KRAMPUSLAUF PHILADELPHIA VOICES: ARUN ONCE WAS ZYGOAT (TALKING TO HIMSELF)

•July 17, 2015 • Comments Off on KRAMPUSLAUF PHILADELPHIA VOICES: ARUN ONCE WAS ZYGOAT (TALKING TO HIMSELF)

it was the holiday season of 2010 when i first saw the word, or image, that represented krampus. it was either on a vintage postcard at a friend’s apartment, or on a homebrew beer label designed by james mundie. those two things might have even happened on the same day.

but i started searching around for this krampus thing and saw that this “arun” guy in oregon was trying to have an… event. i lurked; his event started out at an A-space and seemed like perhaps a dress-up dance party that would then turn into a flogging session, but then they had trouble procuring the space, or something, and i watched this arun fellow drumming up support and i was just not sure it was going as well as he wanted it to. again, i hadn’t even friended him or tried to communicate, so it was hard to tell.

but i had started to knit for him. i was knitting claudia and béla a krampus doll, as i had fallen in love with the idea of this krampus character; i decided to knit one for arun, too, and mail it to him.

 

 

that krampus doll went on portland’s inaugural lauf in 2010, and arun has been my absolute go-to guy for all bitching, worrying, and great ideas since then. he held my hand through philly’s first lauf and the subsequent ones. in the spring of 2014, he came to the east coast, and held a maskmaking workshop with krampuslauf philly family at germantown’s iMPeRFeCT Gallery. and in 2014, he was there, with us, at krampuslauf philadelphia, standing on a table and singing portland’s signature krampus carol, after our invocation. it was truly the happy ever after of the internet.

 

it's 2014 and we are laufing together!

it’s 2014 and we are laufing together!

 

after a year and a half on the east coast, arun has gone back to portland, where he will continue leading krampus lauf PDX. this “interview” — done without the need of much prompting — was recorded shortly after he returned home. it is amazing how he went from years of being just an online person, to someone whose shoes, papers, and other belongings sometimes just surface in our house. he is now back to being so far away. he is like an uncle to my children, and he is definitely the person who made krampuslauf philadelphia possible. not only that, he is THE person who has kept the spirit of creative interchange and goodwill between “sister laufs” like no one else we have interacted with. and as he muses here, he reflects many of the issues and possible solutions we are discussing for krampuslauf philadelphia, when it comes to “mindful community scaling” and seeing new events grow out of a core event.

listen to the “conversation” as it is embedded below, or on soundcloud.

 

 

(transcript below) (note how good the sound quality is — that’s the difference between using voice memo and having to use the phone software!)

Hello, this is Arun Joseph Ragan in Portland Oregon, and I am currently wandering through Lone Fir cemetery, and pondering some of the similarities and differences between the Portland and Philadelphia Krampuslauf. I mention my location just because one of my reasons for being here, apart from it being my cloistered contemplation walk, is that the trees here drop some very fun plant material that I love to use in masks; they are these furry little tendrily things that are very delicate but they’re really great for the furrier facial features of some of the masks — whiskers and antennae and such — very expressive — and they tend not to last more than one march — however that’s fine. I really treat these things as prayer flags, with them being transient, they are seasonal after all, so the idea of them being destroyed along with the rest of nature every year is fitting. And also, there are little spines and burrs that fall from the trees that make up other features, fangs and claws and such. And a lot of the ideas for masks can just come from what comes across my path as I’m wondering around and thinking and gathering things.
Of course the main thing here that I gather is the birch switches that I use to make the floggers for Krampus. There’s a tree here that I visit every year, and during autumn and winter the birch switches fall and those I gather, and make into a lot of different things, but especially the floggers of course as is traditional.

 

the Portland Oregon Krampus Lauf, 2011. Photograph by ... Cordova

the Portland Oregon Krampus Lauf, 2011. Photograph by Jacob Cordova

 

So I’ve been walking… and trying to think of the theme of the connection between the two events. I think the first and main thing that comes to mind, from my point of view, I guess as a visitor to Philadelphia, was that the experience was completely transformed by the fact that I was able to participate in the culture. There was an opportunity, because of Amber’s friendship with the lovely folks at Imperfect Gallery, that I was able to share a maskmaking workshop there, and also hang some of my creations there, and that’s kind of the key for really feeling at home somewhere, or really feeling that I’m living as opposed to merely surviving somewhere, is that I’m able to participate creatively, and that’s really the key in this holiday of Krampusnacht, to transform my experience of the winter season, the Christmas season, was that it was something I was alienated from beforehand, and was either ignoring it, or was just being another one of the people who doesn’t feel so much connection or actually has a negative connection to the holiday, and so could be negative about it or just trying to like, get through it, but suddenly when I actually found something that aroused my interest and creativity and inspiration, and I was able to then MAKE something happen, it completely changed it, and just made it my favorite time of year. Similarly, coming to Philadelphia and being able to experience the culture there from the point of view of friends and family that have come together through the Krampuslauf made an enormous difference. And that I saw when I actually attended the Krampusnacht event itself, I did find that, the extent to which people were engaged in making their own costumes and creating the event rather than just attending the event and wanting others to make it for them — I definitely found that kinship between the two (the Portland and Philadelphia events — ed), that it definitely was an event that was participant-generated — although there’s definitely people that work all year to coordinate aspects of it, there’s also the sense that people were themselves creating their experience. And that’s always a good thing, I always feel vitalized by an event that everyone’s participating in.
It’s (Krampuslauf Philadelphia) a little bit bigger and more developed (than Portland’s Lauf) in the sense of actually having Liberty Lands; it’s a wonderful resource to have a space that is openly welcoming and hosting the event. It does allow for more things to happen; the wonderful fire performances and such that were going on that were made possible by that. We generally (in Portland) just kind of have do-it-yourself, do-it-as-spontaneous-seeming-as-possible, I guess you could say, even though we’re working on masks and things throughout the year, particularly closer to the event; just meeting some people in the park and marching from there down the sidewalks and back seems to have been a formula that works so far and we haven’t grown to the point that it’s been problematic so we’ve just been keeping it like that but who knows this year? Lots of new ideas are already happening and so it’s entirely possible that it’s going to start taking on new forms, although most likely it’s just going to hive off into other little modular events, with different line-ups of people and different focuses for each of the different events, rather than becoming one big event that requires more hosting and such. I imagine it’s just going to kind of splinter into the groups that are more focused on the more seasonal ritual and folk aspect of it, and others might be more attracted to the big party and bar crawl aspect, which we haven’t really done too much of, but some people really want to, and then if we were to go into something that’s performative or whatever, generally I imagine that the people who want to do that do that, rather than it all happening in the context of a big unified event. But it is nice when there is a little bit of everything.
I think the people who get attracted to these events and then network and find other ways to explore it and experience it in other times of year are important. It was nice actually when I visited Philadelphia the first time during the mask-making workshop to actually meet the people who I would then actually be able to march with half a year later when I came back for the Lauf and it’s always wonderful to see who gets called by these ideas and how it permeates their lives in other ways too. So that was a treat.

