Bread and Puppet provide performance, workshop to campus community

Asher Davidson, Reporter

One of the oldest non-profit political puppet theaters, Bread and Puppet, performed at I.G. Greer Oct. 27. The show presented a number of different political problems with the assistance of song, chants, dance, tasty aioli bread slices and 20-foot homemade puppets.  

While on campus, the 58-year-old theater group hosted a workshop and gave a free performance. 

App State’s Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies hosted Bread and Puppets’ visit. Professor Thomas Pegelow Kaplan coordinated with Bread and Puppets to make their performances happen. 

“The work they do is another way to start dialogue and foster critical thinking on the issues that are important to the Center’s mission,” Pegelow Kaplan said.

Pegelow Kaplan has worked to bring Bread and Puppet to the university since 2018. 

Josh Krugman, a performer with Bread and Puppet, collaborated closely with Pegelow Kaplan for this month’s performance.

Krugman has been touring with Bread and Puppet for the last eight years. He joined the company because he was moved by director Peter Schumann’s work with such “simple” objects. 

Schumann created Bread and Puppet in 1963 in New York City’s Lower East side. In 1974, Schumann moved Bread and Puppet up to Glover, Vermont. Schumann is currently 87 years old and no longer tours with the company. He stays in Vermont and directs the rehearsals from there, said Caitlin Ross, a performer with the Bread and Puppets group since 2016. 

“Our reason for this work is to respond to what is going on and bring light to issues that don’t get coverage in mainstream media,” Krugman said. 

The show presented a range of political movements and received a wide variety of reactions from the audience, spanning from thunderous applause to silence. 

One of the acts that received a positive response from the audience was a piece about the law and womens’ bodies when it comes to pregnancies. In this act, there were three characters: the pregnant woman, common sense and the law. In the act, the law beat down common sense and the woman until both fought back and liberated themselves from the law. 

Conversely, there was an act about a drone strike in Afghanistan where the performers used a calmering wooden prop called the “correcting machine” in order to critique the misinformation that the American people were receiving in the news media. When this act was over, there was not a noise from the audience. 

Krugman said that the performers try not to take one stance with one side but rather present issues everyone can get behind. 

Uriel Najera, who has performed with Bread and Puppet since 2017, said the purpose of the show is not to get a good or bad reaction but to get the conversation started. Najera said it is “up to you to chew on it.”

Najera likes to perform on college campuses because the students are ready to listen and hear what the performers have to say and show. 

“Something about the show just makes them want to hear and learn,” Najera said. 

Logan Keller, a senior studio art major, volunteered to perform with Bread and Puppet. Keller said she didn’t think much about the political tones of the show, and she was there to help, perform and “get their message across.” 

Vicky Grube, a professor of art education, visited Bread and Puppet in Vermont a long time ago and chose to volunteer Oct. 27 because she felt Bread and Puppet provides a needed community. Grube coordinated Bread and Puppets’ last visit to the university 10 years ago. 

“It’s very patriotic to be able to express yourself with no fear of being insulted,” Grube said. 

While the show itself maintains a more circus-like feel, Schumann and the troupe members constantly work to update their content, Pegelow Kaplan said. 

“There is something for everyone,” Krugman said. 

Ross loves the range of performers at Bread and Puppet, which range from ages 5-70. 

Ross says that Bread and Puppets is very inclusive of all generations and often holds events for different ages to come and perform. One of these events is called Geezer Week and gives older members a chance to come back and perform. 

“It’s pretty beautiful and kind of amazing it is still surviving,” Ross said.