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The Insurrection Landscapers: Puppets, Tragedy and Great Music – Just Another Night in Riverwest

by Janice Christensen

“This means war!” shouts the all-powerful and slightly incoherent King of the Free and Secure Citizens of the Kingdom of THIS. “…and That is That!” shouts the equally all-powerful King of the Free and Secure Citizens of the Kingdom of THAT. The fact that the Kings are only 18 inches tall and performing on a stage made of cardboard boxes and duct tape does not prevent them from exhibiting the sophisticated thinking of contemporary world leaders. The Insurrection Landscapers are a traveling troupe of puppeteers from Vermont who put on puppet shows across the country, trying to wake audiences up to a message of possible alternatives. They live their message in their art–everything in their puppet show is made from found objects. For example, the wires used to control the puppets are made from straightened-out coat hangers. Coming Soon: HURL - Get Jacked InThe Landscapers presented their tale of war between the Kingdom of THIS and the Kingdom of THAT on Sunday, Feb. 9, at Onopa Brew Pub. It was a busy evening at Onopa. The black-clad, tattooed anarchist kids filed in for the late puppet show, gradually replacing the well-dressed, slightly older crowd that had packed the place for the early bluegrass Riverwest Currents benefit show presented by the Desperate Measures String Band. [This reviewer stepped out between the two shows, feeling the need for a change of reality. A quick trip over to Quarters Rock and Roll Palace for open stage met that need. Just in time to catch a few numbers from Edgar Allen Cash, and a special treat as Desmond Bone invited our own Ellen Warren to join him on stage. Somehow we have overlooked the fact that Ellen is a professional singer, and an absolute delight every time she opens her mouth on stage.] Back through the cold night to Onopa, where puppet show was just beginning. The kings rattled their swords. The accountants cooked their books. The minister wielded the magic ring that made everything seem justified somehow. (The magic words to activate the ring: “Smell my finger!”) It all seemed to make sense as the King explained that freedoms are so important that they must be taken away from citizens to be safeguarded. Between scenes, the comic grave diggers dug a grave and told stupid jokes, getting ready for war. And the end was predictable, just as the end of the real war story we’re living is predictable. A big pile of bodies. But the grave diggers challenged the audience. Let’s see, they said, “Let’s see if this grave is big enough and deep enough to bury the whole idea of war.” Let’s see, they said, “Let’s see if we can make enough noise and scream loud enough to end the whole idea of war.” So we screamed. The whole audience screamed until we couldn’t scream any more, then we screamed some more. The puppet bodies disappeared. But the war is still here. The political maneuvering, the inflammatory rhetoric, it’s all still here. But what a marvelous night in Riverwest. NOTE: Human frailty led this reviewer home to bed before what was reported to be a great performance by Wooden Robot. Sorry, guys. And Eric Blowtorch, as always, spinning some records to make Onopa Sunday nights complete. It just goes to show you…whatever you do in Riverwest, you’re going to be missing something. Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 3 – March 2003