 

getting to know Arun better at his maskmaking workshop in Philly, April of 2014.

getting to know Arun better at his maskmaking workshop in Philly, April of 2014.

 

When I think about the sudden, ever-mounting increase in exposure that the idea of having a Krampuslauf or some type of a Krampus celebration, the momentum that’s been catching on behind that idea in the States — there was a time when I kind of cringed a little bit because things tend to kind of get big and ugly quickly, and signal turns to noise quite easily, and that’s kind of been delightfully dispelled, any misgivings I might have had about that, because of the fact that each area is going to support its own microculture, it’s going to support its own version of things, and the feeling that we are going for in Portland kind of grows out of the local folk ecology and so it’s gonna get as big and have the flavor that the area will support – similar with what I noticed in Philadelphia — it definitely had its own flavor, and really felt like the people that were showing up for it are doing it in their own way, it’s not just becoming this big anonymous thing that catches on and explodes and then disappears. So a lot of my worries about that, of what that was eventually going to look like, whether that was going to take away this thing that we loved or not, that’s kind of been dispelled, fortunately. It’s simply going to take the form that it’s going to take, and people will participate in their own way.
I decided instead of making like policies or rules or signs or things like that, that don’t tend to work anyway and kind of are counter to the spirit of the event, the more of those that show up, the more it kind of stifles the feeling, but at the same time I kind of want the idea of an unlicensed parade of people in costumes marching down the sidewalk to involve as few incidents and injuries of the unplanned sort as possible. So to kind of tilt things in the direction of people kind of knowing — enough people knowing what’s going on that it kind of just makes it so it appears to be organically self-directing and self-governing and self-aware once it becomes a crowd, trying to get people kind of trained through experience in being part of these other processions such as the Autumn Equinox procession and getting a little core group of motivated people who have more experience then so that even if we do get a sudden flood of newcomers to the Krampuslauf event that there will be enough people that know to be the Rear Guard and how to communicate back and forth in the Procession so it doesn’t get all separated or people don’t end up getting strewn all over the place or there isn’t any problem in crossing sidewalks and streets and such as that, and people kind of know how to interact with the public without causing too many problems.

I’m just going to pursue it organically, see what events want to happen, see when inspiration really strikes in such a way that it gathers people. ‘Cause if it doesn’t want to happen it’s not gonna happen. I’ve definitely found this before. You can have a great idea and then if no one shows up to it, maybe it’s an idea that needs to happen at a different time and in a different way.

KRAMPUSLAUF PHILADELPHIA VOICES: SAM MOON RAFFERTY (talking with ben levin)

•June 14, 2015 • Comments Off on KRAMPUSLAUF PHILADELPHIA VOICES: SAM MOON RAFFERTY (talking with ben levin)

imagine my horror upon arriving home from our first krampuslauf philadelphia in 2011 to find that a family we’d never met had driven to philly FROM STATEN ISLAND, and had gotten there too late for lauf and MISSED it.

oh god oh god oh god. i immediately packed up a bunch of stuff we had made at our maker workshop, and every little krampus gewgaw i could find, in apology.

it worked! they came back again! and again! they drove in a blizzard to get to us and almost died! and they came back AGAIN!

and we have done SO many things with sam moon rafferty and her family in between all the krampuslaufs we have had. we have seen charles dickens’ taxidermied crow! we have seen the brood two cicada invasion of staten island! sam and her daughter have driven FROM STATEN ISLAND to come to the kids’ circus camp shows!

they are our family now. it was just that easy!

here is sam, talking to ben. make no mistake, she tries to end this interview by saying “i can’t take any more questions, i have to go nurse a possum.”

listen to the conversation as it is embedded below, or on soundcloud.

(transcript below)

 

sam and her sons anthony and dainan, krampuslauf philadelphia 2013. photo by neil kohl.

sam and her sons anthony and dainan, krampuslauf philadelphia 2013. photo by neil kohl.

 

BL: So I’m Ben Levin, and I’m talking with Sam Rafferty, and welcome!

