From Trotsky to Puppets: Other Revolutions are Possible

Graciela Monteagudo

Graciela Monteagudo is an Argentinean organizer, street theater maker and performer who has coordinated puppet and street theater actions as part of protests in Buenos Aires, Puerto Rico and throughout the US and Canada, against the World Economic Forum, the School of the Americas and the G8. She also works with Bread and Puppet in Glover, Vermont. Her use of art and theater for liberation grew out of her organizing for human rights in the post-dictatorship years in Argentina. Graciela coordinates the argentina autonomista project, an exchange program between people of the US and Argentina. Her recent show “Que se vayan tod@s, a cardboard piece” is currently touring Universities and community centers in the US and Europe. Monteagudo spends time in Vermont and in Buenos Aires with her 8-year old son, Jan.

“Giant puppets took the streets, visions of a better world and images of the tools to build it were carried aloft, people drummed, sang, danced and chanted through the streets. For many people, I think especially for people who were stretching their courage to even be out in the streets at all, the march was liberating and inspiring.”– Starhawk describing the World Economic Forum Protest,New York City, February 2002

A beautiful street theater piece may have a deep impact on the conscience of those who see it, but that impact will soon fade away if it is not reinforced by another artistic or political event. By emphasizing a democratic process in the creation of social art, I attempt to help people learn how to do this work themselves. My experience participating in direct actions in the streets and engaging in performances has taught me the importance of everybody being heard and of making decisions in a democratic manner. The process of working with people, either in popular theater or in direct street actions, is far more important than the artistic product. If the process is democratic, people will learn how to work with people. As they learn how to express their voices in ways that other people will listen to, their final artistic outcome will improve. Artists who work with more hierarchical strategies sometimes end up with aesthetically more powerful pieces than collectives where the community participates in freer ways and nobody holds a veto control. Although I understand the need for strong, powerful images, I think that the process should be taken more into account than the product.