1999’s Up a Tree: A Puppet Show About the Redwoods

Stephen Bass just texted me asking when our puppet play “Up a Tree” ran at Intersection for the Arts. My photos and archive of the show was not on this site, and the paper media was in a box in storage. I tried a few different searches via a few search sites, and couldn’t get a hit. I even tried the Wayback Machine to see if Intersection had a decent website then (it was mostly a page of broken images).

Up a Tree
Kevin Woodson’s great poster for the show.

I then found the story of the activists vs. Maxxam Corp., including Julia Butterfly Hill and David “Gypsy” Chain, and correctly guessed the show’s run as being in 1999.

Hill famously lived in the top of an ancient redwood tree named Luna (Hill said the tree named herself), and our show featured the tree and the activist. Chain was part of the Earth First! direct action tactic, and was killed when a logger felled a tree on the young man. Chain’s story was also in “Up a Tree”.

“Up a Tree” was a low/no budget puppet installation about the plight of the old growth trees up in Northern California, incorporating marionettes with Bunraku operating options (basically, rods that allowed floor-level performers to manipulate the stringed puppets), shadow puppets for flashbacks, soft hand puppets for the animals in the forest (The boss Fox kept trying to trick the logger Beavers into making as much money as possible for Fox’s multinational corporation). Luna was a huge tree going into the rafters of the puppet stage with real tree bark and moving parts used when the tree spoke to Hill.

This show was thrown together with glue, bins of tree bark, the amazing puppet-crafting skills of Jonathan Youtt and David Morley (Joelle LaPlum probably helped as well), and directed by Dan Chumley (with some visits from Peggy Snyder) of the SF Mime Troupe. I played one of the Beavers, the voice of Chain’s abusive father in the shadow flashbacks, and was on the floor-level to be the Bunraku puppeteer for most of the marionettes (and pulled the rope so Luna could “talk”).

I made friends for life during this show, and also got a masters class in puppetry and theater arts. Julia called in one show a week from her platform in Luna and took questions. We went out to visit the tree and be part of some civil disobedience for an action, and there was a massive circle at the end where a woman gave us all a tincture of Luna’s tree sap. When Julia came down from her 738-day sit weeks later, she came straight to CELLspace to meet us all and get in on the fun when she could.

Other great memories: Michael Franti brought his family to a show one night. Building the set, the puppets, the props, and the redwood bark install at the Intersection’s entrance, was a CELLspace community effort. I even cut an EarthFirst! stencil for Chain’s puppet’s small t-shirt. Pod was our amazing sound tech and Leon Rosen helped with that as well. There’s a video of the show, but I recall the sound being horrible.

A Direct Hit

Dan Chumley must’ve known a theater critic at the time, because a quick search of the show name with his got a direct hit from SFGate’s repost of an “SF Chronicle” review. Here is that review in its entirety.


Puppets With a Cause in ‘Tree’ / Show has a gentle anti-logging message

In “Up a Tree,” a new hourlong installation at Intersection for the Arts, there’s no…

By Steven Winn, Chronicle Theater Critic
October 30, 1999

Puppets are especially beguiling when they appear to have a life of their own. In “Up a Tree,” a new hourlong installation at Intersection for the Arts, there’s no attempt to disguise how labor-intensive that illusion can be.

That’s entirely fitting in this gentle, somewhat fuzzy piece of communal puppet agitprop about Earth First activists and their battle against logging of the Northern California redwood forests. Marionettes, Bunraku-style figures, handheld animals and Balinese shadow puppets share a fragrant forest set with seven visible members of the Monkey Thump Puppet Collective. Explicit and implicit is a message that everyone must work together to protect an endangered environment. The show celebrates the work of two real-life protesters, Julia Butterfly Hill and the late David “Gypsy” Chain. The set, by director Dan Chumley and Peggy Snyder, stakes its own claim on reality. It’s filled with trunks and limbs of real redwood, gathered by a group that retrieves “naturally fallen trees.” Kevin Cain supplies the filtered forest light.

