Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bread and Puppet, Fifty Years

It's the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, but it's also 50 years since the founding of Bread and Puppet Theater, as NPR this morning reminded me with this retrospective.

Begun on New York's Lower East Side, its huge puppets were a vibrant presence at marches through my early years of activism in the 1980s, including the Women's Pentagon Action and the million-plus-person 1982 disarmament event in New York.

Photo source

In the 1970s the group moved to Glover, Vermont, about 25 miles from the Canadian border. I visited there in the summer of 1995, but they weren't doing any shows at the time. Which bums me out to this day.

Photo by Ron Simon

One thing I didn't know is that the group operates with no outside funding from corporations, arts groups, or governments. It's entirely funded by ticket sales or other program-paid events and individual donations, plus "its own practice of frugality and a huge amount of volunteerism."

A 1984 poster from Bread and Puppet

Another thing I hadn't completely realized was the extent of the theater's influence on other artists and performers. I know our own local treasure, In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater and its annual May Day celebration, is one such. But it's more than that.

It amazes and inspires me to think about organizations that endure and maintain creativity for substantial lengths of time, let alone 50 years. I keep them in my mind, like banked coals overnight, to reignite my social justice fire when needed.

Congratulations to Bread and Puppet, and thanks to NPR for reminding me.

Bread and Puppet's history page 

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