SILVER LAKE — When a pandemic nixes your theater season, you find ways to innovate.
Shake on the Lake has a well-established reputation for inventive programming, yet the COVID-19 pandemic gave it an unexpected curve ball: How do you mix art and entertainment, and keep it safe in the meantime?
Area residents are invited to participate in the Socially Distant Sea Serpent Puppet Parade. It’s set for Sept. 19, starting at Perry Public Beach.
Each person will help form a segment of a giant sea serpent puppet. They can pick up and decorate an individual segment and carry it in the parade, with each forming a part of the overall creature.
“We had been waiting and waiting and waiting to try to figure out how Shake on the Lake could create some sort of content, because in the New York State guidelines, theater is not allowed to really open up yet,” said co-founder Josh Rice. “We had to figure out ways of adjusting that doesn’t necessarily involve an audience coming into a small, dark room and being together and watching the show.”
It goes without saying that this year has been harsh on entertainment venues. Shake on the Lake wasn’t able to offer its traditional summer performance season and its planned puppet festival was postponed.
Warsaw Public Library still wanted to conduct some safe and socially-distanced puppet programming, Rice said. Shake on the Lake observed and weighed what other theater companies were doing — such as low-risk entertainment at Silo City in Buffalo.
They saw their chance with the annual “Pieces of Perry: En Plein Air” artist festival, which is also set for Sept. 19. They’d be able to assist the library and highlight the newly-renovated Perry Public Beach besides.
“Once we got to the ‘En Plein Air’ festival happening, and the accompanying art festival, we thought maybe we could be part of it,” Rice said.
Those interested in participating can pick up a segment kit at Warsaw Public Library, 130 North Main St., Warsaw; the Arts Council for Wyoming County, 31 South Main St., Perry; and from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays at the ACWC booth at the Perry Farmers’ Market.
People can decorate their segment any way they’d like, whether using the paint included in the kit, or using their own materials.
After all, it’s part of arts engagement.
The kits also include instructions and a code people can scan into their phones, allowing them to watch a how-to video online. They’ll meet up at 3 p.m. Sept. 19 at Perry Public Beach and participate in the procession, with the overall creature being possibly as long as a football field.
Safety and social distancing are a very large part of the process. Each person will receive a specially-designed sea serpent mask, and hand sanitizer will be available.
Participants will be spaced six feet apart during the procession, and will touch only their own segment. The route will take them through the Silver Lake Institute and they’ll return to Perry Public Beach by 5 p.m.
The segments are designed so they can be carried easily — resting on a person’s head if needed.
“We want to make sure people know that it is safe, that people know it’s OK to participate,” he said. “It’s not a show. It’s not a performance. We’re very, very clear about that. It’s people walking around with a bunch of pieces of art that if you put it all together makes up a thing.”
Whatever makes the decorating exciting is how they want people to be engaged.
“The piece in and of itself is the shell and people are free to go hog wild to make this their own design,” Rice said. “Hopefully it lies within the same color palate, but if this is a very rainbow-colored sea serpent, that’s OK by me ...This is a community puppet and a community arts project, so to be able to honor the work the community people do and what they put into their own design is really nice for us.”