Igor Fokin Memorial Sculpture, One Brattle Square

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Since the 1970s, summer evenings in Harvard Square have featured a vibrant street theater scene. In 1985, a major subway construction project that extended the Red Line subway to Alewife was completed, resulting in major changes above ground, including wider sidewalks and small plazas, that created even more opportunities for busking (Lotman, Harvard Square, An Illustrated History Since 1950, 2009). Performers ranged from jugglers, mimes, tightrope walkers, and fire eaters, to musicians and singers. This dynamic street performance culture continues today.

igorshowcourtesy of http://www.igorfokin.com

In the early 1990s, one performer stood out as a unique and remarkably gifted entertainer. From 1993 to 1996, Igor Fokin enchanted people with his life-like marionettes that mesmerized young and old alike as they danced, played, and interacted with the audience. Igor hand-carved his wooden puppets who ranged from dancing skeletons, a witch sweeping up the sidewalk, to a puppet named Doo-Doo with a fluted nose, and Satchmo playing his trumpet to the song Mack the Knife. Each puppet, measuring less than 12 inches, was elaborately detailed and truly came to life under Igor’s nimble handling, when climbing up someone’s leg, petting someone’s nose, or sitting on a child’s lap.

castcolorcourtesy of http://www.igorfokin.com

Born in Russia and a graduate of St. Petersburg Theatrical Institute, Igor moved to Cambridge in the summer of 1993 with his collection of puppets, and by the end of the summer he was one of the most popular performers. Igor put on several shows a day, including passers-by in the late afternoon and culminating in the evening with a large audience who purposely came out to see his show. He was always refining his craft and developing new characters for his street performances which he referred to as the “most democratic art form” (Schmidt, The Puppeteer, 2003).

igorandcastcourtesy of http://www.igorfokin.com

Igor performed in Harvard Square until his untimely death in 1996 at the age of 36. Today, at the corner of One Brattle Square, where Igor enjoyed performing the most, a bronze replica of Doo-Doo by sculptor Konstantin Simun is perched on a bollard, a permanent reminder of Igor’s joyful imagination and the delight he brought to everyone lucky enough to experience his magical world.

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Sources
Lotman, Mo. Harvard Square, An Illustrated History Since 1950. Abrahms, 2009.

Schmidt, Chris, and Gary Henoch, The Puppeteer, 2003, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJ2gizaqVw8

http://www.igorfokin.com

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