Sponsored by the Rockingham Arts and Museum Project (RAMP), Bread & Puppet's "Total This & That Circus" will be performed on Friday, December 13, at the (15 School St.) Middle School, in Bellows Falls at 7 p.m. Bread & Puppet Theater (www.breadandpuppet.org) is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, and is one of the oldest non-profit, self-supporting theatrical companies in the U.S.
"Total This & That Circus" performed last year on site in Glover, includes Burlington's battle against the F-35 jets, the miraculous birth of a calf, a giant face trying to see who's running back and forth between his ears, the tar sands pipeline, some very tall people with wooden legs, all kinds of animals from zebras to some very interfering turkeys, and much more. The acts are accompanied by the circus band.
Director Peter Schumann explains, "The extension of the Circus from the gravel-pit amphitheater to the meadow above, normally referred to as Pageant, is now the THAT part of the THIS&THAT CIRCUS, and is wholly integrated into the preceding THIS part."
"It is difficult to conceptualize ... how many thousands of hours of paper-mache, sewing and painting; hundreds of thousands of hours of puppet rehearsal and performance; the countless band rehearsals, meetings, training sessions for volunteers; millions of miles traveled by the many, many Bread and Puppet company members across these fifty years. This is a landmark we celebrate with astonishment and humility," their website reads.
"We believe in puppet theater as a wholesome and powerful language that can touch men and women and children alike, and we hope that our plays are true and are saying what has to be said, and that they add to your enjoyment and enlightenment," said founder, Peter Schumann.
Founded in 1963 by Schumann, a German born artist-dancer, the theater is famed for nearly a decade of performing in anti-Vietnam-War demonstrations in New York City, Washington, D.C. and other cities in the US and abroad.
In 1970, Bread and Puppet moved to Vermont, and for over 20 years, "Our Domestic Resurrection Circus," an outdoor festival of music, art, puppetry and pageantry, performed each summer drawing tens of thousands of Bread and Puppet enthusiasts. Peter decided to end Circus in 1998, which was then succeeded by a summer program with weekly, smaller scaled performances. In this new format, the Theater continues its prolific output of new shows, addressing the issues of the day - like militarism, capitalism, and ecology - as well as re-staging classic Bread and Puppet shows from the 1960s and 1970s.
Author and NPR commentator Andrei Codrescu has praised "the genius of Peter Schumann (artistic director), the prodigious puppet-God," writing "the Bread & Puppet Theater has been so long a part of America's conscious struggle for our better selves, that it has become, paradoxically, and a fixture of our subconscious."
RAMP has worked with Bread and Puppet since 1999 when it hosted Bread and Puppet Theater for a week-long town-wide residency in Bellows Falls. Over the years it has collaborated to bring other Bread and Puppet performances to downtown Bellows Falls. Mr. McBride, founding director of RAMP feels that The 1999 Bread and Puppet residency greatly added to the momentum of arts and the important role that the arts would play in the revitalization of Bellows Falls.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children under 10. Reservations are encouraged. To reserve tickets call (802) 463-3252. The middle school is wheel chair accessible; please call ahead to make arrangements for access.
RAMP is supported by the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.