Hill, who has lived for nearly two years in the branches of a Humboldt County redwood tree, is played by a tiny marionette (voice of Deborah Ben-Eliezer). She scampers along the high limb of a tree named Luna (Whitney Combs), who talks back to Hill and shakes several lower limbs for emphasis.

Gypsy (the raw-voiced Jonathan Youtt), a full-sized Bunraku puppet who operates at ground level with a cadre of protesters, is a relative innocent who dies when a felled tree lands on him. A foulmouthed logger (David Morley) is the pat villain of the piece. But the script raises the intriguing possibility that Gypsy may have martyred himself without really thinking much about it.

That mystery takes form in the show’s most haunting image, when a legless Gypsy flies on his strings over the forest floor. Here, strikingly, there’s no human intervention in in sight. Gypsy has floated free of his past (detailed in a few shadow puppet flashbacks) and his own murky motivations. He’s become a spirit force for the movement.

A dopey animal subplot involves an entrepreneurial fox (Star Rose) with a cell phone grafted to one paw and a couple of reluctant beavers employed as loggers. These puppets, unlike the carefully crafted humans, look slapdash, and their scenes add little to the piece.

“Up a Tree” is a labor of love and a devoted tribute to a cause. It’s anything but elegant, in writing or execution, but an authentic soulfulness is as clear as the fresh redwood smell that fills the house.

UP A TREE: The theatrical installation continues through November 21 at Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia St., San Francisco.

Donate to the HappyFeet Projects

For over 20 years, all this fun and creativity has been a DIY labor of love. Keeping the Stencil Archive, and this WordPress site, upgraded, updated, secure, and available has taken my gladly given time and money. If you would like to support these sites, the stencil work, and future projects, please consider giving what you can.




Other ways to support the projects: The “Stencil Nation” book is still available and there are now four San Francisco/Oakland street art tours to choose from.

H.O.R.D.E. Turns 30

Relix magazine just put together an entertaining recollection of the 1992 H.O.R.D.E. concert tour, with the festival’s founders (the musicians) going on record about how it all began. Love the fact that most of the tour revolved around giving massive love to Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit. I am quite humbled that I got to see the ARU at their genesis, b/c their show was straight up different from much of the live music I was going to!

Everybody had this common idea that they had to help Colonel Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit. That was like the secret squirrel agenda of the whole thing. – Dave Frey, Blues Traveller mgr. (via Relix magazine)

My brother Mark and I knocked out bootleg tee shirts for the Atlanta and Carowinds stops of the first H.O.R.D.E. tour. Mark had the art skills, we both did graphic design, and I was working in a screen print shop. We printed a nice pile, only to have undercover cops confiscate them before we even had a chance to sell any! Luckily, I’d pulled several dozen to sell to friends and keep back for the NC show if we sold out, so still had a few to sell and break even on cost.

Mark and I had a fun time making the 1992 lot tee image. We thought up and brainstormed the idea, Mark then drew the monster, and we worked on the lettering together via Mark’s Apple computer (and probably Photoshop 1 or 2 or similar). Then I took the file, via a floppy disk, to the Microsoft machine I had at the screen print shop where I worked, printed the front and back images on vellum paper, taped them up and corrected lines, pulled a rubylith separation for the monster’s color screen, and then burned the two screens.

My screen shop boss, Randy, was very cool about letting us schedule our own prints into the shop’s work flow. I’m not sure if he or Freddie, another amazing screenprinter, pulled the ink on these. I bought the shirts at wholesale cost, and whoever did the labor usually got a shirt. We also always helped each other with our own print runs, so the labor usually got paid back in kind. This shirt had a larger run than usual (I think I printed about 3-4 dozen tees), so Randy may have made us do this after hours. Either way, we were all into putting multiple colors into the one screen to easily make the shirt a 4-color job.

