Amal brings unexpected brightness — #berkshireweekend

A young woman offers a cedar tree to a 10-year-old girl. She says she has grown the sapling herself, and the girl reaches out — and the world has grown gloriously unexpected. The tree is small enough to fit in a palm … and the girl is tall enough to look in second-floor windows. Amal, the 12-foot puppet, has come to Ashfield.

She steps onto the town common, and she takes a visible breath and squares her shoulders, facing the crowd who have come to see her. She is looking around wide-eyed, tilting her head to listen, and moving with careful steps.

She is feeling her way … only partly because she moves through the agile coordination of three theater artists. Two guide her hands and arms, and the third is walking within her — on stilts, given his height off the ground.

They are bringing her to life between them with expressive grace — a girl who has had to leave home, who has left everything she knows and has wound up in a place where almost everything is new to her — the language, the shops, the way the houses are made, the music.

And Amal can still dance. Larry Spotted Crow Mann, co-founder of the Ohketeau Cultural Center welcomes her as a member of the Nipmuc nation to their own lands, in their own language. He and his family lead a circle dance, and she holds their hands.

And then dancers and musicians are singing around her. Double Edge Theatre and Ebony Noelle Golden’s Jupiter Performance Studio are leading her in procession and singing, bearing armfuls of wild golden rod like banners.

‘Woke up this morning with my mind … set on freedom …’

We’re people enough to fill a hilltown with one main street of old clapboard houses, and she is taking us all in with playful improvisation. Brass and percussion are playing around her, drum and shaker and accordion and bell, and the whole crowd is walking with her and singing with them.

Amal - the 12-foot puppet, 10-year-old Syrian girl and global arts and human rights collaboration - meets Larry Spotted Crow Mann and his family on Ashfield common.
Photo by Kate Abbott

Amal - the 12-foot puppet, 10-year-old Syrian girl and global arts and human rights collaboration - meets Larry Spotted Crow Mann and his family on Ashfield common.

Events coming up …

Find more art and performance, outdoors and food in the BTW events calendar.

Daffodils anticipate the spring in the annual show of bulbs at the Berkshire Botanical Garden.
Mar 1 2024 @ 9:00 am
Spring comes early inside Berkshire Botanical Garden’s Fitzpatrick Greenhouse as the annual Bulb Show brings daffodils, narcissi, tulips and more, free and open to the public, daily through March 17.
Skyler Gallun and Sky Marie hold hands laughing in Barrington Stage's 10x10 Festival of New Plays. Press photo courtesy of the theater
Mar 1 2024 @ 7:30 pm
Barrington Stage Company's annual 10x10 New Play Festival returns for its 13th Year as a compact cast of actors perform 10 short plays by 10 playwrights.
Full Well Farm brings wreathes of rosemary and dried flowers to the North Adams Farmers Market.
Mar 2 2024 @ 9:00 am
Chocolate peanut butter cookies, fresh flowers, jams and pickles and cheeses ... the North Adams Farmers Market returns with more than a dozen farmers and makers.

By the Way Berkshires is a digital magazine exploring creative life and community — art and performance, food and the outdoors — and I’m writing it for you, with local voices, because I’ve gotten to know this rich part of the world as a writer and journalist, and I want to share it with you.

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