Over the past month, Capezzuti has been loaning out her collection of giant parade puppets to people all over the city as a way to help them entertain their neighbors during social distancing. The puppets – which she assures are thoroughly disinfected before delivery – come with instructions and a link to the Giant Puppet Dance Club YouTube channel, where the amateur puppeteers can learn how to dance with their new distraction. Those dances are then performed in view of passersby on porches, in front yards, or on sidewalks or driveways.
Anyone can request a puppet and participate in the project, and no prior puppeteering skills are required.
A press release says that, so far, Capezzuti has completed no-contact deliveries of 32 puppets to participants in over 15 neighborhoods and boroughs in and around Pittsburgh. This includes Morningside, where resident Cheryl Dennis joined the Giant Puppet Dance Club.
“Everyone in my house was surprised by the arrival of the puppets,” she says. “My 73-year-old mom just celebrated her birthday, so it added some joy! She helped my kids get dressed up and they had a blast walking around the neighborhood, dancing, and waving at everyone they saw.”
In addition to the already delivered puppets, 12 more are scheduled to go out this week. Capezzuti is also working with the Braddock Library to release more than 50 puppets as part of the library’s collection.
“I’ve made three deliveries over the last three weeks,” says Capezzuti. “I have four more deliveries to do this week and then, once I get into the Braddock Library, I will schedule more.”
The project also invites people to participate in ways other than working the puppets. Besides watching the Giant Puppet Dance Club videos on YouTube or Facebook, people can go “puppet-spotting” from their porch and post pictures to Instagram with the tag #giantpuppetdanceclub. Capezzuti also plans to post instructional videos on how to make your own giant puppet.
Capezzuti says she started the project as a way to ensure that her puppets are still able to do what they were designed to do, even when she and her fellow puppeteers aren't able to perform with them at parades, festivals, and markets.
“I’ve been quietly working in my studio full of giant puppets with absolutely no chance of them going out to our usual big events for the foreseeable future,” says Capezzuti. “At this point, pretty much every public event that I was excited about for the next few months has been canceled or is going online.”
As a community-focused artist working in Pittsburgh for the last 20-plus years, the project also helps her continue her mission of “finding moments of delight in a world that sometimes makes it hard to find, and inviting the public into an interactive and creative process.”
“By sharing my puppets with anyone that wants them and spreading them out all over the city, I feel like I am able to continue the work that is important to me, just in a different way,” says Capezzuti.
To sign up for a puppet, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 412-414-0006.