Love this artwork! We didn’t get the correct name of the festival, but must’ve picked the words up from a Widespread Panic mailer. Maybe a Blues Traveller mailer? The correct name is Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere. Now that I think a bit more, we have just gotten more metal about the idea of a horde monster coming to the Southeast to destroy and slay. 😛
Here’s the back of the 1992 shirt. We spent alot more time on the art and ideas for the first one, only to have most of these shirts get confiscated by the cops. When asked what they’d do with the shirts, they told us they’d give them to a homeless charity in Atlanta. I looked for them in the streets for a month or so after the show.
H.O.R.D.E. Festival 1993 shirt. The artwork is simple, so Mark and I must’ve quickly thought this one up.
I always made 2-sided shirts, even if there was only a pocket image. Good to have this image to know which bands were in the 1993 festival. I cannot remember which bands I saw at the Atlanta stop of the festival, and this list is for the whole tour (Phish once again headlined the Northeast shows while Panic headlined the Southeast).
My stub from the 1992 Lakewood show.
My stub from the Carowinds festival in 1992.
Here’s the ticket for the 1993 Lakewood show.

A 1991 Flyer, Scanned.

Took this off the wall of either the venue or the vegan co-op house where the afterparty happened.

The official setlist

LOVE AUDITORIUM, DAVIDSON COLLEGEDavidsonNC

SET 1The Landlady > Runaway JimIt’s Ice > SparkleChalk Dust TortureEsther > Cavern > Rhombus Narration > Divided SkyI Didn’t KnowYou Enjoy Myself

SET 2David Bowie[1]Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous MockingbirdGolgi ApparatusBathtub GinThe Squirming Coil > LlamaHold Your Head Up > Terrapin[2] > Hold Your Head UpPossum

ENCOREHornMy Sweet OneSweet Adeline[3]

[1] Four Charlie Chan signals and Popeye, Simpsons, Oom Pa Pa, and Random Laugh signals in the intro. The band responded to Popeye signal by singing a random note.
[2] Fish sang only one out of every few words.
[3] Without microphones.

Terrapin was announced as the “restrained version” and Fish as the “Master of Restraint.” In response, Fish sang only one out of every few words to the song. Trey also clarified during the show that Colonel Forbin is not to be mistaken for Colonel (Bruce) Hampton. Bowie was preceded by a Funk #49 tease. The Bowie intro included HYHU teases, four Charlie Chan signals and Popeye, Simpsons, Oom Pa Pa, and Random Laugh signals. The band responded to the Popeye signal by singing a random note, which is the Random Note signal’s “secret language.” Trey teased Dave’s Energy Guide in Possum. Sweet Adeline was performed without microphones.

N1 Hot Takes fm a Phish Dick’s Noob

Newness! What’s this? Who’s that? Waaa??? Huh!

10th Anniversary for the band, and many phans. A first trip for yours truly.
  • Two miles to the venue? Sure, I’ll walk. Suburban North Denver; the sun; almost no food or grocery stores; more sun; there it is, just beyond this empty field! Whew… made it.
  • Vax check line: a bit long, moved very fast, barely barricaded and no security (easy to cut past the one person checking cards/IDs)… done in 6 minutes.
  • Shakedown? Keep hearing the word but no idea where it sprouted.
  • Gates open, line moving! That’s a fast line. OK, I’ll jump in.
  • Much faster than Shoreline…
  • “Take your ticket out of your laniard.” Hmm, OK. Whaaaaat?! She just marked my PTBM art with a sharpie! Damn. They all have sharpies at the gate. WTF? Doesn’t your scan cancel the ticket?
  • An English themed sports bar at the stadium. OK. Fish and chips? Nah. Chicken pie and chips?! Why yes, thank you.
  • Hmm, where did my bottle of water go? And my hand sanitizer? Oops!
  • Dick’s is a soccer field. The pitch is covered with plastic flooring. Guess they have a machine that rolls it out.
  • What?! Purchased water and no cap? Hate that. I’ll hide it under the disabled seating area.
  • Woah! There’s Tom Marshall, drinking a Coors. I ask the Bryce crew if any of them know him. None do. I just glance from a distance at the “mighty legend formed”.
  • That was a fun “Carini”.
  • “Chalk Dust” not my favorite, but I wandered up to the rail (the barrier at the stage) Page side, stood behind the folks getting the lyrics signed to them from two folks, and actually enjoyed it.
  • Ack! The cigarette smoke. Everywhere. Must avoid it. Wander. Think of a place. Oooh, here’s an open area where I can take off the mask. Annnd, about 6 smokers all around. Ahhhh, here’s a seat Page side with no one around. Fresh air at last!
  • Where did the Bryce crew go? Cannot find any of them. Phone not working well. Hover outside Gate E away from a second line band (and too closely packed people). No word from my ride back. I start walking….
  • Hello, hotel room. That cool walk back much nicer than the sunny one…
  • Chill with boring TV….. read a little…. zzzzzzzzz…..