SR: Hi. Thank you.

BL: So let me start off with a simple question: How long have you been attending Krampuslauf Philadelphia?

SR: Well, technically I’ve been to all of them, but the first time we got stuck in traffic and got there so late that we missed it, so we were at Liberty Lands but no one was there. So I’ve been there, with actual people there, since the second one.

BL: And what do you view as your personal role at Krampuslauf Philadelphia?

SR: I have somehow adopted the role of leading Claudia (Ben and Amber’s daughter) around… though I think she leads me.

BL: Do you dress up, do you take pictures?

SR: Krampuslauf has amazing, amazing artists so it actually can be a little bit intimidating ‘cause I’m more of a costume assembler than a costume maker. But I do come in some kind of costume. It’s not a lot, but, some horns – I have a skeleton that I’ve turned into a Krampus skeleton that I wear on my back… I bring my kids, they wear horns, my son plays the drum in the procession.

BL: What were your worst expectations, going into it?

SR: I have a long history of doing zombie crawls, and I’ve watched zombie crawls very slowly turn from a family-friendly, monster-loving event, to bar crawls – with the equivalent of frat boys and monster makeup. And that was my fear going to Krampuslauf, that it was going to really, you know, kinda be like a drinking party, and… juvenile. But it was so much more incredible than I even anticipated. It’s magic, it really is.

 

"can i please walk with you? my mom just yells at me at krampuslauf," my daughter asked sam some years ago. (my daughter misremembers; it was the sinterklaas rhinebeck festival where i yelled at her.) sam is claudia's official consort at krampuslauf philly!

“can i please walk with you? my mom just yells at me at krampuslauf,” my daughter asked sam some years ago. (my daughter misremembers; it was the sinterklaas rhinebeck festival where i yelled at her.) sam is claudia’s official consort at krampuslauf philly!

 

BL: What were your highest, best expectations for the event?

SR: Before I went, I was just hoping it would be friendly and you know, people would be into the story of Krampus and know as much about Krampus as I did, but as it turns out, I didn’t know nearly enough about Krampus! In my circle, I was kinda the only Krampus-celebrator, so I seemed to have all the knowledge, but then I met you guys. And I realized I knew very little.

BL: What was one of the things you remember learning first that was a surprise to you?

SR: I think all of the other characters that show up at the Lauf, representing different folklore.

BL: What for you was the most memorable moment of attending Krampuslauf Philadelphia?

SR: The year before last, my son who lives in Florida actually flew in to be able to attend with us. And we got there, and it started to snow. And anything I’d ever seen before Krampuslauf in America, anything I’d ever seen of Krampuslauf was in Austria, where it’s usually snowy and cold. And we got out of the car, and it was snowing, and the costumes were lit up, and there was a fire going, and it was – it was just unbelievably breathtaking. It felt like you were in Austria. It was beautiful. That was my definite favorite moment.

BL: For you, Krampuslauf Philadelphia will always…

SR: … be something I look forward to, and love to attend.

BL: Krampuslauf Philadelphia will never…

SR: … be a bar crawl.

BL: Is there anything else about the event that you think is really important for people to know, that is something that you don’t think other people would necessarily notice at first?

SR: I think it’s important for people to realize that it is a family-friendly event. You know, people see horns and immediately assume it’s too scary for the children. But there’s a lot of kids. And like I said the costumes can be intimidating to people that aren’t artists – that aren’t able to pull that amazing stuff together – but people are so friendly, and so willing to share things, and share ideas… it really is, a little family. Or a bigger and bigger family, as every year passes, actually.

BL: Is there anything else you want to add?

SR: No, I can’t take any more questions, I have to nurse a possum…. Oh, that’s something I should have added. Is that we really have a Krampuslauf family with you guys.

BL: That’s what it’s all about.

SR: Yeah. That first year, I knew it was gonna be good, that year that we missed it. You and Amber sent us a package of stuff, and we hadn’t even met each other in person yet, and I said, “These are good people.”

 

sam took one of THE best krampuslauf photos of all time -- and it was used for our gallery retrospective postcard in january 2014!

sam took one of THE best krampuslauf photos of all time — and it was used for our gallery retrospective postcard in january 2014!

 

KRAMPUSLAUF PHILADELPHIA VOICES: STEVE SCHULTZ (talking with ben levin)

•June 13, 2015 • Comments Off on KRAMPUSLAUF PHILADELPHIA VOICES: STEVE SCHULTZ (talking with ben levin)

steve is a seasoned krampuslauf dad, and someone we’ve counted on for great photographs of krampuslauf philadelphia since year one. he shoots a lot of costume events and we were so lucky to have him come and shoot the historic asperger’s are us comedy show at drexel university earlier this spring! check out his work under the Artis De Fiance profile on facebook.

listen to the conversation as it is embedded below, or on soundcloud.

(transcript below)

BL: I’m Ben Levin, I’ve been involved with Krampuslauf since the beginning, here in Philadelphia anyway, and I’m talking with Steve Schultz. Welcome.

SS: Thank you for having me.

BL: Great. Let me start off with one question that should be pretty easy: how long have you been attending Krampuslauf Philadelphia?

SS: I’ve missed one year, and I think I’ve been three years running.

BL: What do you see as your role there, at Krampuslauf?

SS: I’m a photographer, and I like to document the individuals and the creative spirit of the event.

BL: What were your best expectations of the event before you started to go?

SS: I’m an event photographer, and I concentrate on costume-themed events. So my best expectations were to be able to have a good time, bring my wife and daughter, and see some amazing costumes and be able to document them, and deal with the challenges of limited light.

