Puppet Bike is a small street performer group in Chicago. The bike, which is complete with a fully mobile stage, is a common sight on the streets of the Andersonville neighborhood and in downtown in the Loop.
The puppet bike concept was created by artist and inventor Jason Trusty. The bike itself consists of a large custom-built (by Trusty and his brother Eric) tricycle complete with a small box on the back which serves as a stage for puppet shows. The box is brightly decorated with images of the puppets themselves and other designs. Solar panels on the roof help power the boombox (which provides music for the shows), as well as fans inside the box that help cool the performer.
Originally, the concept was developed for a bipolar friend of Trusty who was unemployed. The bike allowed this friend to make some extra money at his own pace, and to simply stop and go home when he was tired of it.
The original bike was generally parked outside of the Chicago Cultural Center and was subject to a significant amount of vandalism when not in use. It was sometimes painted over with graffiti, tipped over, and broken.
According to Trusty: "We get just as much a kick out of people who don't like the bike, or think that it's scary."
Trusty himself and 8 other performers ride the bike around Chicago, stopping at strategic corners to climb inside the box. Each performance lasts 2 to 4 hours and consists of several different puppets with an animal theme. The puppets generally dance to various kinds of music and interact with each other in other ways. The puppets also interact with the audiences, waving to people, giving high fives, and sometimes popping out from a small door at waist height to gesture towards the tip box.
The popularity of the bike has increased to the point that Trusty has had to turn away people interested in performing. The summer 2007 lineup included the bipolar friend, an artist from Ontario, Canada, bicyclists, teachers and theatre buffs. The performers keep the majority of their earnings, while Trusty keeps a small portion for bike maintenance.
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