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Mary Plaster


Larger-than-Life Prince, Papier-mâché, fabric, paint, and bamboo rig, 2016. Remade 2018. Costume by Felicia Perry.

The history of the Purple Rain Prince larger-than-life ancestor puppet begins with the 2016 MayDay Parade in Powderhorn Park. I was known for a series of ancestor puppets that I began in 2004 (MLK, Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, John Lennon, Walt Whitman, Frida Kahlo, Cesar Chavez, Fred Rogers, Albert Einstein, David Bowie), and was asked to create a version of Prince for the parade. Purple Rain Prince walked in section 4, “Reparations on Our Soul: Have Heart, De-Mask, Wild Seed,”and was included in the MayDay Ceremony. 

A new ancestor entity requires large, detailed clay sculptures for the head and hands, on which I smooth seven layers of pasted paper (papier- mâché). Once dry, I remove the lightweight shell, paint and add faux fur hair. The heavy original sculptures crumble when they dry out, so I quickly made a second copy and set it aside, thinking Purple Rain Prince may eventually need to appear in more than one place or with a different costume. This was quite fortuitous....




After the parade, we propped him up against a tree near Powderhorn Lake for a few hours while everyone took a break before cleaning up. There was a never-ending line of folks taking selfies with him all during that time; my own photo of him was accepted into the MN History Museum collection.

During the summer of 2016, the puppet was in several parades and festivals across the Twin Cities, the Homegrown Music Festival in Duluth, and the Austin, MN ArtWorks Festival in August. Purple Rain Prince was always met with so much enthusiasm. Sadly, his head disappeared at the Duluth All Souls Night, which is an event that honors ancestors and of which I am artistic director.  :(


Everyone I knew in MN shared the word to look out for him, and in May 2017 I learned that a man in Superior, WI was trying to sell it on facebook, but my efforts to recover him were unsuccessful. 

In early 2018, seven of my ancestor puppets were invited to Washington National Cathedral in Washington D.C. for a Cosmic Mass celebration of Martin Luther King with my mentor, Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox. Fox is a Prince fan and was so disappointed to hear Purple Rain Prince was not available that I decided to finish a second puppet as the older, wiser Third Eye Prince in time for him to make the journey. He was enjoyed by motorists along the way who could see him through the car window, and he was enthusiastically received at the event.


Artist Mary Plaster with her daughter and mother at the Purple Preview event

Mary Plaster is a Duluth-based artist with a BA in theatre design, an MA in studio art, and a D.Min. in Creation Spirituality (an intersection of art, science, and history of world religion). She has made street puppetry as an art activist for fifteen years, and worked with Minneapolis' In the Heart of the Beast for 10 years as MayDay art staff.


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