Myth-making for creativity and community

The masked artistry of Peggy Schadler came full circle last Saturday as Rappahannock’s 1,000 Faces returned to Coon Holler for cultural commentary on the state of things, this year’s “Half Hour News Hour from the Planet Earth” sharing the media’s focus on a wild and crazy 2016 election circus.

therapp1000faces-6PHOTOS BY ROB HILLARD

Rappahannock’s 1000 Faces Mask Theatre performed last Saturday at Coon Holler in Castleton.


It was a last-minute set change managed with lightning speed. By Friday, the continuing Rappahannock monsoon — almost six inches in three days — had turned the parking fields at John Henry’s farm in Flint Hill to mud flats, and the performance in 1000 Face’s fall venue of the past four years was cancelled. By Saturday, it was on again at the Castleton home of Howard and Jules Coon . . . the first setting for the first appearance of Peggy’s dancing masks, a quarter century ago, as The Friends of Gaia. In guerilla theater fashion, the big trailer full of props was hauled in, signs were posted, and stage, backdrop and bandstand appeared within hours.

And the show went on. As always, Schadler’s message was clear: Accept personal responsibility, respect nature, honor equality, protect the planet from harm and guard democracy and the political system against undue influence by special interests. In 2016’s larger-than-life story, Hillary and Bill Clinton appeared briefly at the start as a pair of jerky, high kicking trapeze artists, and the Donkey and the Elephant raced in circles, going nowhere on the issues but covering a lot of ground. Claiming a bigger share of the spotlight, Trump morphed into a giant bug. All the while, music from an eclectic collection of the county’s favorite musicians enlivened the story unfolding in the meadow.

After the performers took their final bow, the music began again, this time with People Don’t Dance No More sparking a happy set of tribal-rite dancing. It was intergenerational to the max — baby boomers, gen-exers and millennials plus their children and grandchildren, from babes in arms to ’tweens.

As always, Peggy’s fairy tale was fantastical, symbolic and seriously silly. Her muse is Joseph Campbell, the world’s foremost authority on mythology, who considered myths to be “the song of the universe, the music of the spheres.” And that’s what 1000 Faces offered. A masked ball with universal themes. A cautionary story told with humor, flair and originality, adapting visages, mythological and current, from Easter Island to the cover of Newsweek. Another uniquely Rappahannock celebration.

This year’s show did not include the traditional basket for free-will contributions to 1000 Faces Mask Theater. Those who want to support this community tradition can send donations to Peggy Schadler, 35 Manahoac Lane, Sperryville, VA 22740. To subscribe to the mask theater’s newsletter, donate art and costume materials or volunteer to construct sets and dance the masks, visit

— Daphne Hutchinson


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