The Story of Puppet Nest!

Sussel workers building Puppet Nest
puppet nest on opening day
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.

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!!

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: Build a Puppet Nest to tend the continuation of generous work

After researching many options, a plan emerges for two side-by-side spaces in my backyard:

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

(2) Repair the old doors and floor of the existing garage, enabling it to receive non-fragile frames and bulky support structures.

“Sussel Garages” is hired to 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!

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

Puppet Nest Plan Drawing

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 begins 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?
2023: Work Continues The Entire Year

In mid-January 2023, 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.

In mid-April, we painted a spiral onto the floor and blessed the space. A dedicated team moved the first batch of shelves and Puppets into their new nest! I began finding the best ways to display and store them.

In early June, we moved in more and more Puppets from all the other temporary storage places into the Nest.

In July, repair work began on the old/existing garage. The crumbled floor was pounded out, a new floor poured in. A new garage door was installed, shelves and puppets moved in. A footpath was laid between the old and new buildings. Finally, the construction site turned into a lovely place!

On November 11, 2023, an Open House welcomed people to the Puppet Nest!

It was a chilly day, yet many folks came. I stood on the picnic table to share a thanks with everyone for this Gift House, and we then made a big circle. This Nest grew from This community to hold and nurture the puppets, gestating work toward the health and joy of this community.

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

Sandy Spieler
December 2023

Thank you builders, blessers, and puppet movers:

Silvano Aguilar, Bethany Richards, Sarah Wilson, Ewart Martens, Alex Haecker, Derk Scholtz, Mike Hansel, Steve Lick, Beth Forest, Meaza Wuhib, Peter D’Ascoli, Greg Leierwood, Nate, Leif Ogren, Vanessa, Brian, Mark Schultz, Sarah Wilson, Allen Christian, Micah Spieler Sandberg, Bridget Lally, 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, Sussel builders: Angel, Luis, Jared, Ashden, Sam, Joe, Tony, Juan, Armando, Gabriel, Luis, Samuel, Sebastian, Pedro, Omar, Lucas, Kevin, James, Darryl, Paul, Domaegas, Tim, Mike.

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

Puppet Nest Open House · November 11, 2023

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

Sandy Spieler
Theatre of The Everyday Miracle

3227 23rd Ave South
Minneapolis, MN 55407

[email protected]

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.