The Story of Puppet Nest!

Notes from Sandy Spieler about the re-homing of puppets following the closing of In the Heart of the Beast Theatre’s puppet warehouse

2021 Announcement: In the Heart of the Beast Theatre’s Puppet Warehouse to be disbanded.

In August 2021, In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre (HOBT) announced the closing of their warehouse on October 1 2021, disbanding thousands of puppets, banners, and shows from the 45 years of the Theatre’s work.

Shortly after came the announcement that HOBT would also give up its home space, the Avalon Theater*.

Shared Water by Sandy Spieler and Silvano Aquilar
News of HOBT’s Puppet Warehouse closing arrived as Sandy Spieler and Silvano Aquilar installed “Shared Water” in St Paul at the Minnesota Museum of American Art, Summer 2021. When the exhibit closed, the Puppet Warehouse would be closed. Where will these puppets go?

Without a solid plan, the Warehouse was completely cleared by October 1, 2021

Some artists arrived to take puppets they had designed or built to their homes. I repaired some figures to be given to public spaces in the community, and to the families of artists no longer living. Laura Wilhelm made agreements with the Minnesota Museum of American Art and the Hennepin History Museum to accept select puppets. Kurt Hunter led an auction of certain puppets to provide some funding to help ease the situation. Many things moved to the Avalon Theatre for temporary storage.

And I tried to figure out what to do with my work of 45 years.

Puppet Warehouse Tour
Puppet warehouse tour mid-September 2021
Empty Puppet Warehouse
The empty warehouse on Oct 1, 2021

What will happen to the Puppets?

I had initiated and built much of the work, but rarely alone. Each puppet has the work of many participants’ hands etched in their bodies.

I wanted to harbor puppets and painted/printed banners for continued use in Shows, Processions, Ceremonies, Protests, Installations and Honorings. I sorted the work to protect many things, including beautiful animals and birds made for various Maydays and full shows such as La Natividad, Crow Boy, Are You Thirsty?, collaborations with the Orchestra, and all the useful work for the Water. I also protected some of the very old puppets.

What to do?

Eight different neighbors offered temporary storage in their homes and garages, and I accepted their help. I am eternally grateful for these neighbor’s generosity as the months piled up so much longer than I ever imagined!!

Thank you Silvano Aquilar, Steve Ackerman, Steve Sandberg, Micah Spieler-Sandberg, Bridget Lally, Greg Leierwood, and Stephanie, Bjorn, and Bethany for the extra help moving and setting up temporary storage in 8 different spaces.

Steve Ackerman loading puppets into my neighbor’s garage for temporary storage
Steve Ackerman loading puppets into my neighbor’s garage for temporary storage

A plan emerges: Puppet Nest: to tend the continuation of generous work.

A team came together to help re-home the puppets.  After researching many options, a plan emerges to prepare two side-by-side spaces in my backyard by repairing the existing garage, and building a new safe structure.

(1) Repair the doors and floor of the existing garage to receive non-fragile frames and bulky support structures.

(2) Build a new 20ft x 26ft space to receive and “nest” puppets in a good way, protecting them from dampness and rodents.

“Sussel Garages” will build the foundation and frame of the new structure. Friends and co-workers promise to complete the build with insulating/drywall and finishing work of the new space, repairing the old garage, building shelves and finally, MOVING THE PUPPETS IN!

Puppet Nest Plan Drawing

Thanks to the many people who helped think of this solution: Harvey Winje, Susan Gust, Peter Schulze, Greg Leierwood, Sarah Wilson, Ewart Martens, Alex Haecker, Derk Scholtz, Neal Cuthbert, Leif, Vanessa, Brian, Richard Parnell and Liz Pedersen

Thanks also to Dan Newman, Catherine Jordan, David O’Fallon and Peter D’Ascoli who’ve gathered to help guide the plan all the way.

Fundraising Begins to Build Puppet Nest

As the news of this plan to care for the puppets spread person-to-person, donations arrived, and formal fundraising began in December 2021.

