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Bread and Puppet Comes to Life

June 17, 2012

Bread & Puppet Director Peter Schuman serves up some bread at the theater's barn. Photo by Christopher Roy

GLOVER – The Bread and Puppet Theater kicked off its season with various theatrical acts Saturday.
Actors started by waking up the guard of the puppet museum. The big piece of the day included Bread and Puppet theater members and members from Concordia University Montreal.
Bread and Puppet Director Peter Schuman founded the theater group on New York City’s Lower Eastside in 1963. “We combined weekly bread baking with theater,” said Schuman.
That tradition of giving bread during the performances continued Saturday.
Schuman moved the theater company to Glover in 1974, but not before making a four-year stop in Plainfield. The puppet museum opened in 1975, which is when the group started performing shows on the property. 
Schuman said there are many reasons why he moved the company to Vermont, but an invention from Goddard College to be a theater in residence was the actual motivator. 
“By our stupidity and good fortune,” is Schuman's response on why Bread and Puppet has remained in existence for so long. “We did not ever enter the professional theater scene. We didn’t ever ask Mr. Rockefeller or anybody else for grants. We try to survive by living with gardens and doing the normal kind of thing and being cheap. Cheap and stupid is our slogan.”
Bread and Puppet solicits for money but does not ask for it, Schuman said. It also sells booklets and posters. It charges for out of state performances. 
Bread and Puppet performs in many places including New York City, China, Poland, and will soon perform in France. “We have all kinds of tricks to get it (money) out of the puppets, short of thievery,” said Schuman.  
Somewhere between 70 and 100 people work at the Bread and Puppet Theater, Schuman said. A combination of pigs, vegetables and puppetry is what makes Bread and Puppet Theater special.
Why do people keep returning to Bread and Puppet?
“They want to have some fun, I think. Maybe a little more than fun. Who knows?” Schuman answered. “It’s a very political joint here. We make fun of these politicians all the time and people need that in their life. They’re even sillier than we are."
“It’s incredibly ridiculous to ask how this here democracy, which claims it's a democracy, which seems to me a fake democracy,” Schuman said, "is one of millions and billions on taxpayers’ money and people’s income and still pretends to be a democracy, but it’s a money democracy.”
Sharon Heyn, a resident of Davenport, Iowa, with a home close to Glover, was one of the hundreds of people who attended Saturday’s performance. “We thought it would be something interesting to come and see,” said Heyn “It’s so Vermont like. It’s something you can’t find in Iowa, something you can’t find in Chicago or other places I’ve been.”
Heyn said she’s impressed with the performances. “It’s fun to see it alive,” said Heyn, who visited the museum in the past. “I’m enjoying it.”
Toussaint St. Negritude of Sheffield, originally from San Francisco, is a member of the Heart Scrambled Boys who performed Saturday. His band is not an official part of Bread and Puppet but was asked to perform Saturday. 
“I love it,” he said of Bread and Puppet Theater. “It’s a great opportunity to perform. I love coming here just on my own.”
St. Negritude described Bread and Puppet as a place where art thrives visually and theatrically. The theater would be an asset in San Francisco as much as it would in Manhattan or anywhere else, he said.
“We’re lucky to have it here,” said St. Negritude.
Chris Mullen, of Lyndonville, also a member of the band, called the Bread and Puppet Theater “A wonderful and positive progressive outlet for social change. I think it’s remarkable to have it here. I love performing here.”

 

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