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Bread and Puppet Theater Brings Political Discourse, Audience Participation to Campus

Bread and Puppet Theater Brings Political Discourse, Audience Participation to Campus

Posted: May 19, 2017

One of the oldest self-supporting theater companies in the country, Bread and Puppet Theater travels around the world bringing a message of action to audiences. Shows range from rehearsed pieces presented by the company to extensive pageants which rely on volunteer participation. On Tuesday, May 23, at 7:00 p.m., Buffalo will have a chance to take part in a night of performance with the company in the Donald Savage Communication Building's FlexibleTheatre.

“Puppet theater is of action rather than dialogue. We have two types of puppet shows: good ones and bad ones, but all of them are for good and against evil,” according to Peter Schumann, Bread and Puppet's founder.

Bread and Puppet was founded in 1963 on New York City’s Lower East Side. From the start, their offerings of rod-and-hand puppet shows for children were mixed with productions that commented on neighborhood concerns involving housing, living conditions, and policing. More complex theater pieces incorporating music, dance, and spoken word followed. The puppets grew bigger, but were always made from simple and often found materials. “A puppet may be a hand only, or it may be a complicated body of many heads, hands, rods and fabric,” Schumann said.

The troupe is making its third visit to Buffalo on Tuesday and is coming at the invitation of local artist and performer Andrew Ross, who has studied with the group at its home base in Glover, Vermont. Ross supports Bread and Puppet because of its down-to-earth, universal aesthetic, which speaks to everyone.

On Tuesday, Bread and Puppet will perform its participatory piece called "Insurrection Mass with Funeral March for a Rotten Idea," which features the symbolic “burial” of a recent political or economic event, ever adjusting to the time in which the performance is taking place. In addition, the company will host its “Whatforward Circus,” a political pageant which relies on audience participation.

Volunteers who wish to serve as program participants are invited to the Savage Building on Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. for a two-hour rehearsal. This performance is open to the public with a $10 suggested donation. No one will be turned away due to lack of funds.

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