[act-ma] 1/26-2/1, 2009: Bread and Puppet Theater's "Sourdough Philosophy Spectacle & Circus" at the Cyclorama

Mary Curtin marycurtin at comcast.net
Tue Dec 16 17:13:45 PST 2008



 the exceptional design of the puppets, and 
their stunning manipulation are undoubtedly an 
accomplishment, as well as the commendable objectives 
of this production and the Bread and Puppet Theater generally.”
[nytheatre.com, Dec. 5, 2008]

Boston Center for the Arts
January 26 through February 1

in partnership with the
Boston Center for the Arts
Cyclorama Residency Series 

(Boston, MA) The Boston Center for the Arts co-presents the Bread and Puppet
Theater’s Sourdough Philosophy Spectacle & Circus as part of the BCA’s
Cyclorama Residency Series. Events run from January 26 through February 1.
Performances, Art Exhibit, and Cheap Art Sale all held in the Boston Center
for the Arts Cyclorama, 539 Tremont St., South End, Boston. Wheelchair
accessible. Tickets for the performances available for purchase [cash or
check only] in the Cyclorama one hour before each show. For advance tickets,
log onto  <http://www.theatermania.com/> www.theatermania.com or call
866-811-4111 (toll free). For detailed information regarding the week’s
events, call the Boston Center for the Arts at 617-426-5000 (press option
one) or log onto www.bcaonline.org.

Back by popular demand, the award-winning Bread and Puppet Theater,
featuring Artistic Director Peter Schumann and his troupe of 8 Vermont
puppeteers, returns for a third year to the Cyclorama bringing their
signature powerful imagery, masked characters, and giant papier-mâché
puppets. Their residency includes two different puppet shows (the
“spectacle”, primarily for ages 12 & older, and the "family-friendly”
circus) and a week-long political art exhibit. 

Detailed listings information:

Evening Shows [recommended for ages 12 & older]:
Bread and Puppet Theater: Sourdough Philosophy Spectacle 
Jan. 29-Feb. 1, Thurs.-Sun., 7 pm
$12 general admission [students, seniors, & groups of 10 or more $10]
Description: "The Sourdough Philosophy Spectacle" is about the need for
human fermentation. It takes a lesson from how apple cider is made. Our
republic teases us with the possibility of democracy, but citizens are
raised like military apple orchards, pruned down to their predictable
minimums, yielding controlled fruits that lack the ecstasy of nature.
However, human fermentation occurs in parts of the human body that are not
governed by the government, like the guts and the gutsy parts of the brain.
Fermented citizens are corrupted by the ecstasy of nature and from that
corruption, derive strength to corrupt military-orchard citizens. The show
is run by a bunch of cooks, specialists in cooking the various stews and
pancakes of our everyday first world existence. Performed by Peter Schumann
and the Bread & Puppet Company, along with a large number of local volunteer
puppeteers and musicians. Informal talk back with the artists follows each

Family-Friendly Matinees:
Bread and Puppet Theater: Sourdough Philosophy Circus
Jan. 31-Feb. 1, Sat.-Sun., 3 pm [Take note that the Sunday matinee
performance will be ASL interpreted by Jody Steiner.]
$10 / $5 students and seniors / children 2 and under free
Description: The family friendly "The Sourdough Philosophy Circus" is about
the need for human fermentation, taking a lesson from how apple cider is
made. The concept is applied to dancing zebras and turkeys and free range
cows. The show is run by a bunch of cooks, specialists in cooking the
various stews and pancakes of our everyday first world existence. Additional
commentary is provided by the Rotten Idea Theater Company. Music is by the
Sourdough Philosophy Brass Band, joined by local musicians. Performed by
Peter Schumann and the Bread & Puppet Company, along with a large number of
local volunteer puppeteers. Take note that some of the circus acts are
politically puzzling to adults, but accompanying kids can usually explain

