Edmond Chibeau looks at performance and theatre from the avant-garde communication perspective

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Location: Mansfield, Connecticut, United States

Friday, May 29, 2015

Don't Yell FIRE In A Crowded War

Speak Up. Speak Out. Bread & Puppet Theatre
Benton Museum  CT
May 28, 2015 to Oct.11 2015
reviewed by
Edmond Chibeau

Large Puppets, posters, and prints take up your personal space and crowd your intuition when you first walk into the show that opened tonight at the Benton.

Executive director Nancy Stula has a reputation for bringing in smart shows and collaborating with smart people.  She worked with John Bell, the creative and knowledgeable Director of the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry to arrange a great “Bread & Puppet” exhibit at the museum on the UConn campus. 

Peter and Elka Schumann along with several Bread and Puppet regulars were present at the opening of the show at the Benton. 

Peter gave a moving talk.  By that I mean he moved around the room while he was speaking.  He walked with his fiddle and gave an impromptu free screech about each of the elements of the show.

Many of the pieces recalled important moments of oppression and social insurrection.  As well as Bread & Puppet stock characters such as the Washer Woman and her consort, and the Garbage Man, the works remembered:  Chico Mendez, a rubber tapper and union organizer, who was murdered in Brazil in 1988; Bishop Oscar Romero who was murdered in El Salvador in 1980; Attica Prison in 1971; MOVE, the Philadelphia based black liberation community founded by John Africa that was firebombed by the police in 1972.  There was also a piece from perhaps the most beautiful and compelling work by the collective, FIRE, about the self-immolation of three Americans to protest the war in Vietnam.  Buddhist monks in Vietnam had been setting themselves on fire as a form of protest and these three Quakers took up the cause.

In the gallery next to the Bread & Puppet exhibit is a show of posters and other material recalling the Vietnam conflict. 

Iraqi Women

An art lover who had recently seen the premiere exhibit at the new Whitney Museum (designed by Renzo Piano) in the meat packing district of NY could not help but notice the difference between the “love-me-I’m-liberal” political pieces at the Whitney, and the ongoing commitment to engaging the military-industrial complex at its root, that has long been the project of the Bread & Puppet Theatre.

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Boston Theatre Marathon Wows 'Em

Boston Theatre Marathon
9-10 May 2015
Boston Center for the Arts

Two days of great writing, great acting, inspired direction at Boston Theatre Marathon XVII. A veritable Greek orgy of great theatre produced by Huntington Theatre Company, Boston Center for the Art, SpeakEasy Stage Company and Company One and The Dramatists Guild of America, and others.  

Saturday, Sprinters were one minute plays.  There were 16 of them. Warm up laps were full-length readings, 3 were presented. 

On Sunday there were 50 plays presented by various companies.  Wow !

Kate Snodgrass, Artistic Director of the Boston Theatre Marathon managed to look cool, comfortable, and composed as she got theatre doors open and casts situated and audience in the seats. 

Things began on Saturday just before noon with a series of one-minute “sprints.” 

Hortense Gerardo’s To Have and to Hold is a dentist office comic nightmare that ends with a kiss.

Brandon M. Crose’s A Quick Meeting is a one-minute musical comedy.

Susan Buttrick’s Blind Sticking, brings out the anxiety we all feel when the phlebotomist draws blood.

Martha Patterson’s Harry is a monologue that is both human and humorous.

This writer manages to have the longest title (and the shortest play) of the day and is proud to have been presented in such talented company.  Impoverished Scholar Sitting by the Side of the Road Meditating on the Transience of All Things Physical.

The sprints were followed by the full length, Hair of the Dog, by Constance Congdon.  Congdon shows us that rhymed couplets and iambic pentameter can contribute to compelling theatre.  She has her poetry chops totally under control.  Don’t try this at home kids.  She is a master of her craft. 

The Boston Theatre Marathon is a glory to behold.  Catch it next year.

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Sunday, May 03, 2015

Boston Bomber is not Lemony Snicket

We Are Pirates
Daniel Handler
Bloomsbury, NY 2015

This book is not part of the Lemony Snicket series but the new adult novel by the author of those books. It is a great read.

Handler has human compassion, a sense of word play, and the ability to keep us on the edge of our seats about the outcome of the narrative.   We Are Pirates is an adventure that goes wrong.  The girls in their early teens who decide to become pirates in San Francisco Bay are a wonderful invention.  I read the book as the trial of the Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, comes to a close and he is found guilty.  We now await the penalty phase.  The girls in this book are lost in a world of their own romantic imagination.  Unfortunately it costs others their lives.  The argument Daniel Handler makes in the book is emotionally congruent with the argument the defense lawyers of the Tsarnaev case are making for their client.  Handler should have been a defense lawyer.  

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