The Curious Legends website brims with pictures and video of communal experiences. Colourful, wide-eyed puppets tower above kids and their families in the streets. Groups are gathered for workshops and parades, feet pounding the pavement in chorus. We might wax lyrical about togetherness during this pandemic, but nothing hits quite so hard as seeing what, in this moment, can’t be had. So, if only by its absence, now comes appreciation for that particular intimacy shared by the arts and our notions of community. In this time, in this situation, community art is hard. Curious Legends is up for the challenge.
Based in Newcastle, but with members reaching as far as Berlin, Curious Legends is a theatre company that aligns itself with the dynamics of community. Their puppets impress upon public spaces, elucidating some wonder about the communities they move through. One year’s finale performance at the Maitland Riverlights Festival sprang from local indigenous lore, and storytelling. Another worked with dancers from the Hunter Indian Community to present a traditional story with video projection. Creative director Mitchell Reese says community engagement has always been a part of the company, but describes it now as integral, a dedication to community. And it shows.
Their Out of the Box series features online workshops for puppet making, painting, play and crafts all achievable, and streamable, at home. As restrictions ease in NSW, they are also opening up to in-person participants joining the livestream. So far, another 5 weeks of Out of the Box workshops are planned, beginning July 7 with a renewed focus on content for The Garbage Project, an enormous trash-theatre hosted in a tip with all the Curious Legends trimmings (workshops, puppets, kids in costumes, general feelings of pure wonder). The Garbage Project is scheduled for February 2021.
Reese teems with excitement in our emails about it, “Pretty much all of our ideas so far have been met with enthusiasm, including multimedia projections and using the ceiling to suspend a two-story high ‘Trash Monster’ puppet.” he says, “ Still working on the logistics of that one…”. Over the next few weeks the Out of the Box workshops will see cities made from boxes, vehicles made from rubbish and the creation of characters called Trash Goons. Some parts will be filmed for The Garbage Project, and participants have the chance to be featured. It’s the perfect alignment of message, medium and engagement. “Arts is such an integral part of our lives,” Reese told me, “and many people aren’t aware of it.”
Works that exist almost entirely in public spheres have been hit square in the face by the current pandemic, primarily via lost opportunity but also by rapid redefinition of what community engagement can be. Yet Curious Legends barely blinked, losing an incredible amount of proposed work one moment, and launching their online workshops another. Reese motivates the shift in terms typical for the company: to support communities at home in lockdown and to provide artists with work.
From July 7th to 16th, workshops will be hosted on Tuesday (4pm to 5.30pm), Wednesday (10am to 11.30am) and Thursday (4pm to 5.30pm). Following this, workshops will run on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4pm to 5.30pm until August 6th. A limited number of spaces are available to participate in-person in Newcastle during the workshops, and of course there’s plenty of interaction to be had as the workshops are streaming via Facebook Live and Youtube.
Lots more information and links are available at the Curious Legends website: http://www.curiouslegends.com.au/out-of-the-box.
Or on their Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CuriousLegends
Or even on their Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/CuriousLegends