"The Bread and Puppet Theatre bakes bread and makes puppets. Some of our shows are in the streets and some are inside. The inside shows are meant for the Insides, the outside shows are meant to be as big and loud as possible. Some of our shows are good and some are bad. But all of our shows are for Good and against Evil". -- Peter Schumann, 1967
The infamous sixties theatre troupe, The Bread and Puppet Theatre return to New York's Theatre for a New City with two shows : The Proletarians and Bread and Puppet Circus, Dec. 9 - 20.
Under the leadership of founder Peter Schumann, The Bread and Puppet Theater became synonymous with New York Theatre in the 60's by staging anti-war rallies and other outdoor street theatre, all featuring their papier mache puppets (most over 12 feet tall) . Steeped in the ancient folk traditions of medieval morality plays, Punch and Judy shows, Sicilian and Balinese puppetry and Japanese Bunraku puppets, Bread and Puppet mixes these styles with political agit-prop.
The Proletarians, the adult program on the bill, is a two-part look at the working class. Part 1 deals with members of the Union of Garbagemen and Washerwomen and presents a giant puppet spectacle starring Emma Goldberg and Alexander Berkman, partly based on Berkman's prison memoirs and the notebooks of Karl Marx. Part Two is Schumann's take on Brecht's Threepenny Opera.
Also being performed -- this one for the whole family -- is the Bread and Puppet Circus where giant apes, fierce tigers, elegant horses, storytellers and stilt walkers all move to a brass band. Though Bread and Puppet don't present productions in New York as regularly as they used to, they continue to be a staple of the Village's annual Halloween Parade .
Schumann announced earlier this year that Bread and Puppet would eliminate their infamous outdoor pageants, which take place in their home state of Vermont. The announcement comes after a company member died, apparently after he was struck by a rowdy audience member during a performance.
Bread and Puppet Theatre will present The Proletarians and The Bread and Puppet Circus, Dec. 9 - 20, at New York's Theatre for the New City. For tickets ($10) or more information, call (212) 254-1109.
-- By Sean McGrath