News From Native California Volume 31, Issue 3 - Page 13

“I thought of the willows that still grow here—black, sandbar, red, arroyo—they’re some of the few basket plants that have survived the destruction of the vernal marshes, springs, and rivers in the LA basin.” –Tima artists a ground on which to meet. Playwright Michael Garcés chose an unusual source: the libretto of Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute. He was drawn to this epic, surreal, silly, magical story as a framework in which to explore the Hunger Cycle’s dark themes of scarcity and looming ecological disaster. So one of Mozart’s most beloved characters, Papageno the birdcatcher, was translated to Pageni, “a found soul, a young Native American...always circled by drab songbirds.” The songbirds were my job. I’m actually an avid bird- watcher, and I keep a geeky list of all the species I’ve seen in my back yard (sixty-eight to date). So I wanted real local birds, and I wanted them to all be different, not a flock of one kind of bird, or, as I’ve seen in other productions, a bunch of identical birds in different colors, like ballerinas. I also felt that the birds represent the spirit of the land, this land on which Los Angeles sits, and that was and is Tongva land. So the aesthetic of the birds should maybe be Tongva. And what does that mean? Well...baskets? I needed to meet a basketweaver, someone who could either guide me through this, or talk me out of it. Happily, the Autry Museum was offering a basketweaving workshop, (which turns out is great when you’re holding a puppet for so I signed up. After the challenge and triumph of five hours weaving two coils of pine needles onto an abalone shell, I approached Tima, the teacher, and said, “Hi, I have a strange question for you. I’m a puppeteer.” I paused, because the reaction to that can go either way. But as it turns out, I had found the right person. Tima: I love puppets. I grew up on Jim Henson, Sesame Street, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth (man, David Bowie in those tight pants made my little heart pound). Puppets seemed more real than real people. So when Lynn asked me to help her, I secretly checked off one of my bucket list items: make bird puppets with a talented puppeteer. Magic Fruit takes place on the landscape here, so Lynn wanted the birds to have that feel to them. I thought of the willows that still grow here—black, sandbar, red, arroyo—they’re some of the few basket plants that hasve survived the destruction of the vernal marshes, springs, and rivers in the LA basin. Then I thought of the gourds that come up from the south- ern Marenga’yaam and Kumeyaay tribal areas. They’re light