BL: And how did that all pan out?

SS: It turned out very well. The costumes were indicative of the spirit and creativity of the people who attended, and I was able to get some images that I’m very proud of. And, even though every time it’s been dark, I’ve been able to bring lighting or use my own lighting.

BL: What about your worst expectations. Were there any that fall into that camp?

SS: I was concerned about having a costume-themed event, especially something that might be polarizing, with demons and that kind of thing, in a larger environment, because you never know whose going to be insulted or upset by something that doesn’t tie into their personal philosophy, that kind of thing.
BL: How did you think that might affect you, if something like that happened?

SS: Well, I’ve been to events that involve mythical-themed costumes, such as Faerie Fest, that are protested by church groups.

BL: And what does that do to your role at those events?

SS: It just creates conflict; it makes people a little bit more testy, it makes people less willing to showcase their creativity, and to let the costume dictate the personality at the event.

 

photographer steve schultz.

photographer steve schultz.

 

BL: What for you is the most memorable moment of attending Krampuslauf Philadelphia?

SS: Well the Lauf is wonderful, and it’s a great event but really the best time for me is spending time with my wife and daughter there. I do get some great images and meet some wonderful people, but when my wife and daughter are enjoying themselves and getting all involved, ringing their bells and wearing their masks and shaking their puppets, I really enjoy that.

BL: How old was your daughter at the first Krampuslauf she attended?

SS: I think she was two.

BL: What did she think?

SS: Well, she didn’t talk a lot, but she sure enjoyed it.

BL: What did you think? Did you have any concerns or thoughts going into that, about bringing your daughter at that age?

SS: Actually not. We took our daughter to a lot of events and we just made sure that she was warm enough, and the people were certainly friendly enough; I had no concerns about bringing Zoe at all.

 

krampuslauf philadelphia, 2011. photo by steve schultz.

krampuslauf philadelphia, 2011. photo by steve schultz.

 

krampuslauf philadelphia, 2014. photo by steve schultz.

krampuslauf philadelphia, 2014. photo by steve schultz.

 

BL: You’ve talked about your experience as a photographer and at these costume-themed events; is there anyone about this one that is different, that you just sort of prepare yourself for?

SS: Well yes. It’s cold. But other than that, I know that when people put on a costume, they’re actually taking off layers of conformity. And what I look for when I go to a costume-themed event, and this one in particular, is the opportunity to see people when they’ve dropped their guard, and they’ve revealed themselves more by concealing themselves in costume. And that’s for me what happens, and that’s why I bring my camera; I like seeing people being open and free to not put on airs and not to conform to a day-to-day culture or to a corporate culture.

BL: That’s really interesting. You’re sort of back and forth and all over the event throughout it, do you have a chance to see, people I guess, before and after? And sort of compare the two?

SS: Yeah, I do. You see people walking in, and people who aren’t experienced with the event, sometimes come in and they’re looking around and they’re not sure what they’re gonna see; by the time they leave, they’re all smiling and happy. I think probably the warmest place, both interpersonally and physically, is of course by the fire. When people sit around by the fire or stand around by the fire, and they talk and they share a cup of hot cider, they seem to be the most – you know, taking the time to get to know each other. But then there’s also the walking around, and the marching, and people are walking side by side as individuals – I think that it’s the same way down by the stage, people are shoulder to shoulder and are looking out at something, when they interact at the fire, that’s when they’re the warmest.

BL: Well fantastic! Thank you so much for taking the time, and we hope to see you there this winter.

SS: Thanks for having me.

KRAMPUSLAUF PHILADELPHIA VOICES: NICOLE VERGALLA (talking with tucker collins)

•June 12, 2015 • Comments Off on KRAMPUSLAUF PHILADELPHIA VOICES: NICOLE VERGALLA (talking with tucker collins)

nicole is a fire and belly dancer and member of the lux arati troupe. she and the rest of the lux arati ladies always go above and beyond with professionalism — we KNEW we could rely on lux arati to show up and perform IN THE MIDDLE OF A BLIZZARD (we have since even seen them perform in a thunderstorm in a graveyard).

nicole has also always been on hand to lend a dress dummy for a gallery exhibition, text me from manhattan to find out what sizes the kids are wearing so she can buy them moomin t-shirts, or even bake moomin cookies! her mother, chris carter, is also a fascinating artist.

listen to the conversation embedded below, or on soundcloud.

 

(transcript below)

nicole vergalla at the "krampuslauf philadelphia: parade of spirits" exhibition opening at imperfect gallery, january 2014. photo by steve schultz.

nicole vergalla at the “krampuslauf philadelphia: parade of spirits” exhibition opening at imperfect gallery, january 2014. photo by steve schultz.

 

TC: My name is Tucker Collins and I’ve been coming to Krampuslauf since 2013, and today I’m interviewing Nicole Vergalla, who is one of the Lux Arati fire dancers, and here she is.

NV: Hi!

TC: Now, how long have you been coming to Krampuslauf Philadelphia?

NV: I’ve been going to Krampuslauf since 2012, I think, yeah, 2012. 2013 was the snowy year, right?

TC: Yes. Yes it was.

NV: Yeah, the year before that.

TC: OK, and what was it that first brought you to Krampuslauf?

NV: One of the performers with our troupe — she goes by Jex in the troupe but her real name’s Jen — I think she was working with Amber’s kids at school, and started talking to her, and she brought it to the troupe as something we might be interested in performing at. We really didn’t have a lot of information, but it sounded like something fun.

