The Puppeteer that Pulled My Heartstrings

Last weekend I had the pleasure and good fortune to attend the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre hosted by World City at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. The program is completely free and a true hidden gem in Downtown.

Vit Horejs, the puppeteer and artist, was heart-warming, engaging and really funny – sometimes with a dry humor like when proclaiming a puppet dead- eliciting a gasp from the parents in the amphitheatre – and then taking it back – a sigh of relief swooshing the air (this time from the children). Elefta- a Hungarian folk band followed with lively music that had us clapping in tune and children dancing in their seats.

It was a captivating experience – I had to tear my eyes away from the show to observe the audience: children of all ages huddled together- having just met a few minutes before the show- now holding hands and exchanging giggles and a mix of expressions in tune with the story. I cannot describe what I felt as I sat there, surrounded by parents with their children, parents that took the time to make sure that their children were experiencing this slice of delight at no monetary cost to them.

It reminded me of when I was in the third grade. My mother took my older sister and I to the MOCA museum – thanks to the generosity of my sister’s 5th grade teacher- at no charge to us. They had a series of workshops for us to create our own artwork – abstract art- just like the current exhibit they had given us a tour of.

It is one of my most treasured childhood memories; even then I realized what a sacrifice it was for my mother to take us to the museum after a long workweek. I remember holding the scissors in my hand- a yellow foam paper on the other and looking over at her –a feeling of tightness in my heart overwhelming me for a few seconds.

I didn’t fully understand what I was feeling at that moment, but in reflection I know that it was a feeling of pride, joy and guilt. I was so grateful to my mother for having brought us, I was having the time of my life and yet I felt guilty. Her face was tired, her eyes smaller from lack of sleep- her jaw slack and her lips turned down. I wanted to kiss her cheek and make her feel better.

She will never realize how much that meant to me- because even though I grew up in a humble home- my two sisters and I sharing a bedroom with our parents- I had books to carry me away to another world. A world with no cholos or drive-by’s, without scary men lurking around when you had to walk to school alone, a world that introduced me to the Louvre, Einstein and Da Vinci. She made that world come alive for an afternoon.

Children from poor households are not ignorant- they know that they are missing out on something “out there”. That is why when I stood behind my little girls who were busy creating their own puppets at the free workshop after the show- I felt joy, pride and guilt. But this time the joy was from seeing my children exposed to art and the Walt Disney Hall at such a young age, pride at myself for being a good mother (because I can see it in their eyes that I am), and guilt that children in Downtown are missing out.

Last Wednesday was the Neighborhood Council meeting for the Education Committee. We discussed which services the children that live in the residential hotels need. We are planning a visit to the 9th Street elementary school within the month and anyone interested to join us is free to do so. If you are interested in volunteering as a tutor, clean-up, or have book donations please contact me at I also would like to encourage you to share the events that we post on blogdowntown with all of your neighbors, in the building and the street- so we can all enjoy these free events together.

This month’s play date did not have the strong Downtown residential presence that I hoped for, but you have a chance to change that. Next month we have two events that are perfect for meeting other parents with children in the neighborhood- maybe even in your own building.

On Sunday, April 5, MOCA will host its monthly First Sundays are For Families Workshop at 1:00pm to ”explore works from MOCA’s permanent collection with local artist Alexandra Olson. A spotlight tour of A Changing Ratio: Painting and Sculpture from the Collection will be followed by a chance to make artwork inspired by world-renowned contemporary artists.” INFO 213/621-1765 FREE; no reservations required.

If you can’t make it on the 5th, World City brings another treat on Saturday, April 18th, with Le Vent du Nord and Circo Comedia. For more info visit FREE.

Published March 20, 2009

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