Never Underestimate a Water Balloon Slingshot

Then one of the guys I didn’t know asked, “You think we can hit the wrestlers with a balloon?” The general response was, “There’s no way one of us can shoot a ballon that far. Let’s try it!”

After over 30 years, I think I can safely tell this story to the public. During my sophomore year at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC, I almost got a beat down Mid-Atlantic Wrestling style. Some details, and names, are hazy, but there are parts I’m retelling that I will never forget.

One lazy afternoon, most likely in 1989, I had nothing to do on the Wofford campus. A freshman, named Bill, asked me if I’d like to check out a guy’s water balloon slingshot. I’d never heard of that kind of slingshot before, so instantly said “Yes!” We walked over to the Wightman dormitory, which had open hallways, like a motel, that faced into campus on one side and over the shared parking lot of the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium on the other.

We walked up about four flights on the auditorium side and saw two or three Wofford guys standing around a marvelous apparatus. The water balloon slingshot was basically surgical tubing, most likely stolen from the science lab, tied off of two of the building’s vertical support posts, with some kind of pocket in the middle that held the balloons. These guys were slinging water balloons onto cars in the parking lot. I’d say the range was maybe a few hundred feet; about halfway into the fairly large parking lot.

It looked fun, so Bill and I tried a few to see how it worked. My attempt wasn’t that good: the balloon didn’t go that far into the lot and it totally missed what I was aiming at. “You’ll get better with practice,” someone told me. A second try was about the same.

At some point during our senseless fun, three pro wrestlers walked out of the back exit of the auditorium, far up on the other side of the parking lot. I only remember the two legends: Roddy Piper and Ric Flair. We stopped slinging the balloons and had a moment of starstruck awe. Wrestling gods, in the flesh, and just chatting behind the auditorium.

One of the guys I didn’t know asked, “You think we can hit the wrestlers with a balloon?” The general response was, “There’s no way one of us can shoot a balloon that far. Let’s try it!”

I cannot remember who pulled the slingshot back, possibly a second person helped, but I do remember that we opened a dorm room door to pull the slingshot further back to make the extra distance across the parking lot.

With no real way to aim, a direct shot on Piper and Flair was remote and against the odds. When the balloon was launched, we all watched with low expectations. It went past the middle of the lot where we were hitting cars. It kept going over the other cars, towards the exit where the wrestlers were talking. Our excitement grew. I can almost remember leaning in to try to help the balloon keep going. Then, the small dot of a balloon, most likely red or blue or white, keenly headed home… onto Ric Flair and Roddy Piper!

IT WAS A ONE IN A MILLION DIRECT HIT!

“Holy shit, you hit them!” someone shouted. 

As time slowed down, Piper and Flair literally didn’t know what hit them. The “punch” was wet, with rubbery bits all over their splashed faces and clothes. Like they tend to do on TV, Piper and Flair went from a friendly chat to being 100% pissed off. As we stood frozen, hundreds of feet away and watching, they looked towards Wightman. From all that distance, they made eye contact with us.

“Take this slingshot down now!” one of us screamed. It was too late, because Piper and Flair were pointing at us and screaming. We couldn’t hear them, but I clearly saw what Flair’s mouth said: “We’re going to f—king kill you!!” 