Visual Art Exhibit:
Bread and Puppet Theater: Auction Notice : visual art installation created
by Peter Schumann
Mon.-Sun., Jan. 26-Feb. 1
Free and open to all.
Description:  Bread and Puppet Theater Artistic Director Peter Schumann’s
most recent visual art exploration, consisting of  very large paintings
depicting the real story of a Haitian-American woman who received notice
about her house being foreclosed and then being told about the death of her
eldest son who was serving in the U.S. military.
Exhibit details:
Mon., Jan. 26, 6-8 pm: opening reception, with an art talk given by Schumann
and live music performed by Debo ( <http://www.myspace.com/deboband>
Tues.-Fri., Jan. 27-30: regular Cyclorama hours: 9am-5pm [Thursday & Friday
hours extended up to and after the evening performance];
Sat.-Sun., Jan. 31-Feb. 1: one hour before and after each matinee and
evening performance.

Although all Bread and Puppet events have a seriousness of purpose — a few
laughs are always thrown in!

The Bread and Puppet touring company, for this residency at the Cyclorama,
includes Schumann, along with Danny McNamara, Maura Gahan, Greg Corbino,
Diana Sette, Maryann Colella, Federica Collina, Cavan Meese, and Susie

For the performances, Bread and Puppet will be joined by over 35 local
puppeteers and musicians, including the Somerville/Cambridge-based Second
Line Social Aid & Pleasure Society Brass Band ( <http://www.slsaps.org/>
www.slsaps.org) and members of the Boston-based Activist Music for the
People, the Jamaica Plain-based Debo band (
<http://www.myspace.com/deboband> www.myspace.com/deboband), and the
Roxbury-based Goosepimp Orchestra ( <http://www.goosepimp.net/>

In addition to the “Auction Notice” art installation, the Cyclorama will
also be decorated with the unique Bread and Puppet collection of powerful
black-line posters, banners, masks, curtains, programs and set-props. After
each performance there will be an opportunity to savor Schumann's famous
sourdough rye bread, smeared with garlic aioli, and to purchase the
theater's legendary "cheap art."

The Bread and Puppet Theater is an internationally recognized company that
champions a visually rich, street-theater brand of performance art that is
filled with music, dance and slapstick. Their shows are political and
spectacular, with huge puppets made of papier-maché and cardboard, a brass
band for accompaniment, and anti-elitist singing and dance. Most are
morality plays — about how people act toward each other — whose prototype is
"Everyman." There are puppets of all kinds and sizes, masks, sculptural
costumes, paintings, buildings and landscapes that seemingly breathe with
Schumann's distinctive visual style of dance, expressionism, dark humor and
low-culture simplicity.


The Bread and Puppet Theater is one of the oldest, nonprofit, self-
supporting theatrical companies in this country. It was founded in 1963 by
Peter Schumann on New York City's Lower East Side. Besides rod-puppet and
hand-puppet shows for children, the concerns of the first productions were
rents, rats, police and other problems of that neighborhood. More complex
theater pieces, in which sculpture, music, dance and language were equal
partners, followed. The puppets grew bigger and bigger. Annual presentations
for Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and Memorial Day often included children
and adults from the community as participants. Many performances were done
in the street.

During the Vietnam War, Bread and Puppet staged block-long processions and
pageants involving hundreds of people. In 1970 Bread & Puppet moved to
Vermont as theater-in- residence at Goddard College, combining puppetry with
gardening and bread baking in a serious way, learning to live in the
countryside and letting itself be influenced by the experience.  In 1974 the
Theater moved to a farm in Glover in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. The
140-year-old hay barn was transformed into a museum for veteran puppets.
"Our Domestic Resurrection Circus," a two-day outdoor festival of puppetry
shows, was presented annually through 1998.

Through invitations by Grace Paley, Bread and Puppet Theater became a
frequent attraction at anti-Vietnam War events in the '60s and '70s. By the
'80s, the puppets had become emblematic of activist pacifism and a sine qua
non of American political theater, as exemplified by the massive, ascending
figures that are burned into the memory of anyone who marched with or saw
the haunting, massive June 12, 1982 Disarmament Parade in New York City.

