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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