Collaboration with the Katonah Museum of Art and MTA Metro-North Railroad

May 22, 2010 from NYC to Katonah, NY


On May 22, PAW led a pageant of invasive species that boarded a Metro-North commuter train at various stations from Grand Central Terminal to Katonah, merging upon arrival with cacophonous street procession of puppets, costumes, and sound.

Commute of the Species was commissioned as part of the Katonah Museum of Art's exhibition The Art of Contemporary Puppet Theater. The performance staged an accumulation of puppets on board a designated train to chronicle the arrival of non-native animal and plant species in the Hudson River Valley. The resulting site-specific puppetscape transformed the everyday commuter experience into an allegory of migration, habitat expansion, and unforeseen consequences – in effect, condensing 400 years of eco-history into a single one-hour train ride.

Commute of the Species featured a core group of 30 puppets, representing various invasive animals and plants, from European starlings to zebra mussels. At 6 prearranged stops along the commuter rail line between NYC and Katonah, a contingent of puppeteers embarked and animated a variety of puppets. Dressed in typical commuter attire, each puppeteer distributed business cards to bewildered passengers with the species Latin name and detailing its its ecological history and imapact. Some performers also carried portable mp3 players filling the train with an authentic animal sounds of rock pigeons, Norway rats, starlings, and gypsy moths. (visit PAW's Soundcloud to hear the soundtracks) Over the course of the journey, the train was thus gradually transformed into a living natural history museum, as each species appeared in order of its historic arrival in the Hudson Valley. At the Katonah station, the entire menagerie disembarked and joined other puppets large and small, for a wild procession through the streets of downtown Katonah.

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