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Exhibitions and Events

FestiFools returns with even more fools and a new location

Jamie Sherman Blinder

Fiddler on the Roof in Concert, featuring the orchestrations of John Williams. Promotional illustration courtesy: UMS

After two years, FestiFools makes its vibrant return to the streets of Ann Arbor April 3.

The fest’s signature larger-than-life papier-mâché puppets, created by students of the University of Michigan Lloyd Scholars for Writing and the Arts, will descend upon campus held up by their creators, community members and loved ones.

And for the last time, the chaos will be orchestrated by “the original fool,” Mark Tucker; he will pass the baton to a new puppetmaster for future annual FestiFools productions. In honor of his final FestiFools, Tucker will be contributing his own puppet to the parade this year.

The puppets’ route will take place on State Street between William Street and South University Avenue allowing more space for social distancing than their previous Main Street location.

“There is so much here pedagogically that I love,” said Tucker, academic program officer for the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. “I love watching a student—especially a non-art major, which is mostly what I teach—I love watching their journey from having an idea in their imagination to creating it all three dimensionally, and doing the engineering inside, and going through the trials and tribulations of actually making a piece manifest.”

The majority of the puppets that march each year in the FestiFools parade are made in Tucker’s class, “Art in Public Spaces,” with additional help from the community. Students from all disciplines are encouraged to explore the making of large-scale theatrical scenery, as well as the creation of large-scale public spectacles.

There will be at least 15 new, original puppets this year. Each puppet takes a minimum of three people to carry; some take as many as six or more. And as much fun as it is to watch, “it is a lot more fun to be under a puppet animating it and interacting with the crowd,” Tucker said.

And what comes next for Tucker? He will continue teaching his class, but the creative content will be presented in a new, still to be determined, way. He is considering an entirely new event, pop-up experiences, or even bringing some foolishness and fun to new towns in Michigan.

“Creatively I’m ready for a new adventure and I’m going to segue in May over to UMMA (U-M Museum of Art) where we will take the FestiFools community model inside a museum and have folks coming there to create an exhibition together,” he said.

The interactive exhibition, FUN, is scheduled May 14-Sept. 4, 2022. The inspiration for this year’s FestiFools puppets was drawn from each student’s favorite piece at UMMA, and some puppets may even be given a second life as seed materials for FUN.

FestiFools is free and open to the public. The festivities will take place this weekend, with FoolMoon kicking off 6-10 p.m. Friday, April 1, in Kerrytown. FestiFools will follow 4-5 p.m. Sunday, April 3, on State Street in Ann Arbor.

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