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Vermont’s BREAD & PUPPET THEATER – WildTravelsTV.com


THE BREAD AND PUPPET
THEATER HAS BEEN AROUND SINCE THE ’60s,
PUTTING ON SHOWS WITH PUPPETS THAT CAN BE
MORE THAN 20 FEET TALL. THEIR MUSEUM IN GLOVER,
VERMONT IS A RETIREMENT HOME FOR THEIR AMAZING CREATIONS,
AND WHEN YOU STEP INSIDE, YOUR EYES WILL WIDEN,
AND YOUR JAW MIGHT WELL DROP. ELKA SCHUMANN. OKAY. HELLO. OF THE BREAD
AND PUPPET THEATER. WELCOME TO OUR MUSEUM. IT’S A HELL OF
A HISTORY YOU HAVE. YOU STARTED BACK
IN THE ’60s, CORRECT? EARLY ’60s– ’63 WAS WHEN
THE THEATER WAS FOUNDED IN NEW YORK CITY
ON THE LOWER EAST SIDE. YOU AND YOUR
HUSBAND, PETER. PETER FOUNDED IT. HE’S THE DIRECTOR,
THE ARTIST, AND THE FOUNDER. ABOUT 98.9%
OF THE PUPPETS YOU SEE ARE BREAD
AND PUPPET PUPPETS SCULPTED BY
PETER IN CLAY, COVERED WITH
PAPER MACHE BY HUNDREDS AND PROBABLY THOUSANDS
OF PUPPETEERS. ELKA, THERE’S PUPPETS
AND MASKS OF ALL SHAPES AND SIZES. THAT’S RIGHT, FROM
TINY, MINIATURE CUTOUTS TO LIFE SIZE,
INCLUDING FACE MASKS TAKEN RIGHT FROM
PEOPLE’S FACES, INCLUDING OUR BIG GIANTS. THERE’S ALWAYS BEEN
A POLITICAL COMPONENT TO THE THEATER, RIGHT? THERE ALWAYS HAS BEEN,
BUT WE’VE ALSO DONE, UH, SHOWS BASED ON
THE BIBLE, ON FAIRY TALES. NOW, HOW ABOUT
THE WHITE HORSE BUTCHER? WHAT IS THIS
ALL ABOUT? THAT’S RIGHT HERE. THE SHOW WAS INSPIRED
BY A POSTCARD SHOWING A SLAUGHTERHOUSE WITH
REAL LIFE BUTCHERS THERE, WITH BLOODY APRONS. UH-HUH.
AND PETER TURNED THE BUTCHERS
INTO BUREAUCRATS, WITH THEIR BLAND FACES,
THEIR NICE SUITS, SIGNING DEATH WARRANTS,
AND TORTURE ORDERS, AND THINGS LIKE THAT,
AND THE WHITE HORSE IS THE-THE SORT OF
PURE THING THAT IS ABOVE
AND BEYOND. YEAH. A LOT OF THE BREAD
AND PUPPET SHOWS ARE IN THE STREET,
RIGHT? OUTDOORS? OH, YEAH. WE DID DEMONSTRATIONS
IN NEW YORK CITY, PARADES, UM,
OUTDOOR SHOWS. AND THEN WHEN WE MOVED
TO THE COUNTRY, TO VERMONT IN 1970,
AND PETER SAW THIS BEAUTIFUL MEADOW, HE SAID,
“INSTEAD OF TOURING IN THE SUMMER,
“WE’RE GOING TO CONCENTRATE ON WORKING
RIGHT WHERE WE ARE.” AND SO EVERY YEAR,
WE CREATED ONE GIANT WEEKEND SHOW,
WITH A CIRCUS, WITH A PAGEANT,
WITH LITTLE SHOWS. AND YOU STILL
DO THAT EVER YEAR. AND WE’RE DOING THAT NOW,
BUT WE STOPPED DOING THE ONCE A YEAR THING. IT GOT TOO BIG.
(cheers and applause) IT GREW FROM
A FEW HUNDRED PEOPLE IN THE AUDIENCE
TO THOUSANDS, TENS OF THOUSANDS,
AND THEN THERE WAS A TRAGIC ACCIDENT,
AND WE STOPPED IT IN 1998. A TRAGIC PUPPET
ACCIDENT? WHAT? NO, UH, TWO MEN
WHO’D BEEN DRINKING IN A NEARBY CAMPGROUND
GOT INTO A FIGHT, AND ONE WAS KILLED. SPEAKING OF EVIL, LOOK-
LOOK OVER YOUR SHOULDER. THAT’S THE DEVIL, RIGHT? THAT’S THE–
THAT’S THE DEMON SYMBOLIZING
NUCLEAR ANNIHILATION. I GET THE SENSE
THAT A LOT OF THESE, UH, PUPPETS AND MASKS
MAY NEVER SEE THE LIGHT OF
DAY AGAIN. THEY’RE-THEY’RE HERE FOR
THE REST OF THEIR LIVES, CORRECT? WE USED TO TAKE THEM OUT
QUITE OFTEN, BUT THE WORK OF
PUTTING THEM BACK WAS A LOT,
ESPECIALLY UPSTAIRS WHERE THE PUPPETS ARE SO LARGE. WOW, ELKA! THIS IS AMAZING UP HERE. YOU’VE GOT SOME HUGE
PUPPETS UP HERE, DON’T YOU? WE DO, OUR GIANTS,
OUR GIANT WASHER WOMEN AND THEIR COHORTS,
THE GARBAGE MEN, THE DUKE–
