Ricky Syers is an off-beat 50 year old street performer who found his calling as a puppeteer after a lifetime of manual labor. While performing in New York City’s Washington Square Park, he met Doris Diether, an 86 year old community activist. They became friends and he made a marionette that looks just like her. Now she’s joined his act and the two of them can often be seen performing together. (official synopsis via Laughing Squid via YouTube)
One of the most wonderful parts about being alive, apart from the obvious like cheesecake and staying in your pajamas all day, are the friendships you form throughout your life, sometimes with the most unexpected of people.
These friendships enrich and challenge you, delight and frustrate you but mostly they make your world, and hopefully that of your friend, a much better, more rewarding place.
That very much seems to be the case with 85 year old community activist Doris Deither and 50 year old street musician and puppeteer Rick Syers who met when Deither, who often goes to a nearby park to meet and greet anyone she finds interesting, noticed Syers performing.
With a lifelong interest in marionettes, she and Syers quickly bonded with the delightfully offbeat puppeteer, who truly seems to love his life and the freedom he now has to pursue his love of music and puppetry, even making a mini-Doris puppet, all of which was documented in this article on Laughing Squid:
“It was while his marionettes were performing in the park on July 30 that Diether, who temporarily lost her voice a year ago due to an injury, first approached him. ‘One day she comes up to me and whispers, ‘I have something for you,” he recalled. Opening a scrap book she revealed old newspaper clippings and articles she had written on marionettes back in 1974. Articles more recently added to her collection were ones she had seen on Syers’ work, which she cut out and saved for him. The gesture floored him. ‘This marionette thing has bonded us,’ he said of their common interest, which inspired him to create the marionette resembling her ‘in honor of her.’ …The charming little puppet featuring Diether’s short, white hair and rosy cheeks comes complete with a handbag, cane, and floral blouse and skirt.”
Now this remarkable friendship, one forged in the middle of New York City amidst its potentially isolating hustle and bustle and high rise living, has been documented beautifully by filmmaker David Friedman in a short film that captures the lovely bond between Ricky and Doris.
Each of them is given their chance to talk about their lives, what matters to them, and the way in which they have a sense of belonging and greater self with the other, and it’s impossible not to be moved and grateful by their friendship and the perfectly understated way in which Friedman has chosen to document these two delightfully unassuming people.
Life is an often hard and difficult thing to endure but films like Ricky and Doris remind us that it can also be a thing of transcendent connection and friendships so instant and sustaining that we wonder how we ever got by without them.