The company makes its income from touring new and old productions both on
the American continent and abroad and from sales of Bread & Puppet Press's
posters and publications. Internationally, Bread and Puppet Theater performs
massive spectacles with hundreds of participants, sometimes devoted to
social, political and environmental issues and sometimes simply to the
trials of everyday life. The traveling puppet shows range from tightly
composed theater pieces presented by members of the company, to extensive
outdoor pageants which require the participation of many volunteers.  After
each performance, the company distributes bread and aioli (garlic sauce) to
the audience.

Peter Schumann was born in 1934 in Silesia. He is married to Elka Leigh
Scott and they live in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. They have five children
and four grandchildren.

You cannot understand Bread and Puppet's work without acknowledging that it
is grounded in dance, but not in formal or classical dance. Schumann's
artistic pedigree is a mixture of dance and visual art. There's dance at the
bottom of all of Schumann's work, but since puppet theater is traditionally
a "melting pot" of all the different arts, this is frequently obscure.

Schumann studied and practiced sculpture and dance in Germany and in 1959,
with a childhood friend, musician Dieter Starosky, Schumann, created the
Gruppe für Neuen Tanz (New Dance Group), which invented dances which sought
to break out of the strict limits of both classical ballet and the
expressionist dance tradition.

He moved to the USA with his wife, Elka, and their two children in 1961. His
formative years in the Lower East Side during the early '60s were heavily
influenced by the radical innovations spearheaded John Cage and Merce
Cunningham. Schumann rejected the elitism of the '60s arts scene and
embraced the anti-establishment, egalitarian work of American artist Richard
(Dicky) Tyler. He embraced Outsider Art: everyday movement, improvisation,
direct momentary composition, and the jazz impulse toward overall
creativity. He became a regular at Judson Poet's Theater and Phyllis
Yampolsky's Hall of Issues, where puppet shows included making music and
marching around. Street Theater productions followed, at rent strikes and
voter registration rallies in the East Village, with crankies on garbage
cans and speeches by a Puerto Rican neighborhood organizer, Bert Aponte.

He admired the abstraction of Merce Cunningham, and attended lectures at the
Cunningham studio, but ultimately rebelled against it. In an interview with
John Bell in 1994, he said, "Cunningham demanded of his dancers was a
classical ballet background. He refused to work with anybody who didn't have
that. I totally disagreed. I had traveled around in Europe teaching dance;
to Sweden, to a dance academy and various places, pretending I was a great
ass in dance, and gave them classes. And they took me — I was fresh and I
just did it. I said, 'I'll show you what dance really is; what you do is
just schlock,' and I tried to liberate them from aesthetics connected to
modern dance and classical ballet and to these various modes of existing
dance at the time.'"

The most recent creative history of Bread and Puppet Theater was written by
Holland Cotter in the New York Times last summer. Cotter described Peter
Schumann's epics as "spectacle for the heart and soul."  He commended
Schumann for the courage "to live an ideal of art as collective enterprise,
a free or low-cost alternative voice outside the profit system." He
testified that one summer, on a mountainside in Glover, VT, Bread and Puppet
gave him the single most beautiful sight he's ever seen in a theater. And
when Bread and Puppet led the nuclear freeze parade in New York City during
United Nations sessions on disarmament, it was "one of the most spectacular
pieces of public theater the city has ever seen." He added, "For me the real
affirmation of the disarmament pageant lay less in the fact that Mr.
Schumann came to New York and created this hugely ambitious collective work
of art than in the fact that immediately afterward he returned to Vermont,
to a farm, to a barn, to the outdoor baking oven, to his workshops and to
his own work, which has come to include an increasing amount of painting,
most of which stays out of the art world’s sight."

For more information on the Bread and Puppet Theater, log onto
<http://www.breadandpuppet.org/> www.breadandpuppet.org.


The Boston Center for the Arts is a not-for-profit performing and visual
arts complex that supports working artists to create, perform and exhibit
new works, builds new audiences, and connects art to community. Visit
<http://www.bcaonline.org/> www.bcaonline.org for more information.


--submitted by marycurtinproductions [for the Bread and Puppet Theater]
c/o Mary Curtin
PO Box 290703, Charlestown, MA 02129
617-241-9664, 617-470-5867 (cell), marycurtin at comcast.net
"dedicated to staging insightful entertainment, particularly in
non-traditional venues"



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