On Stage

Bread & Puppets

Paper mache and politics

Attend

What: Bread & Puppet Theater

Where: Laurel Park, Bellingham

Cost: Suggested donation is $10-$25; nobody will be turned away for lack of funds

Info: http://www.altlib.org

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Can eating bread be considered a political act?

If it’s done following a performance by the renowned Bread & Puppet Theater, the answer is a resounding “hell yes.”

Thanks to a collaboration by the Alternative Library and the Whatcom Peace & Justice Center, those attending the one-time showing of The Grasshopper Rebellion Circus Fri., Oct. 19 at Bellingham’s Laurel Park won’t just be craving a serving of the traveling troubadours’ fresh-baked sourdough rye bread with aioli—they’ll also be hungry for justice.

By using state-of-the-art paper mache weaponry and adding the contributions of the riotous Bread and Puppet Brass Band, the tale explains and teaches riot and rebellion against intolerable situations.

“Tigers roar, apes drum their chests, horses neigh, and celestial grasshoppers teach ICE agents the basic steps of grasshopper rebellion dancing,” director Peter Schumann explains. “A paradise investigation team analyzes the earthlings’ relationship to paradise, while major representatives of Mother Earth attend a festive Puerto Rican dance of liberation from natural and political disaster.”

This isn’t Schumann’s first circus. Since founding the Bread & Puppet Theater with his wife Elka in 1963 on New York City’s Lower East Side, the sculptor, dancer and baker has been using paper mache, cardboard, music, dance and slapstick to bring unique politically inspired shows to life.

Although the circus now has its home base in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, the ensemble that showed its opposition to the Vietnam War by performing in the streets and staging block-long processions and pageants involving hundreds of people has kept its ethos of rebellion intact. This can be seen via the staging of shows such as The Grasshopper Rebellion Circus (see above), The Basic Bye-Bye Show (based on the fact that our culture is saying farewell to Mother Earth by choosing capitalism over planetary peace), and Insurrection Mass with Funeral March for a Rotten Idea (one of the many shows and parades that took place at the theater’s headquarters over the summer).

At 84, Schumann shows little sign of slowing down, and is still the primary creative force that merges paper mache and politics—not to mention delicious baked bread and, following all shows, the selling of publications and posters furthering the self-sustaining theater’s message. 

“We are the Bread & Puppet Theater because we offer good old sourdough rye bread together with a great variety of puppet shows, some good, some not so good, but all for the good and against the bad,” Schumann says. “The art of puppetry helps women, men and children alike to overcome the established order and the obsessive submission to its politics and consequent brutalities.”

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