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Skimming along Orrington Avenue in a mottled pink boat, puppeteer Michael Montenegro was one of the local artists who kicked off Arts Week Evanston at Fountain Square last week. Dressed in what appeared to be a bulky orange onesie and wearing a large bright blue mask topped casually with a formal man’s hat, Mr. Montenegro “rowed” around Fountain Square for a few minutes then, rather than changing his costume, paddled his boat down Orrington Avenue to his truck.
The performance, reminiscent of a clown “walkabout,” was meant, he said, to convey a “visual illusion – surrealism and comedy.” Walkabouts have a long tradition in clowning, he said: “Even in Native American cultures, clown figures embody the element of contrariness.”
Mr. Montenegro’s puppets – which some have said defy the conventional understanding of puppets – have appeared in several Chicago-area theatres. He created this skit for a performance at Navy Pier in Chicago earlier this month.
“I originally called it ‘Ship of Foools,’” he said, “but someone there objected, because they thought people would just think it was a typographical error.” Mr. Montenegro says he hopes to launch a puppet theatre in Evanston in the next few weeks.
In a more sedentary role, Evanston musician Stephen Lieto entertained the kick-off crowd with his sitar.