Bread and Puppet Theater | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Bread and Puppet Theater 

Bread and Puppet Theater

Peter Schumann does what most theater artists merely talk about: since the 60s, his Bread and Puppet Theater has brought communities together through parades and circus art, creating a model for arts activism and in the process attacking violence, imperialism, ignorance, and bombast. Bread and Puppet arrived in Chicago last week in their school bus crammed to bursting with props for their "cheap art" events: giant puppets, masks, and musical instruments they used to create circuses in Pilsen and Hyde Park and at the University of Chicago. Schumann has been building an oven out of 500 or so Chicago bricks on the plaza of the Museum of Contemporary Art, getting ready to bake the bread his company hands out to audiences after every performance (he has said, "Theater is like bread, a necessity"). His company has also been rehearsing with local performer-activists, who will sing and carry puppets in its classic work Joan of Arc and in a new celebration of a baker's life, The Bread Baker's Cantata, at the MCA this weekend. According to Redmoon member Jessica Thebus, who's worked with Schumann and company in Vermont, the magic of Bread and Puppet is that "there's as much laughter as political activism, and the audience is always in discovery. Everything seems alive, which takes the puppets and stories to a spiritual place." Tickets may be scarce at the MCA, but a performance of The Insurrection Mass With Funeral Marches for Rotten Ideas has been added at the Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ. And for fans of puppetry, the MCA spectacles will spark three weeks of puppet work in the First Annual Chicago Puppetry Festival at Link's Hall, including artists from New York and Minneapolis; most of these puppeteers were inspired by Schumann's mythopoetic dreamworld. Museum of Contemporary Art, theater, 220 E. Chicago, 312-397-4010. March 12 through 14: Friday, 8 PM; Saturday, 4 and 8 PM; Sunday, 3 PM. $15. Then at the Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ, 615 W. Wellington, 773-935-0642. Monday, March 15, 7:30 PM. $10. --Carol Burbank

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Joan or Arc theater still by Etienne George.

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