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Squonk To Perform At Free Outdoor Festival In Columbia


Tour to include more than 35 performances in eight cities across the nation.

Today Squonk, a performing arts troupe known for whimsical music spectacles presented in public spaces, announced it's taking its acclaimed show, Hand to Hand, out on the road in 2021 for a national tour, which will include more than 35 performances in eight cities across the nation.

Inspiring connection in outdoor civic spaces has been at the heart of Squonk's work since our first performance in a junkyard nearly 30 years ago and we hope our music spectacles will serve as a safe, welcoming and meaningful source of connection for each of the communities where we perform."

Jackie Dempsey, Squonk Co-Artistic Director, who leads the troupe with Steve O'Hearn

For its 2021 national tour of Hand to Hand, Squonk will travel across the United States with a dozen artists and musicians, a big truck and its mobile stage and sound system to the following cities:

  • Alternating Currents Festival, Davenport, IA, Aug. 20-21
  • Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, Aug. 25-26
  • Des Moines Performing Arts, Des Moines, IA, Sept. 3-5
  • Big Umbrella Outdoors, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York, NY, Sept. 18-19
  • Erie's Blues & Jazz Festival, Erie, PA, Sept. 25-26
  • Hamilton College, Clinton, NY, Oct. 2-3
  • Berrie Center for the Performing & Visual Arts, Ramapo College, Mahwah, NJ, Oct. 5-6
  • Columbia Festival of the Arts, Columbia, MD, Oct. 15-16

Highlights from Squonk's Hand to HandIn developing Hand to Hand, Squonk Co-Artistic Directors Dempsey and O'Hearn wanted to create a spectacle that was broad, accessible and optimistic in these times. They felt it was important to address the issues our society is facing in terms of power and scale and how people grapple with their own individual ability to make an impact in a world populated with 7.9 billion humans. They asked, "what best represents a person's ability to make things happen?"

The answer came easy: our hands. And they set about building hands so large that they represent the incomprehensible scale of the globe.Once Squonk had worked through the concept and design of the show, their focus turned to composing music. The score evokes a certain atmosphere and mood - ranging from mysterious to comic to majestic and triumphant - that moves through different emotions and captures the comedy of hierarchal structures.

For the final product, Hand to Hand audiences will experience an outdoor music spectacle propelled by two giant puppet hands, each the size of a house and rigged like a sailing ship 25-feet in height, set on a gimbal framework that allows them to rotate in place and lean forward. They will meet the Squonkers, dwarfed by the hands, and watch them climb a multi-tiered stage. And they will hear music rising from a single finger flicking an organ key - as natural an expression of humanity as a wave or a fist.

Squonk's original progressive rock drives this journey that is spectacular, plaintive and comic. In this melee, the giant thumbs detach to become truly opposable and challenge each other with guitars. Audience members are invited to participate by grabbing the rigging, each individual powering a larger movement of giant fingers, a web of connections, a single dance.

In Hand to Hand, Squonk encourages shared discovery and imagination and has created a show designed for everyone to have fun. All performances are free and open to the public and will include post-performance backstage tours or STEAM workshops. Squonk's performances at Lincoln Center are an adapted version of Hand to Hand called Big Hands for a Big Umbrella and will be performed for neurodiverse youth and teens as part of a special weekend of interactive installations and outdoor performances.

Created in 2019, Hand to Hand was co-commissioned by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, D.C.), Artscape (Baltimore, Md.), Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (Pittsburgh, Pa.), Moraine Valley Fine & Performing Arts Center (Chicago, Ill.), FirstWorks (Providence, R.I.) and Discovery Green (Houston, Texas).

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