TC: Obviously, coming without very much information isn’t the kind of thing that would be a reason that people would stay, and keep coming back, so what was it that made you continue to want to come and do this and be part of it?

NV: The event was really really fun; it was great to be able to perform for a real neighborhood feel; we do a lot of stuff at large venues, or big parties or bars or something, but this, it felt like our performance really fit with the theme of the event and the types of people who were there and everyone was super, super nice, and welcoming, and it was just really really fun. And seeing all the costumes and the time that everyone put into them was great, because oftentimes we show up and we put a lot of work into our costumes and it was great to be around other people who seem to do the same and it was truly inspiring, and we just started thinking of, how could we be bigger and better next year, to help contribute to the whole feel of the event.

TC: While you’ve come wearing costumes that are fire safe, you have been dressing up as you come to Krampuslauf too, though, is that right?

NV: The first year we didn’t really know what to expect, so we just kind of did, as sorta “Creepy Christmas” as we could without really having a basis, but over the years our costumes have evolved to be more fur and horns and really get in the theme more than just “we’re dressed up for our performance”. More trying to make it work within the feel of the rest of the costuming, at Krampuslauf.

TC: Do you see your role at Krampuslauf as being strictly related to your performance, or is there more to it than that?

nicole vergalla performs at krampuslauf philadelphia 2014. photo copyright jill saull, 2014. all rights reserved.

nicole vergalla performs at krampuslauf philadelphia 2014. photo copyright jill saull, 2014. all rights reserved.

 

NV: One thing that’s great about it is we practice in the park, and a few of the girls who are in our troupe work in that area, so it’s a really good way for us to give back to the whole community too, like the people who have seen us rushing from one gig to another, or who catch glimpses of us around. So I guess as far as the troupe goes, we are trying to participate more than just a show, we are trying to get people to go to it and bring people along. Personally, I’ve gotten my mom involved, and her friend Deb. It’s tough because we can’t really participate in the parade, but I did get to see  a lot of great pictures from it, because my mom was doing the procession, this past year, she did tell me some really fun stuff about it.

TC: What were your expectations going into this event, the first time?

NV: I think my expectations the first time were more performance anxiety related, because it was early on in our troupe’s performing as a group so I usually end up focusing much more on trying to not get stage fright, so I wasn’t really focused on the whole group, or the whole event. But over time, my expectations — it’s just a magical event, and I can’t wait to see what people come up with, and how many people show up in costume, I think it’s really one of the view things I’ve seen that’s across the board, everyone’s participating. So it’s really great to see how it’s growing and growing… as far as negative expectations, that’s more just weather-related, like “How cold is it going to be?”

TC: In 2013 we had some pretty rough weather.

NV: I wish that I had been able to be there for 2013. I know that the girls who did go, they had a great time even though it was snowing, and I think that it was because the people are so amazing. I mean, the first year I was focused on stage fright, but now it’s one of the most comfortable events for me, because even though we’re performing it’s really low stress, if that makes sense, because it’s such a welcoming environment. And having the kids’ (flow toy mini-) showcase this past year was amazing, the energy from everyone was so great, because they were amped up and and excited to see all these people getting into it; and it was just really fun. So even with bad weather I think it’s such a great event run by such great people…

TC: I suppose that part of what would make it more comfortable could be that it’s not just you that’s performing; in a way, everyone is, through the ways in which we come to particpate.

NV: Yeah, I think so. We happen to be on stage because we’ve got fire, and the stage is great because it makes an enclosed environment so it’s not like we’re worried about kids walking up to you while you’re spinning fire, you know, you’re sort of protected by the stage, but because it is very much a performance event, it’s probably why everyone’s so welcoming and great.

TC: But it’s not a performance event where people are coming to BE entertained by other people.

NV: Exactly. It’s a collaborative performance.

TC: Do you have a most memorable moment from attending Krampuslauf Philadelphia?

NV: I think it was really fun for me to see my mom and her friend Deb there this past year because it was great to see her and Deb really enjoying themselves, and sometimes, if you bring someone to an event, you feel like you should, you know, be participating at it with them, but when I’m performing, I can’t really, you know, I just have to sort of, “Hey, I brought you here, sorry I have to ditch you and go set up the stage now,” and she had a great time regardless. And I think it was really great to see that she really took to the event also, and her friend Deb really took to the event, and I feel like the more people of like minds this event draws together, it just gets better and better.

 

artist chris carter, nicole's mother, sketched DURING the procession as well as before and after in 2014. this is a sketch of the kid's flow mini-showcase before lux arati's performance, 2012

artist chris carter, nicole’s mother, sketched DURING the procession as well as before and after in 2014. this is a sketch of the kid’s flow mini-showcase before lux arati’s performance.

 

TC: I suppose that yeah, bringing people to an event can make you feel obligated to make sure they have fun. Even with that, the two rules for Krampuslauf, the first one is that “You are responsible for your own fun and a bit of someone else’s.”

NV: Right.

TC: And other is not to scare any children.

NV: That’s what’s fascinating, is it’s so — it’s creepy and scary and some of the costumes are you know, they could be terrifying, but at the same time it’s so welcoming and I’ve never seen kids really crying — maybe I just missed that — but the fact that it is so family friendly and has these amazing things happening that are very adult but the kids are totally welcome as human beings, just little ones.

