by Adam Wiltgen
Meet the Unseen Ghost Brigade: a theatre ensemble dedicated to the proliferation of communal joy through the arts that is currently in the midst of an ambitious 2,000 mile performance-journey down the Mississippi River on a raft. Utilizing street theatre to infiltrate everyday life, each member of the group has assumed the persona of a character based on various archetypal, vagabond-like characters. The result is a spontaneously delightful public fusion of acting, comedy, puppetry, music, acrobatics, and other art forms that manages to infiltrate everyday life, connect people, and reclaim the river culture of yore.
Beginning in Minneapolis, where the group originates, they’ve spent the last week or so in La Crosse, WI. Running into motor problems, their stay in La Crosse was longer than expected. But whatever went awry has been remedied and the Brigade just posted an update yesterday stating they’ve reached Lansing, IA. Talking with co-artistic directors Walken Schweigert and Chad Stender via phone earlier this week, they shared plans to stop in Prairie du Chein, WI in the next couple days; hoping to perform around St. Feriole Island and / or the Main Entrance.
Another aspect of their travels is a documentary they are filming. In addition to covering the ups and downs of their journey, they hope to capture dying art forms & trades and the essence of the river and its river-town inhabitants in the year 2010. Stender briefly mentioned to me two people they’ve met with and filmed: an 84-year old gentleman in Alma, WI that still produces rare steam-powered piano players and Dr. Bob in Winona, MN, a madcap puppet-master with a crazy club house and an amazing amount of talent and creativity.
So yes, rejoice and check out some of the performance videos below. You can follow the group’s updates HERE, HERE, and HERE. Seeking justice for the injustices that have been done, and are continuing to be done, you can contribute to the group’s mission and travel expenses HERE. A more in-depth piece on this story appeared in the Rochester Post Bulletin recently and can be read HERE. Much thanks to Root Note co-owner Alex Johnson for putting me in touch with these incredibly inspiring artist-activists.