: the Biblical Nativity in the context of refugees seeking asylum in the US. 1984, 1986, 1997
  • Life of HOH: surreal journey through the physical, industrial and spiritual worlds of Water. 1983
  • La Befana: original adaptation of the classic Italian legend. 1978, ‘79, ‘81, ‘83, ‘84, ‘88, ‘89, ‘90, ‘95, 2002, 2005, 2010
  • Shoes of Infant Light: a litany of modern fears and miracles based on ancient Solstice and Biblical texts. 1981.

International & Local Invitations and Commissions

Public Art / Site Specific Events / Installations / Films /

  • Zaníyan Yuthókča: Brave Change: to honor the Dakota Village and Farm on the shore of Bde Maka Ska. Together with the team of Angela Two Stars, Mona Smith and the Descendants of the Village. Commission of the Minneapolis Public Art and the Minneapolis Park Board 2018-19
  • Drinking Fountain Mural, For the State Fair, St Paul MN, 2009
  • Gift of Seeds, Maplewood, MN / Sculpture commission for the new Maplewood Library, 2007
  • Water Connects the World, McKnight Foundation, Painted sculpture honoring H2O from all over the world, 2003.
  • Convention Interior and Outdoor Design, Lutheran Youth Gatherings for 35,000, New Orleans, 1976; Atlanta, 1994; Dallas, 1991., San Antonio , 2006
  • Voicing the River, Ulverston, England/ Interactive public performance and installation based on civic water use, 2004.
  • The White Car, Bristol England, Interactive Public Art installation questioning Oil consumption, 2004
  • Act of Gratitude, Bristol, England / 3 stage performance for Farmer’s Market, 2004.
  • Bloom-Lake Streetscape, Minneapolis MN. Banners, Railings, Sidewalk stamps for Lake street renovation, 1996
  • Tarantella, designer for feature film by Helen DeMichiel, starring Mira Sorvino. Mpls & New York, 1993-94.

Performances / Ritual Events / Performance Installations

(Partial Listing)
  • La Guadalupana with the Kalpulli Ketzal Coatlicue Aztec Dancers, The Basilica of Saint Mary, 2013
  • Wonder of Water: for the Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Memorial Theatre Center, CT 2013
  • Collaborations with the Minnesota Orchestra: The Magic Flute, Hansel and Gretel (also in Denver and Jacksonville) 2005-12
  • Prayer for Mutual Living in Harmony: Iraqi, Korean, and USA collaboration for the opening of the International Gwacheon Hanmadang Festival, Gwacheon, South Korea 2003
  • Declaration of Peace, Gwacheon, Korea/Koren,USA collaboration for Gwacheon Madangkuk Festival, 2001.
  • Declaration of Peace, Dominican Republic/ Theater Festival, 2001.
  • Mago, Site specific Korean collaboration: Suwon, Korea, 2001.
  • 20th Anniversary Celebration, Music Center of Los Angeles, Education Division, CA, 2000.
  • DMZ 2000, Imjingak and Seoul, Korea/ ritual theater millennial event, New Year’s Eve, 1999.
  • Easter Service, The Guthrie Theater and Hennepin Methodist Church, Minneapolis, MN, 1999.
  • Day of the Dead Procession and Ceremony with CreArte and Intermedia Arts, Minneapolis, MN, 1994.
  • Miracle Play of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN, 1994.
  • My Other Heart, Northlight Theatre, Chicago, IL, designer of puppets and masks, February, 1994.
  • Circle of Water Circus, Sweden and Denmark, / Scensommar International Theatre Festival, 1985.
  • Let the Bird of Earth Fly, St. Peter, MN, / ceremony for international theatre festival, The Gathering, 1981.
  • Arts Parade Walker Arts Center, for opening of education wing, Minneapolis, MN, 1984.
  • Gala Opening for Civic and Convention Hall, Lima, OH, 1984.
  • River Faces, Arts and Humanities Event, St. Louis, MO, 1983, 1984.

Exhibits and Awards (Partial Listing)

  • Presidents Award from the Puppeteers of America, 2019
  • Distinguished Artist Award 2014 endowed by the McKnight Foundation, 2014
  • Women and Water Rights, exhibit and key note speaker, University of MN 2010
  • Unima Citation of Excellence, for We the People, WAKE!, Union Internacionale De La Marionette, 2007
  • Bush Foundation Leadership Fellowship, 2002.
  • McKnight Foundation Theater Fellowship, 2000.
  • Exhibit and Book--Theatre of Wonder: 25 Years in The Heart of the Beast, retrospective exhibit at the Fredrick R. Weisman Art Museum, MN, Book by the University of Minnesota Press. Summer 1999
  • Women of the Year – awarded by the Minnesota Women’s Press. 1999.
  • Unima Citation of Excellence for Befriended by the Enemy, Union Internacionale De La Marionette, 1995.
  • First Bank - Sally Ordway Irvine Award, 1996.
  • “Revealing Roots” exhibit, part of the Henson Festival, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, NYC, 1994.
  • McKnight/Intermedia Arts Fellowship, 1993.
  • Winter Prairie Woman, Minnesota Center for Book Arts annual book, Illustrator, 1990.
  • Minnesota State Arts Board Individual Fellowship, 1989.
  • Bush Foundation Artist's Fellowship, 1986.


  • Extensive Residencies: throughout the world and region– for children, teens, college students, adults, or multi-generational situations, combining practice, devising and sometimes academic inquiry and research. In varied locales and situations, including universities (including the U of MN), pow-wows, neighborhood organizations, 1974-present.
  • With Joy! Immersion course in puppet history, theory, technique and devising. 2010- present

Related Education

  • Nibi Walks, Indigenous led walks For the Water with Sharon Day, James River 2015, Wisconsin River 2018, Red River 2019, Lake Pokegema 2019, Salt River 2020
  • MA Cultural Performance, Bristol University, England, 2004.
  • Study Travel - Shamanistic, traditional and modern theatre in South Korea, 2000 - Sacred sights in England, Ireland & Germany, 1998 - Epic Theatre of Epidavros, Greece, 1990 - Pre-Columbian Art of Mexico, 1987.
  • Mother of Two, 1987-present.
  • Balinese Masked Dance, New York University, 1981.
  • Bread and Puppet Theatre in the summers, Glover, VT, 1978-1980.