That’s the spirit.
The 47th annual Village Halloween Parade in Manhattan is canceled due to COVID-19, but a bite-sized spinoff spectacle will proceed virtually on Oct. 31.
“We have been able to give a project to unemployed artists from Broadway and the puppetry fields,” Village Halloween Parade artistic and producing director Jeanne Fleming told MarketWatch. “This is a way for them to express themselves creatively.”
It’s the latest example of a big, beloved New York event pivoting in order to offer inventive and financial opportunities to artists and designers who’ve seen work evaporate because of the pandemic.
In this case, it’s a rethink of a costume cavalcade that draws around 60,000 marchers and more than a million spectators lining city sidewalks to see the wonderfully weird and wild get-ups. Social distancing would have made it impossible to go the traditional route.
Indeed, COVID-19 has rained on this parade, just as it has shut down all live, in-person entertainment stretching from Broadway, which is closed at least through June 2021, to concert halls and far beyond.
Fleming asked artists and designers to create toy-sized puppet characters and itty-bitty floats to be featured in a miniature parade that will be filmed and streamed on Halloween at 8 p.m. at halloween-nyc.com.
She reached out in late September to more than two dozen designers whose work has been affected by the pandemic in varying ways to gauge interest in the puppet pivot.
“No one turned me down,” Fleming said.
Puppets standing roughly a foot tall perched upon sticks for filming purposes are artists’ stand-ins for this parade. A version of premier puppeteer Basil Twist’s signature marionette, Stickman, is set to host, according to an event proposal.
Creations in the Lilliputian lineup include a COVID-related robot from celebrated designer Machine Dazzle, the Village Halloween Parade 2018 grand marshal; a spider puppet named “Aunt Nancy” —inspired by a folk tale—from Tarish Pipkins; and a photo booth picture-strip float from Serra Hirsch, known for a 12-foot-tall Stephen Colbert puppet for a 2010 rally.
Also on tap: A puppet in an octopus costume created by designer and Vassar professor Paul O’Connor celebrating the multi-limbed mollusk (“They’re smart,” he said) and family (“I’m one of eight kids,” he added).
Commissioned artists receive a $250 honorarium. Though modest, the allowance acknowledges that artists’ work has value. “That was part of the idea from the beginning,” Fleming said.
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The payment “made it easier to say yes,” said Brandon Hardy, a puppet and prop pro who called the small-scale venture “a wild and inventive departure from the traditional parade.”
“I’m glad we’re taking a moment to be creative about how we keep the Halloween spirit alive,” added Hardy, a frequent participant of the annual parade who has worked on Broadway shows including “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Moulin Rouge!”
Pint-size puppets will be filmed against a New York backdrop created by scenic artist Richard Prouse, whose pre-pandemic assignment included touching up the Broadway set of “Diana,” a musical about the fractious royal family filmed for Netflix
amid the shutdown.
While the Village Halloween Parade typically covers a stretch of Sixth Avenue in Manhattan from Spring Street to 16th Street, Prouse’s 4-feet-by-40-feet painted canvas goes bigger. It covers the city from the George Washington Bridge to the Statue of Liberty, with many more landmarks in between that are seen as the backdrop moves.
“It was fun but challenging,” Prouse said. “I did quite a bit of photographic research.” The 10-minute film, to be directed by Fleming and set to narration and music, will be shot at Prouse’s Rhinebeck, New York, studio.
The miniature parade reminds that toy-sized puppets and models carry big messages. Two artists’ works urge people to vote.
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Rosendale, New York-based theater head Amy Trompetter’s provocative, three-part puppet speaks to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Prop designer Andy Diaz’s cardboard float of an empty theater lit by a tiny ghostlight is a stark reminder that, for now, the show can’t go on.
He knows that firsthand. He was set to work on the Broadway play “Birthday Candles,” starring Debra Messing. The production, like every show, got snuffed out by the virus.
One side of Diaz’s model shows the theater proscenium flanked by red curtains. It spins to reveal a behind-the-scenes view.
“There’s a whole industry back there that is empty too,” Diaz told MarketWatch.
Hardy’s monster puppet, whose haunted house is growing out of its back, seizes inspiration from the pandemic and notions of home during uncertain times.
Forged from foam, wire, clay and fabric, the creature “is a mess on a stick,” he said. “It’s a lot like 2020.”