TC: Given the two following prompts, what would you say to those, how would you continue them: “Krampuslauf will always be like…” and “Krampuslauf will never be like…”

NV: Krampuslauf will always be magical and inspiring. It’ll never be warm; it’ll always be a night that could possibly be VERY cold, and weather-dependent, but it’s always gonna be fun; and I think it’ll always be an enjoyable event that we participate in because it’s just a great meeting of artistry and neighborhood and interesting culture stuff and cool things for kids to learn and be inspired by. So it’s just always gonna be a great event, I think.

TC: Great! Thank you.

 

 

KRAMPUSLAUF PHILADELPHIA: VOICES

•June 12, 2015 • Comments Off on KRAMPUSLAUF PHILADELPHIA: VOICES

today is june 12. it is exactly six months until krampuslauf philadelphia 2015, which will be our fifth lauf.

we get bigger every year. and there are more krampus events all over america every year now. maybe there is one closer to where you live, and you want to go there. maybe you want to take a big drive to philly to play with us. maybe you want to do both.

but it is our job, now that there are more krampus events than ever (in addition to a few big budget movies coming out this holiday season), to let you know more about what makes us unique. that might make us feel more right for you, or maybe not so much. in either case, we will feel more sure that the real vibe of our event is getting out there!

so we present, six months to the day before we head to liberty lands, the THREE first installments of a new series called KRAMPUSLAUF PHILADELPHIA VOICES. in these pieces, ANYONE who has ever attended krampuslauf may interview ANYONE ELSE who has ever attended krampuslauf and talk about what makes the event special for them. our plan is to shoot for one conversation a month, after this first big grand opening explosion of three very different — and very can’t-really-imagine-it-without-them — krampuslauf philadephia family members: fire dancer nicole vergalla, photographer steve schultz, and personification of a haunted bell tower and great love of my children, sam moon rafferty. (we will put nicole’s up today, steve’s up saturday, and sam’s up sunday.)

in true krampuslauf philadelphia fashion, we will NOT be focusing too hard on being slick, and in this case that means with the audio. all three of the initial interviews were conducted by phone using an app called TapeACall and edited as well as possible in, either garage band or audible (thanks to ben!) … again, we are making either position of this project available to anyone in our tribe. you can also be on both sides of it at one point or another! (quite a few of you might). please contact me at do.the.ripley@gmail if you wish to do an interview. who do you wish you’d gotten to know better at the last krampuslauf? we’ll set you up!

because of the sometimes “am radio call-in show” quality of the audio (although i think you will find the intro and outro bits EXTREMELY impressive), transcripts for each interview will be provided in the blog link. interviews will be embedded in their posts on this site and also available on krampuslauf philadelphia’s soundcloud, in case you are in the mood to make a playlist.

thank you to ben, tuck, steve, nicole, and sam for getting the ball rolling, thank you to cory hutchenson for the technical advice, and thank you to one of my new favorite people ever, adam teterus, for inviting me to brainstorm with him (he came up with this; it made my heart sing; i hope we do his idea justice.) and thank you to austria’s krampus metal band VIOLENZIA for the theme music!

krampuslauf philadelphia at IGNITE! philly

•June 2, 2015 • Leave a Comment

gosh. i forgot that maybe i should have written a blog post about this.

as of this writing there’s no video available yet, but suffice it to say i had a GREAT time and i LOVE a public speaking gig. LOVE it. here is the flickr set from IGNITE philly 15, where i got to speak about krampuslauf to a very enthusiastic audience, and i hope the video will be along soon too.

great thanks to adam j. teterus for inviting us, and for all the inspiration and wisdom he has provided since. this was way more than just a “publicity” opportunity. we don’t need those. this was special!

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KRAMPUSLAUF PHILADELPHIA 2014 and it’s season: post-musings (some thoughts about Yes and No)

•January 29, 2015 • Comments Off on KRAMPUSLAUF PHILADELPHIA 2014 and it’s season: post-musings (some thoughts about Yes and No)

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I LITERALLY COULD NOT BELIEVE MY EYES WHEN WE ARRIVED AT LIBERTY LANDS FOR KRAMPUSLAUF THIS YEAR.

(You may notice that my use of normal capitalizing continues throughout this post; it’s because I’m pretty sure I’ll be using it as the forward for 2014’s yearbook, and there’s no way I’m going back and making all the changes then.)

We were a little “late” in getting to Krampuslauf 2014, in that we were exactly on time, “time” being 4:30. There was a time when I’d get to Krampuslauf at 4:30 and a few people would just be arriving. That’s not how it was this year.

Our special secret parking spot: taken. As we found ourselves something temporary and illegal, I saw Janet fervently binding Chris Carson into Das Mädchen. Where was Chris’ usual spotter? I wondered.

And I wondered: who the hell are all those people?

I have seen what two hundred, two fifty-ish looks like at Liberty Lands for Krampuslauf. This was not that. The crowd was so big that it took me awhile to locate anyone I KNEW.

We had been “late” because we had not known that roads around the Liberty Lands area would be blocked off due to the Running of the Santas — an event that has nothing to do with Krampuslauf. People had been texting and calling me in the car, saying that they were having trouble getting to the park. But there were vastly more people who had had NO trouble getting to the park. Because they were in it. A lot of them.

More than I had ever seen.

The official photo album for KP:POS 2014 is here on Flickr and has of this writing not everything has been gathered and put in order. (It also begins with LAST year’s retrospective at Imperfect Gallery, so you’ll have to scroll quite a bit to find images relevant to this past season in particular — but there are tons.) Still, if it had to all come down to one image, it would be this one, by Steve Schultz:

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When it was time to get everybody faced in the direction by which we would leave the park for the procession — and for Rob to give the now traditional Invocation, and for Arun to sing the carol he wrote for Portland’s Krampuslauf (Yes! Arun! The founder of Portland, Oregon’s Krampuslauf, the whole reason we HAVE a Krampuslauf in Philadelphia, WAS IN PHILADELPHIA for Krampuslauf!) — I found myself standing on a picnic table, hollering directions.

