Online miniature puppet parade to replace annual New York City Halloween parade: NPR
New Yorkers look forward to the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade every year. This year, some of the city’s top unemployed artists will create a miniature virtual parade, which will be broadcast online.
STEVE INSKEEP, HTE:
The pandemic interfered with the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade in New York City. People have been attending for almost 50 years – not this year. But it’s New York City that attracts creative talent. So, instead, some of New York’s jobless set designers, costume designers and puppeteers created a miniature parade to stream online. Jon Kalish has this life-size story.
JON KALISH, BYLINE: Every year thousands of walkers weave their way along the mile-long parade route from Soho to Chelsea, just like they did in 2001.
KALISH: Hundreds of thousands of spectators cheered on giant puppets, floats, waders, jugglers and marching bands.
KALISH: Richard Prouse is a frequent participant. He’s a retired Broadway set painter. And one year, the costumes that he and her husband wore were so beautiful that they were asked to lead the parade.
RICHARD PROUSE: We were the precursors of winter. We were all dressed in white and blue with lots of glitter (ph) and lighted sticks. And she said, ooh, I want you at the start of the parade. We felt very honored.
KALISH: She’s the director of the Jeanne Fleming show. When the event was canceled last month, it lost almost all of its funding. But Fleming was able to keep some small grants. At first, she didn’t know what to do with it.
JEANNE FLEMING: I think the tipping point happened when I spoke to Brandon Hardy. And I said, what are you doing? And he said, I built a Disneyworld scale model in my backyard. (Laughs) And I thought Brandon needed a job (laughs).
KALISH: So Fleming decided to organize a miniature virtual parade and commissioned Hardy and 29 others to create the participants. Hardy built 15 foot puppets for Broadway and past parades. Now, he says, via Skype, he’s created a 13-inch lizard with a haunted house on its back.
BRANDON HARDY: There is a level at which it could be seen as a creature buried under the weight of its house. And I kind of looked – I’m like, boy, am I feeling that this year.
KALISH: She and the other puppets are gathered in a cavernous art studio in the Hudson Valley.
PROUSE: Okay. Ready with a truck. And act. Come in. Come in. Come in. Come in.
KALISH: A cardboard replica of a garbage truck moves down a track in front of a 40-foot-long backdrop painted by Richard Prouse. The side of the truck says, until we meet again.
PROUSE: Okay. Stop. Start spinning. Perfect. Now turn around and turn off.
KALISH: This year, pint-sized participants will parade through the virtual city. One is a spider made by North Carolina puppeteer Tarish Pipkins, whose creations have been featured in a Missy Elliott video and online puppet slams. He says he had never heard of the Village Halloween Parade.
TARISH PIPKINS: I walked in and researched, and it’s going crazy. I said (laughs), too many people. The energy is too high. Big cities are not my thing, which is why I am here in rural North Carolina.
KALISH: Those who participate often wear costumes that comment on social issues. This year’s parade will address racial injustice, coronavirus and gender identity. And, of course, says parade director Jeanne Fleming, there will be monsters.
FLEMING: They’re all there. It’s the great mix that is New York City, it’s the world. And that’s what I wanted to have in this parade.
KALISH: The 10-minute video of the miniature parade will begin airing on Halloween night.
For NPR News, I’m Jon Kalish in New York.
(EXCERPT FROM THE SONG, “MONSTER MASH”)
BOBBY BORIS PICKETT AND THE CRYPT-KICKERS: (Singing) He made the monster mash. The monster puree.
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