The Impresaria of Marionette Merriment and our October Richmonder of the Month, Lily Lamberta. (Photo by Justin Vaughan)
Richmond can be as funny as a hearse. The town swings between taking some matters too seriously and others not seriously enough. Thus, to our great relief, for the past decade at 7 p.m. on Allhallows Eve, a big brass band and huge whimsical puppets have entered Monroe Park for a parade of strange and wonderful creatures that wends its way through Oregon Hill.
Lily Lamberta is the top-hatted Imperatrix Marvelosa of the Oregon Hill Halloween Parade, produced by her All the Saints Theater Co. The parade sets into motion a fantastical assemblage of New Orleans Second Line, Day of the Dead and commedia dell’arte performances.
Last year's Oregon Hill Halloween Parade, organized buy October ROTM Lilly Lamberta. (Photo courtesy All the Saints Theater Co./Facebook/Dave Parrish Photography)
The parade was born in a fit of anxiety. Lamberta, a Richmond native, was preparing to depart the famed Vermont-based Bread and Puppet Theater Co. after 10 years of full-time touring to come home and do . . . what, she wondered.
“ ‘You will go home and you will do what you do here, there,’ ” she recalls Bread and Puppet founder and director Peter Schumann saying. “It was an ah-ha moment . . . and I love, love, love Halloween, so I came up with the idea that I would start with a Halloween parade.”
About 60 people came to the first parade. Nine hundred showed up last year, she says.
Each parade is given a theme. This year, it’s “A Funeral March of Individual and Collective Depression” and involves puppetry describing “A Return To Old World Traditions, Reverence for Big Mama Earth and Having Fun.” Look for 12-foot-high Russian nesting matryoshka dolls, 20-foot-high buffaloes and a walking forest of huge burlap trees.
Lamberta never anticipated that the parade, which relies on donations to produce, would be going strong 10 years in. “The Oregon Hill community has kept me going,” she says. “They have taken it on as a tradition and if it weren’t for that, I would have stopped doing it years ago.”
Because all are welcome at the Halloween parade. Because it speaks to the most ancient of rituals that remain a part of us. Because she has given us a gift in the sheer joy of highlighting the good, the bad and the streamer-twirlers, we name Lamberta our Richmonder of the Month.
Gallery5 is hosting an "All the Saints Theater Company 10 Year Retrospective" art show this week, featuring the work of Lamberta and others. The show concludes with a Pre-Halloween Extravaganza event Friday at 7 p.m.