Peter Schumann on 50 years of the Bread and Puppet Theater

 

In the winter of 1961-62 I met Richard Tyler, uraninan ambassador and super of the tenement in which we lived. Consequently Dick and his team of uranian philansterers became the dancers and musicians of the Dance of Death, performed on the occasion of the anti-nuclear “general strike for peace” at the Living Theater, Judson Church, and at the Putney School in Vermont. These masked chair and rope dances resulted in the Putney School’s denial of my application to teach dance, and prompted me to offer puppetry as an extra-curricular activity instead. This then yielded a Putney puppet company, the Moosach Puppet Theater (a traveling one and two man trailer theater) and in 1963, the Bread and Puppet Theater, a bread baker’s theater. Bread and Puppet is based on bread baking and the not-for-sale distribution of bread at moments created by art, and these moments are created in opposition to capitalist culture and habit. Therefore the puppet show is not only a puppet show, but an eating-bread-together event. We ask our hosts not only for performing space, but also for 400 bricks, fire wood, and fire permits to build and use itinerant bread ovens as part of our productions. From the beginning of the Bread and Puppet enterprises we decided to make two types of shows: inside shows meant for the viewers inside, and outside shows for the unrelenting political street. Both types of shows address the urgencies of the day as they come upon us.

During these five decades of puppetry, thousands of dancing and music-making puppet operators have assisted in the invasion of streets and plazas all over the globe, or they’ve come to Vermont to be part of Our Domestic Resurrection Circus and other summer shows. By the grace of the Whatever ¾ Almighty, we have survived and even sometimes thrived, doing hundreds of sculpture happenings and esoteric musicals with activist ingredients, and we hope to continue for a few minutes longer.

–Peter Schumann

July 10, 2012
Glover, VT
peter with megaphone

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