By September 2022, we had enough funds for the Build to begin…

Construction of the new building began September 13, 2022

Sussel Garages sent various teams of builders to the site, each team beautifully choreographed with their focused piece of the build process. They arrived to build “a garage”, but I told them they were actually building a “Puppet Nest”. I shared the story of the warehouse closure and showed them examples of the puppets. I invited them each to return when the work is complete so they can sign their name on the building!

puppet nest frame
For one night, this home sat in lovely skeletal form. What shall be a name for this shining place?

Thank you, I remember you each:

Angel, Luis, Jared, Ashden, Sam, Joe, Tony, Juan, Armando, Gabriel, Luis, Samuel, Sebastian, Pedro, Omar, Lucas, Kevin, James, Darryl, Paul, Domaegas, Tim, Mike.

In mid-January the garage company completed their foundation, framing and electrical work of the new building: ‘Puppet Nest’. Thus, in the coldest days of Winter, we were finally able to activate a team to install insulation, drywall, a mini-split (heater/cooler), and a ceiling fan.

This work unfolded with Silvano Aquilar leading the way with volunteer support.

After sealing and painting a spiral onto the cement floor, we blessed the space, and a dedicated team moved the first batch of shelves and Puppets into their new nest in the last few days of April. Since that moment, I have been immersed in the engrossing task of sorting Puppets, finding the best ways to display and store them. In early June, a great team moved Puppets from other garages and the Avalon Theatre into the Nest.

In mid-June, Wilbur, Sebastian, and Jackson pounded out the entire old floor of the existing garage and sometime in July, a new cement floor will be poured, and the old garage doors will be replaced. Then Puppets will move into this well.
Richard Parnell is laying a footpath between the two buildings, next will be landscaping work to repair the yard, and the final exterior painting of the Nest.

I look forward to the day when we host an opening for Puppet Nest, and I hope YOU will come!! If all goes well, I hope for this “Open Nest” in early October, marking 2 years since the closing of In the Heart of the Beast’s Puppet Warehouse on Oct 1, 2021.

As the Nest is activated, the adventure continues to nurture and generate work for the health and joy of our community. I welcome your ideas!

Thanks to the many folks who have donated funds, counsel, and muscle to build Puppet Nest. I could not dream that this was possible, but YOU made it REAL!

Thank you builders, blessers, and puppet movers:

Silvano Aguilar, Mike Hansel, Steve Lick, Beth Forest, Meaza Wuhib, Peter D’Ascoli, Greg Leierwood, Nate, Leif, Vanessa, Brian, Mark Schultz, Sarah Wilson, Allen Christian, Micah Spieler Sandberg, Steve Sandberg, Stephanie Windfeldt, Paul Eaves, Tony Oberto , Christian Haberstroh, Prichard Parnell, Neal Cuthbert, John Berry, Catherine Jordan, Kurt Hunter, Chris Lutter, Susan Gust, Harvey Winje, Theresa Linnehan, Esther Ouray, Steve Ackerman, Liz Pedersen, Paula Holden, Emily Jarret Hughes, Nadja Ruebenova, Jill Galstad, Greg Herriges, Trang Do, Mike Rivard, Gary and Lisa Pederson, Wilbur Ince, Jackson Orr, Sebastian Merryman, Heidi Eckwall, Kyle, Luke, Corey Ross, Franklin Lee, Nate Wilson, Harry Kingham, Peter Schulze, Chris Davis, Lloyd Hansen, Rico Morales, Dan Pfeiffer, Gilbert Cavazos, and to In the Heart of the Beast Theatre for the use of the scaffolding.

