World-Renowned Bread and Puppet Theater Returns to So. Md.

"To live in America and never see the Bread and Puppet Theater perform is like living in Egypt and never seeing the pyramids" --The Christian Science Monitor

"Chefs on Stilts" from the Sourdough Philosophy Circus, part of the Bread and Puppet Theater repertoire. (Photo: Jack Sumberg)
"Chefs on Stilts" from the Sourdough Philosophy Circus, part of the Bread and Puppet Theater repertoire. (Photo: Jack Sumberg)

ST. MARY'S CITY, Md. (Sept. 22, 2008) - The St. Mary's College of Maryland (SMCM) campus will be transformed into a big-top parade of giant puppets and large-scale pageantry when the world-famous Bread and Puppet Theater returns for its seventh engagement to SMCM, from Thursday through Saturday, September 25-27. Members of the local community (especially singers and musicians) are encouraged to participate in two days of free performance workshops that will culminate in an outdoor performance of The Sourdough Philosophy Circus. The performance is on Saturday, September 27, at 2 p.m. on the college's Admissions Field. Rain location is the Recreational Courts in the Athletic and Recreation Center. The performance is also free and open to the public.

For those interested in participating in the workshops and seeing the performance, an orientation meeting with Bread and Puppet Theater will take place on Thursday, September 25, from 7:30-9:30 p.m. in the Bruce Davis Theater, Montgomery Hall Fine Arts Center. Performance workshops are tentatively scheduled for Friday, September 26, from 9 a.m.-12 p.m., 1 p.m.-4:30 p.m., and 7 p.m.-9:30 p.m., and on Saturday, September 27, from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. and at 1 p.m. The workshops are in preparation for the performance at 2 p.m. Daytime workshops will take place outdoors on the Admissions Field near the Science Building; evening workshops will take place in the Bruce Davis Theater or elsewhere close by.

Bread and Puppet Theater thrives on the active involvement of the communities it visits. "Our performance is more than a cultural curiosity imported by some theater specialists," said theater director Peter Schumann. "The majority of the performers are local volunteers who, in a few days (sometimes only hours) of intense rehearsals, become active puppeteers, musicians, and masked dancers. They are the muscle-power of the play. Their input transforms the play into a community event, which incorporates their special skills and enhances the production. This involvement is positive. The event is joyous and forward-going. It teaches hope."

Dubbed a "living national treasure" by The New York Times, Bread and Puppet Theater, under the direction of German-born sculptor Schumann, has toured internationally for more than 35 years. The Vermont-based troupe performs on urgent social, political, and environmental issues. According to the Christian Science Monitor, "To live in America and never see the Bread and Puppet Theater perform is like living in Egypt and never seeing the pyramids."

This year, troupe members will bring together an ensemble of volunteer puppeteers, singers, musicians, and masked performers from the local and college communities in the performance of The Sourdough Philosophy Circus. The circus will feature dancing zebras, turkeys, and free-range cows, and will be led by a team of cooks who specialize in the various stews and pancakes of our everyday First World experience. The Rotten Idea Theater Company and the Sourdough Philosophy Brass Band will accompany the performers.

Schumann founded Bread and Puppet Theater in 1963 in New York City. Hand-puppet shows for children and rod-puppet shows for the street were produced from early experiments. Later, complex stylized compositions with masked performers, over-life-sized effigies, improvised music and narration astounded adult audiences. The company has won distinction at international theater festivals in Italy, Poland, France, Venezuela, and South Korea. Awards include the Erasmus Prize of Amsterdam, two off-Broadway Obie Awards, the Puppeteers of America President's Award, a Guggenheim Award, the Vermont Governor's Award, and numerous trophies from local small-town parades.

The fanciful work of the troupe was featured recently in Julie Taymor's Beatles-music movie, Across the Universe. Taymor, who worked with Bread and Puppet in the 1970s, recreated some of its pageantry and featured it as the setting for two songs, "I am the Walrus," performed by Bono, and "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite," performed by Eddie Izzard.

Bread and Puppet's residency is funded in part by grants from the Arts Alliance of St. Mary's College of Maryland, the Lecture and Fine Arts Committee of St. Mary's College of Maryland, the St. Mary's County Arts Council, and the Service and Social Change Program of Student Activities at the College.

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