Presented by WonderFool’s, FoolMoon and FestiFools are a chance to celebrate the end of winter, and yes, do some very foolish things. In flash mob style, these two events bring out the best in the community for brief moments during the first weekend in April. “Whether you make a luminary, build a puppet or just dress in the weird way you’ve always wanted, we’ll welcome you to the events,” says Shary Brown, WonderFool’s President.
If you see a giant papier mâché puppet marching down Main St. or a luminary parade making its way along downtown streets towards music, a laser light show, a shadow puppet show, and more performance art, you know you’ve stumbled into some of these WonderFool events.
Puppets, clown heads, and hot dogs
Decorated from floor to ceiling with giant papier mâché dinosaur puppets, horse heads, clown heads, and even hot dogs and musical instruments, there’s no mistaking the WonderFool Productions studio. The team shares the home of the UM Art in Public Spaces LSA Lloyd Hall Scholars Program (LHSP).
Led by Artistic Director Mark Tucker —who also founded Festifools ten years ago— students and community members let their imagination fly to create giant FestiFool puppets (up to 14-feet high). “We encourage them to work large, but with the luminaries for FoolMoon, we want them to work small to conserve puppet studio space,” said Tucker. “That doesn’t often work and their luminaries seem to get out of hand exponentially.”
That all seems part and parcel of FoolMoon and FestiFools. Brown likes to think of the festivals just growing organically. “Planned spontaneity” comes to mind as she notes, “These events wouldn’t be the same if everybody just stuck to a prescribed formula. Of course, there’s a lot of invisible planning, that’s a must to mount any event, but these two events are meant to be foolish fun where imagination and creativity run wild.”
Imagination and creativity aren’t restricted to the students. “The puppets and luminaries produced by the community in past years, have been spectacular. Some are from professional artists, but like the non-art majors of LHSP, some of the best creativity also comes from individuals and families in the community,” said Brown.
Don’t just see it, be it
The themes for this year’s festivals are “Rev-Fool-ution” for FestiFools and “Metamor-Fool-sis” for FoolMoon. WonderFool’s mantra this year is, “Don’t just see it, be it.”
“WonderFool Productions is all about the community and the way it can coalesce to make these performance events happen,” said Tucker.
Brown adds, “We want to put the call out for artists and non-artists alike to join in the foolish fun again this year. Make a puppet or a luminary, volunteer to carry one of our vintage puppets on our ten-year anniversary. We also want to encourage spectators to take on a foolish mantle – wear your most foolish of clothes for FestiFools, in particular.”
“Being a student at LHSP has been brilliant. It’s been my home for two years and has given me a real sense of community,” says Adriana Zardus, a business major and Board Secretary for WonderFools. “That’s what was so fantastic about my semester working with Mark (Tucker) on the FestiFool puppets. I became involved in the bigger Ann Arbor community.”
Expect the unexpected
Zardus adds that things don’t always go according to plan. One of her FestiFool puppets, modeled after a 1930s flapper girl, went a little crazy during the parade. “She was tall, and although I could make her dance quite well, her head kept swiveling around and at one point, one of her arms fell off,” said Adriana. “A young girl from the audience ran out and retrieved the arm though. To me, that added to the spontaneity of the event, where community comes together to make something happen.”
“That’s the beauty of these events; there’s no age boundary. We have everyone from the much older to the very young participate. For many years, the Ann Arbor District Library and 826michigan has held robot workshops for youngsters. They make robot puppets from cardboard boxes. One year, a little robot got so tired at the parade, he just curled up underneath his box and went to sleep,” said Brown.
Tucker gets uncharacteristically serious about making the puppets. “Some of my students and people out in the community have never worked in 3D before, so understanding the process and the materials is important to avoid problems. We’ve sadly had puppets fall apart in the rain, so we make recommendations to help things hold together properly. It’s also good to have a lot of space to make a 14-foot by six-foot puppet! A dining room table is not normally big enough.”
While the festivals are now in their tenth year, WonderFool Productions officially organized as a non-profit in 2013, and they’ve got big plans. “We are just at the tip of the iceberg in what we can do creatively,” said Tucker.
Adds Brown, “While still keeping our home base of Ann Arbor, we think we’ve got something special and we want to reach out to other communities.”
FoolMoon on Friday, April 1 (a very foolish day) begins with luminary processionals starting at 7:45 pm from the Kerrytown Farmer’s Market, UMMA, and Slauson Middle School.
The luminaries will end at Washington and Ashley. FestiFools is on Sunday, April 3 from 4:00 – 5:00 pm on Main St.
Find out more about the events, and get involved, at wonderfoolproductions.org.