AND DUCHESS OVER HERE. DUCHESS OVER HERE. YOU GOT SOME
PRESIDENTS HERE. THE FOUNDING FATHERS. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW
MANY PUPPETS YOU HAVE IN HERE TOTAL? NO, WE’VE NEVER
COUNTED THEM, BUT THERE ARE
HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS, MAYBE A THOUSAND
OR MORE. WHO’S THIS GUY? THIS IS FATSO,
UNCLE FATSO? OUR FIRST BAD GUY PUPPET,
STARTED AND BUILT HIM FOR PARADES AGAINST
BAD HOUSING IN HARLEM. SORT OF A SLUM LORD. YEAH, THAT IS
THE KING OF HELL THAT YOU’RE
LOOKING AT THERE. YAMA,
THE KING OF HELL, IS BASED ON
A JAPANESE LEGEND. SOME OF YOUR PUPPETS
ARE PRETTY HORRIFIC, PRETTY-PRETTY DISTURBING. MM-HMM. YES, THEY ARE,
BUT THE GOOD ONES– INTENTIONALLY SO. YES. I JUST NOTICED THAT
THE WHOLE CEILING IS ALSO COVERED
WITH-WITH STUFF. PETER SUFFERS A VERY
SERIOUS CHRONIC DISEASE CALLED HORROR VACUI,
THE TERROR OF EMPTY SPACE. SO, ANY TIME
HE SEES THAT– IS THAT A REAL THING? COME ON. IT IS. I MEAN–
(laughing) THAT’S ONE OF
THE BIGGEST PUPPETS. WHAT IS THAT? THAT IS CALLED
DOMESTIC INSURRECTION. THAT’S THE GIANT BUTCHER. HOW MANY PEOPLE
WOULD IT TAKE TO WORK THAT PUPPET? OH, ONE STRONG PERSON
ON THE CENTER POLE BUT THEN HIS ARMS. THEN, EACH ARM
HAS A STICK ON IT, AND THEN YOU NEED
WELL COORDINATED PEOPLE WHO CAN MAKE IT MOVE
IN A LIFELIKE WAY. AND THEN
THE MEN HAVE FEET, SO YOU NEED ANOTHER
PERSON MOVING THE FEET. OH, YOU’VE GOT
LEGS, TOO. YEAH. OVER HERE IS A CROCODILE
THAT WAS USED IN NEW YORK CITY
FOR PARADES. THE GOD FACE, THIS IS
WHAT BEGAN EVERY PAGEANT. BUT OVER HERE
IS MOTHER EARTH. MOTHER EARTH IS HUGE. YES, MOTHER EARTH
IS THE SECOND FACE. RIGHTFULLY SO. ELKA, YOU DO MOST OF
YOUR SHOWS OUTDOORS, BUT SOMETIMES YOU GO OUT BACK
AND DO ‘EM INDOORS, RIGHT? YES, WE HAVE THE DIRT FLOOR
THEATER THERE, AND THAT’S ANOTHER CASE OF A
SEVERE HORROR VACUI CONDITION. EVERYTHING’S COVERED? EVERYTHING
IS COVERED WITH ART. WHERE DOES
THE BREAD COME IN? THAT’S FROM
PETER’S CHILDHOOD. HE HELPED HIS MOTHER
MAKE BREAD IN SILESIA. THAT’S WHERE HIS FAMILY
CAME FROM, AND THE BREAD OF THAT REGION
IS A DARK SOURDOUGH RYE BREAD. AND AT YOUR SHOWS,
YOU USED TO MAKE THIS BREAD AND SERVE IT TO
THE AUDIENCE, RIGHT? YES, WE STILL DO. THAT’S PART OF THE–
PART OF THE PERFORMANCE. THIS IS THE QUEBEC
STYLE CLAY OVEN. FOR THE BREAD. FOR THE BREAD AND HERE’S
WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE INSIDE. ARE YOU DOING ANYTHING
TO PRESERVE THESE THINGS, OR ARE THEY JUST
GONNA DECAY SLOWLY? THEY WILL SLOWLY
OR RAPIDLY DECAY. THEY’RE PAPER MACHE. THE BARN WON’T
LAST FOREVER. WE WON’T LAST
FOREVER, SO– ALL THIS RETURNS
TO DUST. YEAH. AND YOU’RE OKAY
WITH THAT? YEAH. ELKA, IF PEOPLE
WANNA PATRONIZE THE BREAD AND PUPPET
THEATER AND MUSEUM, WHERE SHOULD THEY GO? WE’RE ON ROUTE
122 IN GLOVER, IN THE NORTHEAST KINGDOM,
20 MILES NORTH OF ST. JOHNSBURY. GET ME OUT OF THIS.

4 Comments

  1. a thought Author

    Many happy memories up in Glover for the summer weekend event each year! Too many people showing up in the end with no interest in the root of the gathering and clueless about politics. Much love for Peter and family!

    Reply

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