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Free City Puppets

Punch & Judy
Free Forever Daily

On the cover of R.G. Davis' history of the San Francisco Mime Troupe is a drawing of a chained dragon spewing forth smaller dragons from its mouth. The cover artist drew this image from Jacques Callot's 17th century etching "The Temptation of St. Anthony" with an added banner that reads, "Engagement, Commitment and Fresh Air." It has always seemed an appropriate vision of the role the S.F. Mime Troupe played in the 1960s with so many individual artists and groups spinning off the energy that Davis had conjured in order "to teach, [to] direct toward change, [to] be an example of change." The San Francisco Diggers certainly were one of those spin-offs. And, just as in the cover drawing the smaller dragons are themselves giving birth to their own spin-offs, so too did the Diggers give rise to their own progeny, one of which was the Free City Puppets.

The Free City Puppets typified one of the Digger slogans, "Do Your Thing," a phrase that itself came to typify the counterculture of the Sixties. "Do Your Thing" (or just "Do It") was a motto of empowerment in its original meaning. It embodied the "anti-mass" culture that the Diggers were proclaiming. Instead of participating in the mass media circus of modern America, the Diggers were saying, "Create the condition you describe." Each individual and collective group was responsible for "doing their thing" to bring this alternative society into being—just as the Cover Dragon was depicted.

So this page (with Chuck Gould's inspiration, along with many of his photos included herein) is devoted to the Free City Puppets and their vision of Digger Free.

Index of Selections here:

  1. Chuck Gould FCP Photo Gallery
  2. "Free City in the garden," Aspen Times, Aug 6, 1970
  3. "Free City Puppets," San Francisco Flyer, Dec 23 1971
  4. "Free City Puppets / 1915 Page," Kaliflower, Dec 2 1971

 

 

 

Free City Puppets Photo Gallery

By Chuck Gould

Photographs courtesy of Chuck Gould. Please send all requests for Chuck's permission to re-use any of his photos.
Images of Free City Puppets flyers courtesy of California Historical Society and the Digger Archive.

Click on images to view larger version.

   

 

[Here is an article from 1970 that not only gives a sense of what the Free City Puppets were about, but also a good rendition of the Digger/Free City vision.]

Free City in the garden

Aspen Times
August 6, 1970

Free City, an alternate to the historical life styles in this country, and for Aspen's entertainment, a Punch and Judy puppet show.

Bill and Ann Lindyn came from the Free City community of San Francisco about a month ago and brought their puppet theater with them. They have been living here since, giving their show in the Park and will stay through the end of August.

An outgrowth of the Digger movement in the middle 1960's, Free City is a group of people trying to evolve relationships to each other that are free of historical influence.

Part of this life style, and it can certainly be considered that because it is involved with breaking the framework in which to live, is centered around the assumption that the service industries as we know them are actually man's birthright.

A little dense, but what it means is that you shouldn't have to spend your time on this planet exclusively scratching for your bread and shelter. Your time should be more open.

So Free City has communes, its own free store and bakery and now a fishing boat. It also has the Free City Puppets.

The Lindyns have been doing this sort of loosely structured improvisational theater for five years, first with the San Francisco Mime Troupe and for the last two years with their own puppets.

Historically Punch has been doing battle with old morality figures like Want and Weariness, avoiding the Hangman, the Inquisition and every political blackguard of consequence for the last three hundred years in addition to the Devil and naturally his wife Judy, often considered interchangeable.

Italian or perhaps Roman in origin, Punchinello directly evolved out of the masked characters of the Commedia Dell'arte and came to the English speaking world as a puppet.

Samuel Pepys, beloved bawdy diarist of Restoration England, made the first reference to Punch in England in 1662 as a character in an Italian puppet show.

Punch developed a wife and child to throw around the stage, became immensely popular and completely English by the 19th century. He also developed a sharp tongue and his popularity allowed him to use it against lightly disguised contemporary evils.

Perhaps the first American introduction to Punch was a command performance given in London for four visiting Iroquois Indian Chiefs. Whatever, Punch and Judy were familiar to every American who lived in the last quarter of the 19th century.

"Punch men played in parks and on street corners, at Sunday schools and club picnics, in dim museums and saloons, in circus shows and variety theaters" and now in Aspen.

They are assisted in the show by Chuck and Destiny Gould. Destiny is above in the garden, sporting the American Eagle that occasionally happens to be a turkey.

The show is designed for adult intelligence but has proved popular with children. Because they are doing outdoor shows, Punch and Judy are simple and direct, lacking some of the subtlety they might have in a more controlled surroundings indoors.

The Lindyns would like to come back next summer and perhaps this winter, but they and most other creative people in this town are limited by funds. They live on the coins picked up from a passing hat after each show.

And the shows are worth seeing; they are funny in the simplest banana peel manner and as frightening as Spiro Agnew. Using archetypal figures, the cop, the judge, and the eagle, Free City calls to mind possibilities that face a little man (Punch) in a big man's America.

But "Tell them first of all, we are Americans" and traditionally Punch and Judy has been a small man's tool, picking and prodding where needed.