Thank you contributors to Puppet Nest aka Home for Puppets

Greg Leierwood, Greta McLain, Elani, Patty Gille, Phil Salmon, Eleanor Savage, Sandy Spieler, John Schuerman, Carol Witte, Carole Senty, Richard Miller, Pam Costain, Steve and Christine Clemens, Amy Blumenshine, Mike Troutman, Aurelia Wills, Mary Pat Dunlap, Barbara Peterson, Mark Roudane, Donald Arnosti, Margaret Malde-Arnosti, Dennis Cornhill, Susan Keskinen, Thaddeus Iwaszek, Sarah Wright, Ellen Hufschmidt, Gayla Ellis, Joe Musich, David O’Fallon, Gene and Nancy Zemske, Patricia Clarke, Joel Schwartz, Jerod Peterson, Ann Henry, Mattie Weiss, Rosa Costain, Anna Bloomstrand, Flo Golod, Mary Hartnett, Joe Knaeble, Meri Golden, Tom Homme, Peter D’Ascoli, Susan Tapp, Paul Eaves and Kathleen Rickert, Pamela Sheen, Barbara and David Tilsen, Charlotte MCK Lewis, Maneesha Wesley Jain, John Swenson, Mark Langholz, Christine and Pat Leehey, Karen Hoffman, Vicki Kunerth, Karen Lehman, Ann Murphy O’Fallon, Finn Ryan, Dan and Carol Newman, Fred Just, Catherine Jordan, Steve Lick, Pamela and Rosendo Martin-Diaz, Robert Simonds/Karen Margolis, Phyllis Wiener and Shay Berkowitz, Owen Anderson, August Schwerdfeger, Richard Parnell and Brenda Steve, Steven Gag, Laura Gang, Deb Hastings-Koepsell, Paula Holden, Ricardo Levins Morales, Ann Manning, Mary Younke, Jeong Ae Neal, Lisa Knazan, Dennis Levendowski, Mikal and Kelle Knotek, Laurence, Nancy, Bryce and Forrest Rosenbower, Repo, Mark Grefsrud, Neal Cuthbert and Louise Robinson, Denise Mayotte, Lowell Hesterman, Jim McCreary and Gretchen Olson, Nadja Reubenova, Thomas Wells, Paul Robinson, Jane Ramseyer Miller, Susan Haugh, Margo McCreary, Margaret Rozycki, Sandy Gerber, Peter Zeftel and Penny, Mike Temali, Joseph M Chvala, Kurt and Kathy Hunter, David Dugoff and Victoria Bor, Craig David, Jullonne Glad, Gerry Tyrrell and Kevin Ruether, Joyce Bowers, Bill Snyder, the Poker group, Mary Lou Ratz, Patrick and Beth Ciernia, Mary Jane Lavigne, Allen Christian, John Klein, Gaia D’Ascoli, Mose Ouray, Ellen and Jerry Abbott, Anonymous, Stephen and Margaret Swanson, Maria Genne, Christopher Anderson, Krista Spieler, Thomas Smith, Martha Boesing, Anonymous, Sally Nankivell, Daniel Bergin, Celia Swanson, Rosemary Welch, Colleen Sheehy, Nicole Mary Milligan, Anonymous, Mary Bren, Miichael Fargione, Anonymous, Tom Borrup, Stephen Rueff, Jennifer Williams, Caitlin O’Fallon, Eric Berger, Virginia Christensen, Stephanie Windfeldt, Deb Leavitt, Amy Haslett-Marroquin, Felice Amato, Carole Humphrey, Rosemary Casper, Jocelyn Tilsen, Ken Meter, Mary Mortenson, Susan Rotilie, Patrick Darling, Jennette Turner, Andrea Kuenning, Paul Landskroener, Tamar Green, Hannah Knazan-Lippman, Kristin Johnstad, Charles Kernler, Margaret Miles, Patrick Wadden, C Puent, Gail Irish, Jonathan Stegal, James Cullum, Beth Peterson, Rebecka Tilsen, Marg Rozycki, Bruce Blacher, James Lenfestey, Kirstin Wiegmann, William Read, Andy Pearson, Mari Kempton, Nicholas Pawlowski, Olivia Levins Morales, Lloyd Hansen, Linda, Anonymous

Sussel workers building Puppet Nest
Thank you Sussel Garage building team
Silvano Aquilar helps with finishing work
animal puppets
shelves on spiral
bending women

Thank you for your support and interest of Puppet Nest.

If you wish to visit, or support the on-going life of the Nest, please get ahold of me:

3227 23rd Ave South
Minneapolis, MN 55407

[email protected]

Sandy Spieler
Theatre of The Everyday Miracle

mayday 1998

*In the Heart of the Beast Theatre (HOBT) ended up not selling the Avalon, and currently keeps puppets for use through a ‘Puppet Library’ at HOBT, also continuing to use certain puppets from Puppet Nest.