Close your eyes and imagine, if you can, the smells of old papier mache, coconut rice with the slightest hint of curry, feel the heat of a rehearsal studio filled with about 70 people and their various smells too, and you will have a sense of the Bread & Puppet Theatre experience.
Not everybody knows what old paper puppets smell like, but I am one of a number of artists who have delved into outdoor theatre, in the conceptual and aesthetic style originated in North America by this very company.
Bread & Puppet Theatre stopped in Vancouver on their 14 week tour of 2018. They/we spent 3 days working in two gorgeous studios in the Simon Fraser University School for Contemporary Arts, largely facilitated by Ian McFarlane, a Vancouver-based artist and guest lecturer at SFU as well as B&P alumni. The workshop culminated in a performance of the "Grasshopper Rebellion Circus" which the company had been working on and performing for some time, but they added in 3 acts that were created through the Vancouver workshop.
It was really interesting to participate and witness the creative process derived from the process taking place at the B&P farm in Vermont. They asked the participants if there were any big social issues they wished to explore, and with the many suggestions they/we created 3 new "acts" for the "circus". These words were defined more clearly as the work unfolded, and the show did indeed turn out to be a wonderful circus-like mishmash of political commentary, poetical imagery in motion, hilarity, clownish antics, dance, spectacle, giant puppets, and human power suggesting general revolt. The audience was vocally involved at some points (cheering on, chanting, etc.) which I believe would be a good experience even for people who have no experience with protests at all. You can see the whole show in the video someone from SFU posted, below.
Photos from the workshop, rehearsal, and Bread & Puppet Press
This book of giant puppets and pageants is absolutely amazing. I scanned and uploaded it for those who are interested to download, because inside the front cover it says "The information in this book may be freely copied, used, and distributed." Thanks so much, Sara Peattie and the Puppeteer's Cooperative!
Amira Emma Routledge,