Regardless, it's entertaining, every Saturday and Sunday, in Wagner Park at 1 and 7PM and it's free, but incongruously, food isn't in Aspen so they need the nickels and dimes to "Keep Punch Free."
 

 

 

 

[The following is an article from the Rolling Stone supplement. Note the misspelling of the name Lyndon.]

Free City Puppets

San Francisco Flyer
Dec 23 1971

There's Rank Pig the Landlord, Art the Mark, Butch Cat the Tyrant, Speedy the Speed Freek, and Fax Exax, with his modern-day-convenience clockwork face. They are some of the zany puppet combo fashioned by the Free City Puppets, now in their third year hand-to-mouth survival.

Head puppeteer Bill Lyndon (sic) joined the San Francisco Mime Troupe in 1965, after leaving New York, ten years of bit acting parts and a dozen waiting tables. While with the Mime Troupe, he started doing Punch and Judy shows and, with his wife Anne and some initiative from the Diggers movement, eventually started Free City. Now with four others, John Condrin, Peter Willock, Greg Konash, and Ann Ryan, they work for what tinkles into the passing hat.

Lyndon said that his puppet-agit theater is often more subconsciously that pre-meditatively political. "We're political animals and a puppet might look like a particular thing to people. They will say, 'Wow! Che Guevara,' when that association hadn't occurred to me. People read things into shows, and I often wonder if they're not that far off, when I examine it. It's not always aimed as political theater, but it comes out that way."

As a rule they avoid long polemics in scripts. Specific political references are made if they are funny and material to a scene. Most shows are for adults, but the rule holds especially fast where children are part of the audience. "You can't slip things in on children if they don't want them."

Oddly, some parents object that their shows are too violent. Strange, since Punch and Judy, who are regular troupe members, have been pounding one another hysterically for 400 years. Most scripts are variations on traditional themes, with new names and characters relevant to the present culture—Ned and Nelly Neanderthal propping up for middle America. This practice is also part of the tradition.

Since a San Francisco Foundation grant ran out two months ago, they have been struggling to keep their Page Street studio in the Haight. Free City Puppets has existed on nothing with appreciably no workshop space before and will do it again, said Lyndon with a barely noticeable sigh.

They have also been conducting free workshops for children, teenagers and adults in puppet making, puppeteering and theater improv, under sponsorship of the Neighborhood Arts Program of the San Francisco Art Commission. The future of these classes in uncertain, however. NAP Program Director Stephen Goldstine said that despite the Program's short funding this year, they will make every effort to continue Free City's classes.

Free City Puppets is available for performances. Lyndon said they will do them for free but can use the money if some bread is involved. The group will appear at the First Annual San Francisco International Book Fair at the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park (off Ninth Ave. & Lincoln), the afternoon of December 16th. Admission is free. Those wishing to contact Free City may phone 386-9738.

 

[The following was an article that Ann Lindyn wrote in 1971 for Kaliflower, the inter-communal paper]

Free City Puppets / 1915 Page

Kaliflower, Dec 2 1971

Maybe during the past 3 years you may have seen us perform in golden gate park at mothers meadow (where's that?) We are the punch and judy show with rank pig the landlord and the tac squad cop. We call our shows "knock the narc," "off the pig" (our melodrama). Anywhere we can set up is where we play. This year we have been fortunate enough to be able to set up a workshop. We have kids classes and adults classes. This operation has been going on for three months and we have learned a few things about workshops, namely that the kids workshops are a ball. Kids think up their puppets and make them fast. They have fertile little imaginations and do great shows without long rehearsals and prodding. The adults on the other hand are quite another story. A lot of the people who came are people who take classes here, there, everywhere. They very slowly put their puppets together taking as long as 3 months to complete. It was very tedious for us. We had hoped on opening the workshop to get people who would dig to help out with our puppets like making repairs on one level and bring fresh energy on another level. The workshop is free and so are the supplies and we feel that all things in order to breathe are based on a give and take principle. We have a small amount of knowledge on making puppets which we will be happy to share with alive breathing human beings who relate to our company with feeling akin to those of the children who come here. We are beginning our workshops again, having paused to give birth to Michael.

HOW TO MAKE A PUPPET!

1 old sock
2 handfulls fabric stuffing
1/2 toilet paper roll
Masking tape, Elmer's glue
1 rubber band
1 old glove
1 piece fabric (12" x 12" square)
(some felt, beads, trim, string, rope, yarn, and an old wig.)

Cut sock, stuff toe with top end and stuffing to form head. Shape and stitch in place nose, ears, and other features (optional, children may not be able to handle a needle and thread). Cut toilet paper roll and re-roll to fit finger. Tape in place. Insert roll in head and rubber band and glue in place. Not cut out features (eyes, nose, lips, mouth) in felt, leather or any non-raveling material — beads may be used for eyes, teeth, etc. apply these with Elmer's glue. For hair, mustaches: glue on rope or yarn or anything you think will work (brillo!). When the head is finished cut fabric square thus (big enough for neck, about 1/2"). Glue head in center and cut 2 finger tips off an old glove and glue to either side of slits, or so your finger can slip into the finger tips. Dress and decorate apropos to character.

 

 

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