“So, let’s make the most of this beautiful day. Since we’re together we might as well say: Would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won’t you be my neighbor?”
Chances are those lyrics brought you back to your childhood, conjuring images of sweaters and sneakers and, of course, Mr. Rogers. And that soft spoken, kindly man is the inspiration for In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre’s latest show, Make Believe Neighborhood.
Make Believe Neighborhood covers various aspects of the life of Fred Rogers, hitting on his own childhood, the inspiration for his show and the service he wanted to provide, as well as his advocacy for children and public television. However, this show is more than just a history lesson on Rogers. After each scene about Rogers comes a scene from the South Minneapolis neighborhood where HOBT makes its home. These portions highlight people who live and work in the area and are committed to making a stronger community, whether it’s through programming for children, jobs, or just smiling and welcoming newcomers.
The breadth of puppets and media used in the show is stunning. From small puppets that take multiple puppeteers to move, to masks, to shadow puppets, to moving set pieces, to video clips, this performance is as diverse as the neighborhood the theater calls home.
Make Believe Neighborhood stands out because it could not have been made anywhere else. It tells stories specific to its own residents and leaders, making special connections for the audience members (adults especially) who live there. Without shying away from the problems its residents face, Make Believe Neighborhood showcases a vibrant community, and it grounds Mr. Roger’s teachings of how to be good neighbors in reality.
Though one of the great things about this show is that it’s for all ages, it is also one of its difficulties. Adults may find some of the more visual portions slow, whereas children could lose interest during the more “adult” topics they can’t fully understand. The show closes with a quote from Fred Rogers projected onto a screen. Since this show caters to a wide audience, the quote should be read aloud so that children too young to read can also be clued into the ending.
By combining Rogers’ legacy with real life community stories, Make Believe Neighborhood is more than just a tribute to a single man or the story of a single neighborhood. It is a celebration of the helpers that make people’s homes and lives better every day.
Book Your Tickets:
Make Believe Neighborhood
Tickets: Students/Children/Seniors $10, General $20
In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre
1500 E Lake Street
Minneapolis, MN 55407
Running Time: 2 hours with intermission