“What the hell do we do?!” someone asked.

“Split up and hide! Run!” someone answered. 

As the wrestlers ran across the parking lot to beat our asses, and probably send us to the ER, we took the slingshot down and ran into one of the guy’s dorm rooms. What Piper and Flair didn’t know was that the Wightman rooms were suites: four different rooms shared a toilet and shower in the middle. Fortunately, we ran into the room where the wrestlers knew we were and went on the other side of the dorm through another room’s open bathroom door.

We didn’t bother to explain to them what was happening, but did manage to tell them “don’t open the doors! Don’t open the doors!” We split up, and I ran with Bill and a few guys that hastily pulled their dorm room keys out of their pockets. We ran down the campus-side hall into one of their rooms and hid. Maybe the other guy split off and went to his own room. I recall trying to hide under a bed, but it was a wooden bed frame like you see in hotels. Instead, we cowered in the dark and shut the hell up.

For a good 20 minutes, Piper and Flair (and the third guy) slammed on doors and yelled “Come out and get a beating, you bastards!” “We know who you are! We’re going to be waiting for you!” Eventually, after final threats and insults, they left.

Out of the group that I hid with, I was the only one that lived in another dorm. My peers weren’t going anywhere soon, but I had to leave at some point! My memory is vague, but definitely I left well after dark. I may have changed into a shirt that Bill loaned me. I went down a different exit on the campus side and took a very long route to my dorm.

Looking over my shoulder and under every bush, I never saw Piper and Flair, and didn’t want to. I told myself that they wouldn’t hide behind bushes; they had better things to do. I didn’t take any chances during my fast walk and was glad that I got through that with my face and ribs intact.

***

I have told this story for years. You may not believe it, and I get that. Like that moment when the launched balloon hit two wrestling legends, I still ask “how could this have possibly happened?” Yet, when Ric Flair wiped the water and balloon bits off his face, tensed up in anger and screamed at being assaulted by a strange object, I’ll never forget what I thought: “That REALLY happened… and they’re going beat the shit out of us!” Did I learn a lesson form this experience? Beyond believing that miracles happen in twos, not really.

7 Ways to Get Some Cackalacky, San Francisco Style

Howdy! I’m Russell and I’m a South Carolina native. My roots are all over the Palmetto State, but I’ve called San Francisco home since 1997. After I moved here, I created this very site, which I called a fake travel agency, as a way to entice my Carolina friends and cousins to come out and see me.

If you’re from South or North Carolina, and were lucky enough to get a rare ticket to the Super Bowl, welcome to San Francisco. I don’t think this city compares to any city back home, and you will certainly see more protesting (and here) than you ever have (we aren’t that happy with our mayor, SFPD chief, and all the apparent corruption that helped build these new, shiny skyscrapers). Once you’ve been to Super Bowl City – which is NOT local SF – I thought I’d give you all a list of San Franciscan-related Carolina tourist sites to visit during all that other time you have on your hands. They’re mostly connected to South Carolina. I’m sorry to say that North Carolina gets the short end of the stick here in the City by the Bay.

First, let me go ahead and warn you that most Californians have NO IDEA that there are even TWO Carolinas. And you’ll have to tell folks you’re from the Southeast, because coming from the South in Northern California means you live in Los Angeles, San Diego, etc. And don’t expect to find any decent sweet iced tea here either. A few places get close, but I make my own if I want the real, teeth-aching deal.

OK. Let’s get to some fun, quirky, out-of-the Super Bowl City/Union Square/Fisherman’s Wharf, Carolina-related places for you to drag your lazy ass around to if you’re here for the Super Bowl:

Continue reading “7 Ways to Get Some Cackalacky, San Francisco Style”

Panopticonic Shrugs in the Snowden-net

Almost March and no posts for the new year. I have felt eyes upon all corners of my privacy so haven’t felt too inspired to spend time staring at a screen and writing. I don’t know what think. My mind is blown. I have become introverted. I deleted email accounts. Changed passwords (so many hacked bank and store sites). Have a 2D avatar. If anything, stencils. Meeting up with friends has become important.

