Boston College Theatre Department Celebrates Bread and Puppet Theater's 50th Anniversary Today
The Boston College Theatre Department announces a day-long symposium and performance in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the renowned Bread and Puppet Theater, the foremost populist, political theater in the U.S.
The event -- "Fifty Years Bread and Puppet: Cheap Art and Political Theater" -- will take place on campus today, September 14, 2013. Morning and afternoon scholarly presentations will examine the aesthetics and politics of Bread and Puppet, panel discussions will focus on the company's legacy and influence, and archival film footage will be screened of performances.
Bread and Puppet founder Peter Schumann will give the keynote address in the form of one of his famous "Fiddle Lectures": a semi-improvised mix of performance and polemic. The celebration will culminate in an evening performance by Bread and Puppet of The Fifty Years Cabaret, followed by a public interview with Schumann. (More details/registration info below.)
"Fifty Years Bread and Puppet: Cheap Art and Political Theater" is organized by BC Theatre Department Chair and Associate Professor Scott T. Cummings and Dr. John Bell, eminent puppet theater scholar and director of the University of Connecticut's Ballard Museum of Puppetry. The symposium is a continuation and capstone of Bell's residency as BC's 2012-2013 J. Donald Monan, S.J. Professor of Theatre Arts, during which he taught two courses in puppet and object theater, curated a contemporary puppet and object theater performance, and directed an original shadow puppet play as part of "New Voices 2013," an evening of original productions by BC student artists.
"Peter Schumann's Bread and Puppet Theater has been one of the most unusual American theater companies of the 20th century and now the 21st century," Bell said. "It was the first contemporary theater in the United States to define puppetry as an art form particularly capable of addressing the most pressing issues of the day in deeply moving performances that could reach audiences of all ages. The occasion of the company's fiftieth anniversary is a good time to consider the nature of its extensive and extraordinarily influential work in national and global contexts."
The Bread and Puppet Theater
Founded by Schumann in 1963 on New York City's Lower East Side as a political theater focused on the problems of the neighborhood, it developed a unique aesthetic and mode of production that uses puppets, masks, sculpture, music, dance and language to address troubling political and economic conditions and to resist the monolithic power of imperialism and capitalism.
In 1974, Bread and Puppet moved to a farm in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, its headquarters for four decades. A two-day festival, "Our Domestic Resurrection Circus," was presented annually until 1998. One of the oldest, nonprofit, self-supporting theater companies in the country, it continues to tour in the US and abroad; a performance of the Total This & That Circus will be held on Sunday, September 1 at 3 p.m. on the Cambridge Common in Cambridge, Mass. [More on the theater, and its anniversary events: www.breadandpuppet.org. Schumann, a sculptor, dancer and baker who emigrated from Germany, distributed his sourdough bread to audience members.]
Boston College Symposium: 9 a.m. on September 14
"We feel privileged to be able to gather a small portion of the Bread and Puppet community at Boston College to celebrate their achievement," said Cummings. "The sustained commitment needed over the years to create thousands of puppets, thousands of performances, and thousands of loaves of sourdough bread is an inspiration to anybody who considers theatre as a public forum and a tool for social change. We want to honor that, to examine it, and to introduce it to our students as one model for making theatre that is joyful and engaged."
--Presentations by theater historians and researchers from Northwestern University, Reed College, Harvard, Goddard College, Central School of Speech and Drama in London, and other institutions.
---Panel of independent artists , including visual artist Kiki Smith, satirist and solo performance artist Paul Zaloom, media activist Dee Dee Halleck, puppet artist Amy Trompetter, actor George Bartenieff and playwright Erik Ehn, will discuss Bread and Puppet's influence on their work.