This was my first real indication that the growth of the event was going to require some thinking about how to best manage it in coming years. While it seemed perfectly just and satisfactory to also see Rob and Arun standing on tables, they were not shouting orders at people. I immediately realized: this is not a job I like. We DO have to get everybody to turn this way; there has to be another way to do it.

In 2015: expect a better way to be alerted that it is time to turn your bodies and attention towards the Invocation and leaving the park.

Costume highlights of 2014 included the return of the work of Chris Carson, who not only manned his Das Mädchen again,  but also built her a daughter, to go over my daughter.

"Es Meedli" costume by chris carson illuminated entirely by smugness. photo by neil kohl.

“Es Meedli” costume by chris carson illuminated entirely by smugness. photo by neil kohl.

 

Honestly it is hard to say what was a “highlight”, because there were MANY amazing masks and so many of them were from people I did not know, recognize, or even get to speak to. (This is something I’m still struggling with as part of this year’s experience; I didn’t know that I had an outright need to speak to every single person at Lauf, but this year I couldn’t, and it is still driving me crazy.)

I had seen that other cities were doing group shots of their Laufs, and I had thought we might try that and had mentioned it to Steve. It was clear once we were in the park that this couldn’t happen without a crane. The Procession itself was so large that I was never sure if Chris and Das Mädchen had made it out onto the street, because I literally never glimpsed them. (Fourteen feet tall with her neck fully extended. Blindingly bright LEDS from top to bottom.)

Back at the park after the Procession, someone exclaimed with excitement over the bagpiper who’d been along with us. Bagpiper? I had not seen nor heard a bagpiper.

Let’s just say for now that it’s an unresolved personal issue that I did not get to see every single thing that happened at Lauf. Perhaps I just no longer can do so. I am certainly grateful for everyone who comes, every single person, from every state, including that a very faithful attendee who comes from Staten Island every year specifically with the goal of being my daughter’s handler while on Procession (ever since Claudia told her a few years ago that “Mommy yells at me during Krampuslauf” and that she didn’t want to walk with me.) (That was Sinterklaas Rhinebeck when I was yelling at you during a parade, Claudia, and it was only once.)

It was a fantastic Lauf with a great vibe and an incredible turnout. JUST AS IMPORTANT to me, it was preceeded by a year of meeting people who had previously only been internet people, by beginning our official workshopping in APRIL (it’s not too soon now either!), seeing concerts and shows with KP:POS pals (Puddles the Clown with Kyle, Boy George with Arun, Matt and Nicole, Hedwig on Broadway with Chris…  WHO WILL COME SEE OF MONTREAL WITH US THIS MARCH 8? That is what I’d like to know.)

And when Krampuslauf Philadelphia was over and done with for 2014, we had that little thing called Christmas, and a few days later got in the car — five in a Prius — and drove to Pittsburgh. Because they do something great there on New Year’s Eve, something called First Night, which is put together by a woman named Cheryl Capetzzuti. First Night is a puppet parade, and is open to volunteer puppeteers and makers. We didn’t make it into town in time for the puppet making workshops, but we were ready to help out with the parade, and when we got to the set-up point on New Year’s Eve, the shelter beneath the Convention Center was literally PILED with puppets, masks, and animal-head staffs. Like they were free zucchinis from a prolific neighborhood garden.

Going to other cities’ festal/processional events is important to me. First off, it’s fun. Second, I am not in charge of anything and so get an entirely different perspective of the event (one i will NEVER get to have on KP:POS as long as I remain in the role I have with it), Third, you get to learn tricks. I learned, at First Night, where dollar-store wastebaskets fit in for excellent costuming opportunities. And I’ve already been stocking up.

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That’s my family up there. I myself got to wear a giant flowerpot on my head and was really happy. There is just no feeling like a night parade!

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I am a big fan of Pittsburgh and I do know a thing or two about the Pittsburgh Famous. While I was disappointed that I did not get to meet Rick Sebak even though he was Parade Marshall, we were mid-procession when I looked into the crowd on the sidewalk and saw… PHAT MAN DEE.

I mouthed “Phat Man Dee?” and she said, “Yes!”

We screamed “I love you!” at each other a couple times and we kept going.

That was the first time I’d ever SEEN Phat Man Dee, but it’s NOT the first time she’s ever said “Yes” to me. I had heard a recording of Phat Man Dee’s holiday CD in 2012 and had heard her song “O Sinnerman”, and had asked for and secured permission from her to use it for that year’s clip video before Lauf even HAPPENED that year.

Pretty cool, right? More about clip videos in a bit. There is a lot of synchronicity in this post.

 ***

We came home from Pittsburgh after New Year’s, and it was time to hang the show at Imperfect Gallery — we had agreed, rather late in the season, to do another three-week post-Lauf exhibit. When we had done our full retrospective last year at the gallery, it was wonderful, but I had said then that I didn’t think I would need to do such a thing again until we had a multi-decade retrospective, with lots of fabulous old falling apart stuff, just whatever remained of years gone by.

So why then did I say we would do another exhibit this  year?

I guess because it’s hard to say no?

