some random reflections

Back in the day. Here's a look back to Gypsy Joe puppetry of years gone by. The crowning achievements of this work. Dramatically speaking, the crowning achievement was definitely Pilgrim's Progress. Our troupe for that production is seen in the first two images above. The performance was about 2 hours long, with a short intermission. We sold tickets, raised some funds - all for charity, if I remember correctly. I played the lead part of Christian. That's my mom and dad in there as well. Dad did most of the hard work, building everything from the ground up. All the puppets, the theater, the sound, the whole thing. I helped out mostly with props and puppet work on that side. And then of course the practices and performance work were all team efforts by our group of young volunteers.

The second crowning achievement of Gypsy Joe was HIV/AIDS and general public health work in Zimbabwe. I also participated in this, at one time being a troupe leader in a sister troupe from this one, doing awareness campaigns in the Matopos, over a 2-year-or-so period (until our funding ran out!) back around 2001-2003. In the case of these latter performances, the audience was often very large. Typically an entire school plus all sorts of curious comers from the communities. It helped that we were working in a regions which did not typically yet have television, so the impact of the creative methods was optimal. These performances were also, of course, team efforts. There would be just-for-fun games as well, song and dance, marimba / musical performances. It was quite a show. In my case, the performances were typically done at halftime with local soccer matches. The work was successful enough to produce a measurable reduction in the HIV rates in the areas, against national trends and infection rates (which at the time were the worst in the world), over the years that followed.

The Gypsy Joe troupe at Howard Hospital, Zimbabwe, is still active, still doing public health - related performances in the Chiweshe area. Ask any child in that area: they know Gypsy Joe.

Those were the days. It's funny to think about it right now, because at the time this never seemed to be directly related to my personal interests. But here I am becoming an animator right now. And in fact this work led directly and naturally to what I'm doing today. It is nice to be able to move the whole body, and (at more advanced stages) to be able to include full facial expressions. But fundamentally, it's much the same thing; the essence of it is the same, the fundamentals of it are all closely related.

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