BY DAVID TILSEN
Ray St. Louis died in hospice on March 12, 2023. He had not been living in Minneapolis for decades, and had only visited when the Minnesota Renaissance Festival was in town. In spite of that, his work and creativity has made an impact on our South Minneapolis culture.
In the late 1960s, Ray St. Louis was part of the Twin Cities Draft and Information Center, TCDIC. This organization and organizations like it played a role in ending the brutal, obscene war in Vietnam. They began by educating themselves in draft-related laws, and counseling young men about their legal (and sometimes illegal) options.
As the women’s movement emerged at the time, Ray learned about toxic masculinity and the “Superman myth” and helped form a men’s living collective called Kryptonite. He, together with men and women around TCDIC and the women’s movement, founded the Alive and Trucking Theater company. This important theater company wrote and performed plays about sexism, education, history, urban renewal, and workers’ rights as well as street theater (think live YouTube) on what was going on in the world. A part of the anti-war movement, of course, they were seen at many demonstrations and parades. Ray learned puppet-making and stilt walking, and helped write some remarkable theatrical pieces, like “Rosie the Riveter,” the “Red Scare,” “Nude Superman” and others.
Ray believed in community celebrations and organized, along with Sandy Spieler and Alive and Trucking members, the first MayDay March and Festival in Powderhorn Park in 1973.
He later left Alive and Trucking to create the Powderhorn Puppet theater with Sandy Spieler, later renamed the In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater. He honed his puppet-making and stilt walking skills as they kept the MayDay annual festival alive.
Ray later left the theater to join the traveling Renaissance festival circuit. He continued to do this until he was too sick and went into hospice care in early 2023.
He was a dear friend, spoke with insight and honesty, and played an important part in my life.
Love you, Ray.