With gentrification comes cameras. Cameras on MUNI buses (at least 4, one pointing out the windshield, with one purpose: get evidence and write tickets for cars that park in bus stops). Cameras on bikes (thanks GoPro). Cameras on sidewalks in front of condos, and people constantly staring at cameras -er – cell phones.

The eye stares far and wide!

I am currently reading Glenn Greenwald’s “No Place to Hide” and the book’s statements make me furious. It’s a hard book to read. Fucking NSA! I never thought I’d feel a generation gap, but I feel one now. The Gen Web young adults have a very different idea of what privacy is. And I guess I like to keep it old school, i.e., “butt out of my private life.” Continue reading “Panopticonic Shrugs in the Snowden-net”

Intersection Watching: Amazed at the Chaos

I’m going to miss bike commuting the first few blocks of Sansome St. in San Francisco’s Financial District. That’s right – the nonprofit that I work for is going to move to downtown Oakland in the next three months. We are fleeing the booming high-rent space ($52/square foot in our current building) in order to grow and have the extra funds to support the growth. I may write more about my first ever desk job in Oakland, but for now – the poetic chaos of Sansome Street.

The yellow highlighted area marks the main stretch of my commute that fascinates me twice daily.
The yellow highlighted area marks the main stretch of my commute that fascinates me twice daily.

I frequently discuss traffic with a friend who happens to drive for Lyft (and Uber) and write freelance. During one of these discussions, I shared a story about how an Uber limo driver decided to drive around a Muni bus and the three cars stuck behind it. You may see a driver make this maneuver in other parts of San Francisco. On Sansome St., the Uber driver drove into the oncoming lane, into a gridlocked intersection, and only had an option of turning right (Muni buses can turn left and then zag right onto Market St. while all other traffic must turn right onto Sutter St.). Continue reading “Intersection Watching: Amazed at the Chaos”

An Obituary for CELLspace

Written by Devin Holt (I pitched in with info, editing, and whatnot)

CELLspace, community arts center, closed its doors at the end of 2012.

During the late 90s and early aughts, there was no better place to see the Mission District’s artistic, multicultural vibe than CELLspace. San Francisco prankster Chicken John was known to decorate the 10,000 square foot warehouse as a Las Vegas casino; the Flaming Lotus Girls created their first large scale fire installations in the CELLspace Metal Shop, and during Carnaval, the space would burst at the seams from the ritual drumming, colorful rattling costumes and sheer number of teenagers involved in groups like Loco Bloco and Danza Azteca.

Michael Sturtz was so impressed by CELLspace that he named his industrial arts school, The Crucible, after their art gallery.

“The name was inspired by the Crucible Steel Gallery, which was the CELLspace gallery at the time,” he said. Continue reading “An Obituary for CELLspace”

27 Sep: The Critical Mass Birthday Party

critical-mass-20th-birthday-party

Bikes, Bands, and Brews
The Critical Mass 20th Birthday Party

Live bands – check. Beer – check. Bikes – hell yeah! Rock your way into Friday and help build the momentum towards the Interstellar Critical Mass. Got SUV pinatas? Birthday cupcakes? A bike crew? Bring it if you wanna…

PERFORMING LIVE:
Grass Widow (grasswidow.org)
Apogee Sound Club
The Rabbles (therabbles.wordpress.com/)
Future Twin (futuretwin.com)

Thursday, Sep. 27, 2012
7pm to 1am
21+
$10 – $20* sliding scale
*door proceeds cover costs of event; profits go to the bands… please give generously if you can

CELL
2050 Bryant 
(b/t 18th and 19th sts)
SF, CA 94110

also:
bike stencils by Mission legend Scott Williams
DIY culture share… sell your bike-themed wares ($10 extra at door, byo table, while space lasts)

http://www.sfcriticalmass.org/