Technical difficulties with getting all the pieces for the show together — masks and puppets coming from many more people, from more and farther points on the map — and trying to make a show that contained not a single item from last year’s exhibit (which is what I wanted — that was the only thing that was going to make it worth coming out for, in my head) had already been plaguing us. Ben was unable to stop working to drive to Germantown multiple times to open the gallery for so many people who were coming from such distances with such limited time windows…

I thought, ok, we will just soldier through this, and then we can take the show down and we can be done.

Then I realized that the day we would be taking that show down would be my forty-fifth birthday.

And then I remembered the word “no”.

I spent the entire Saturday of January 3d letting people know about the word “no”. Some of them were literally about to get into their cars and drop masks or puppets off at my house. And yet, the overall reaction was kind of Whoville on Christmas morning. “Oh well, I’ll just get busier on my Yule Cat costume!” was more or less the reaction of the lovely lady who had just had custom frames made for all four of the prints she had been going to put in the show. Whatever! She had cougar jaws to play with. Yule Cat!

That is the thing — when you have a show of artifacts, the one thing that DOES have to be created for it is the print images. Thankfully I was able to halt a good deal of the printing that might have happened on our behalf alone, (although I hear that there is actually good news for someone who did get busy and make their prints…. more on that soon)… and honestly, the images produced at Krampuslauf stand on their own and have worth outside of a single specific gallery show.

Which, actually, seemed to be my retroactive reason for not wanting to go through with the gallery show this year. (A week after cancelling it I finally had a really slick sentence put together for why I had said no.) I did not and do not want to fall into the trap of Krampuslauf itself — that event out in the cold and the snow — merely being the precursor to the static REMINDER of that event. Of course we wait for the pictures to start showing up on Facebook and Flickr as soon as we are home and in our pajamas on the night of Lauf! But a gallery exhibit… well, KP:POS only sometimes belongs in a gallery. And should never ONLY be experienced in a gallery. And part of me knew that we were setting a precedent for making that a part of the whole thing, when to me, it was really off-track from our original vision. We don’t require the visibility, or the publicity. And we need, I think, to encourage people that the only way to experience KP:POS is to be there.

I was (and am) INCREDIBLY grateful for the support I was shown in making this decision. Virtually no bitching at all. Maybe people are more like me than I assume they are, and many were just sighing at the idea of having to have their bras on a little longer on an upcoming Friday night to go to the opening, even when they’d seen and worn all those things at Lauf already.

Plus, we were already busy coming up with new things we wanted to make for 2015.

Here’s something we also said “no” to this year, simply for the fact that to do it would be to spend a lot of time making something very similar to things we had made already. We did not and are not making a clip video for KP:POS 2014. I don’t think we did it the first year, and the videos from 2012 and 2013 are distinctly different from one another, mostly because 2013’s has SO much maker footage. We just didn’t have that this year. And now I think that is what makes the video interesting from year to year (again, this is just another thing I realized retroactively; I knew I didn’t want to do it before I knew why I didn’t want to do it); the bits where people are MAKING their costumes, lanterns, puppets, etc. Footage of the procession and park is always great, and would always be included, but I would like to see what happened this year if people video-document their making processes, in groups or alone, and we could use it as part of the clip video for 2015.

(And, since Austrian Krampus-Metal band Violenzia had already ok’d the use of any song from their CD, we already have another great, and completely different from the other two, soundtrack ready.)

So while there is no official video this year, here are two audio clips; Mykl Wells and myself talking with Ed Feldman on G-Town Radio’s Morning Feed (Mykl talks a lot about his own art and the All Souls’ Procession in Tuscon; it’s an excellent listen)

 

And here is a podcast from New World Witchery where some folks from KP:POS’ Heathen contingent, and I, talked about Lauf and what it means to us:

 

And also some print media, in both link form from Julie Zeglen at the Star, and in image form from Dave Kline at the Reading Eagle:

ARTICLEFROMREADING

Here are some things we are saying YES to, after looking carefully at this year’s surprising event growth: YES, we are keeping Krampuslauf in Liberty Lands. Krampuslauf belongs in Liberty Lands. YES, we will find a way to map traffic around the Running of the Santas because it’s very likely that the two events are scheduled on the same dates again and often will be.

YES, you are invited to my house to work on masks, puppets and lanterns throughout the year — we celebrated our Exhibitless New Year by purchasing a new art work station/island for our front room and are happy to have anyone come over at any time and work on their Krampuslauf Philadelphia 2015 necessities!

And YES, we will have workshops, hopefully more than just one — it is my goal to make sure we have one specifically kid-centered workshop (because we haven’t done that since 2012) in addition to the big catch-all workshop, which this year will be happening, thanks to a kind invitation, at the historic Laurel Hill Cemetery. (They have a great indoor space. It’s above ground.)

YES, it looks like we are having another amazing guest artist travel from afar this coming year (we cannot say enough about or give enough thanks to Mykl Wells for all he brought to us in Philadelphia in 2014.)

He bore up under the cold pretty well.

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Special thanks to Standard Tap for hosting a toast to our parade as as many of us as possible stumbled through the pub, visually impaired by masks. (They even came outside to hand warm drinks out! They are awesome. Thank you Dolly and everyone.)

And thanks to the Penn Treaty Special Services District for their grant, a second year in a row, of $2000 to Krampuslauf Philadelphia. This money helps build art and helps artists not have to live on the “sadness diet” as Chris Carson once referred to it.

And with that, I conclude the 2014 review, (still short one link and still with only half as many photos as it will eventually have in the Flickr album, but we can’t wait for everything), and we move ahead to December of 2015 and the journey that gets us to it!

 
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