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.

Plums gleam in purple and gold at a farmers market table.
Sep 28 2023 @ 3:00 pm
The West Stockbridge Farmers Market offers fresh produce — fruits and vegetables in season, eggs, meats and cheeses, breads and baked goods, fudge and jams and more.
Finnish illustrator, writer and visual artist Marika Maijala stands on the coast in a hooded jacket on a windy day.
Sep 28 2023 @ 5:00 pm
Before her appearance at the 2023 Brooklyn Book Festival, Finnish illustrator, writer and visual artist Marika Maijala joins Mass MoCA for an artist talk on Rosie Runsand hands-on silkscreen with Gary Lichtenstein.
Vladimir Lemport's sculpture of Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr greets visitors to Turn Park.
Sep 28 2023 @ 7:00 pm
Winner of the Tony Award for Best Play, Copenhagen, explores the events surrounding a fateful meeting between two of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century: Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg.

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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