Tonight: Bread & Puppet Theater in Chilmark

The Bread and Puppet 50th Anniversary Cabaret comes to Chilmark on October 23.

The Bread & Puppet 50th Anniversary Cabaret will be performed at the Chilmark Community Center on Wednesday, Oct. 23, from 7:30 to 8:30 pm. A Community Potluck Dinner kicks off the event from 6 to 7:30 pm.

The Bread & Puppet Cabaret is a series of five short shows that span the 50 years that Bread & Puppet Theater has been in existence. “King Story,” an early anti-war piece, was performed at the March on Washington in October 1967. “President and Chair,” created in 1982, is an act that makes fun of puppet shows and election campaigns. “The Foot” was also created in 1982 for the march and rally in New York City where one million people demonstrated against nuclear weapons. “Courage” is a show from the 90s that includes a flying lesson. “A Man Says Goodbye to His Mother,” originally created and performed during the Vietnam War Era, is still pertinent.

Bread & Puppet is one of the oldest nonprofit, self-sustaining theatrical companies in this country. The theater champions a visually rich slapstick style of street-theater that is filled with huge puppets made of paper maché and cardboard, combined with masked characters, improvisational dance movement, political commentary, and a lively brass band. The company’s performances are described by The New York Times as “a spectacle for the heart and soul.”

Bread & Puppet is based on a large farm in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. It was founded by Peter Schumann, a German born artist-dancer, in 1963, and for the next decade his giant puppets figured prominently in anti-Vietnam War demonstrations in New York City, Washington, D.C., and other cities. In 1970, Bread & Puppet Theater was invited to be the theater-in-residence of Vermont’s Goddard College, facilitating a change to country life. “Our Domestic Resurrection Circus,” an outdoor festival of music, art, puppetry, and pageantry, began then and ran almost every summer until 1998.

Since then, a smaller version continues on Sundays in July and August; the company continues touring and workshopping the rest of the year. Schumann continues as director, artist, and bread baker.

Though admission is free, donations for the performers are accepted after the show. A selection of inexpensive art is also for sale by the puppeteers.

The potluck dinner — the “bread” component of the show — will be a zero waste event. Guests should bring their own plates and utensils, as well as a dish to share. For a challenge, guests should create meals of locally sourced and foraged food.

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