Indianapolis graciously embraced us on October 18th, 2013: the audience that night were too wonderful for words. We were honored to share with the crowd at the Athenaeum that night our new friends: Jamie Snodgrass, a Class-C Mulberry Scout; the E.L. wire puppets taking their first steps in “Look Who’s Walking Too;” Jack, a heroic cop on a speeding bus who resembled that guy from The Matrix; celebrity hybrid ghost Whoopi Goldblum; and a marooned set of seafarers with a rumble in their tummies. All of this, plus the involvement of amazing guest performers like Kai, ArtSpark, and Sweet Poison Victim was set against the backdrop of a fancy-pants awards show in which we honored our hero, action star Lance Thunderson, with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Though, to be fair, our long-suffering stage manager Wallace Wimbley would be all too happy to point out that that didn’t go exactly as planned.
Photos by April Doner
Optical Popsicle Hi-5 Live! Theme
Look Who’s Walking, Too (Instrumental)
by April Doner
KNS’s refreshing attitude was well expressed in the Optical Popsicle Hi-5 Live’s plot line, which they developed between colorful skits. According to the story, Op Pop 5’s original crowning event was meant to be the presenting of a Lifetime Achievement Award to an action flick actor, a puffed-up, green-skinned, yellow-haired meat-heady puppet named Lance Thunderson, and the living idol of the KNS members. After causing everyone grief by supposedly kidnapping his chauffeur (who phoned in with panicked updates from the trunk of his car), Thunderson finally showed up, arrogant as anything, and dissed both the “boring” town and their adorable award (a macaroni necklace presented in a fancy wooden box).
At that point, the hand-wringing stage manager, a short, bespectacled, shaky-voiced puppet stood up to Lance, berating him for his bad attitude and lack of respect and appreciation for these hard-working, pure-hearted kids. After sending Lance on his way by giving him so many compliments that his head grew three times in size, the KNS gang switched plans, awarding the Lifetime Achievement Award to their beloved stage manager, proclaiming as they did so their happy realization that some outside big-shot doesn’t deserve that award nearly as much as the manager and the people of Indianapolis do.
I believe it is this philosophy that makes KNS successful and continuously creative as a group–their commitment to grounding themselves in the abundance and power that lies within community and within people, rather than something that lies outside. It is a perfect “inside-out” rather than “outside-in” picture.
The generative power of this kind of acting and doing was also perfectly demonstrated by what happened after the official show ended that night. Once the end was announced and the KNS crew had bowed and left stage, funky dance music came on and audience members jumped on stage to begin dancing. Beyond being a great way to close a show (so much more satisfying than everyone picking up their coats and shuffling away, it was an example of how KNS’s different way of looking at the world — from proactive rather than passive, welcoming rather than guarded, and seeing power in people, talents and relationships — is exciting not just because it’s a more fun way to live, but because it GROWS.
Taking initiative to create what we want to see in the world, and using the abundance around us to do it has the generative affect of naturally inspires others to do the same. I’m convinced that, more than any social media, crowdsourcing or other new buzz-type campaign, it is this which gives life to whatever we might do in our community. And, as we joyfully go about our experiments like Know No Stranger does, doing our thing and welcoming others along, we both liberate others to stop waiting for permission and feeling resource-poor — we also release ourselves from the burden of how we will get others to “get on board” to our idea. Rather, we set the stage and tone for others to jump up and dance too, making it up, like we have done, as they go, and pulling in others because — well, duh, everyone knows dancing is no fun alone.
What Know No Stranger does and the way it does it is itself is a radical thing. Living and making key decisions based on a spirit of doing, not waiting; valuing people, welcoming everyone, starting small and building from what people ACTUALLY want to do is a way of returning to citizenship, and departing from a culture that is both disempowering and, unfortunately, quite dominant in our day and age — that of relying on the answers, expertise, decision-making and organizational power of others… politicians, higher-ups, experts, programs, and institutions.
Of course, those folks and structures should not be ignored. But the fuel, fire, direction and creativity we need to make this world thrive will never come FROM there. It comes from inside — of us, from our individual gifts, passions and dreams, and from us in groups as we find others who share, use, and complement what we each bring to the world. When THAT is tapped, limitless power becomes available — and, like the end of the show on Friday as Lance Thunderson floated off in oblivious arrogance, and KNS celebrated their rediscovered love for their community, you almost can’t help but jump up and join the dance party that ensues.