Bread and Puppet Theater, one of the country’s oldest nonprofit theatre companies, finished a weeklong residency at the College with a free outdoor show — “The Insurrection Mass” — at MacEachron Field.
Bread and Puppet Theater laces political radicalism with education, community action, and, of course, discussions over bread. The troupe arrived a week earlier with no supplies and created everything in their show from scraps. During their stay, they worked with community members in puppetry workshops to create a show that boldly critiqued U.S. immigration policy, using the example of Dani Zamora ’08, an undocumented immigrant who was recently deported despite having a job permit, a Social Security number, and a state-issued ID.
The group invited all members of the community to participate in the puppetry workshops, which were largely directed by interest. “It was a bit unorthodox at first.” said Lexy Leuszler ’12. This unorthodoxy, however, is what made the participants a cohesive unit. Leuszler said, “We truly worked together. The immersion was constant. I think when theatre becomes academic, it gets compartmentalized. Here, we had five days to create. We had to make decisions at that moment and be present in the rehearsal space.”
The puppetry workshops gave volunteers opportunities to help with everything. Some painted papier-mâché people in the fires of hell. Others, like Leuszler and Gillian Hemme ’10, worked to develop a text that would speak to the community, not just students, which Leuszler lauded.
Jeremy Chen, assistant professor of art, who also volunteered in the puppetry workshops, said, “Students were surprised we [professors] were involved. I guess they don’t think about professors participating, but it’s great because it’s such a different model than traditional theatre.” Chen also commented on the group’s ability to weave ethics and aesthetics together communally. “With all five [Bread and Puppet actors-artists] we were working with, when it came to collaboration, they had and used their voices, and we had and used our voices.”
Leuszler saw the performance itself as an exhilarating call to attention using action in a simple form. “There were 400 sets of ears listening to Dani’s story. This is not theatre of commerce. This ragtag group captivated an audience from children to octogenarians in 45 minutes and got them to linger, think, and talk,” she said.
“I’d have to call it an experience,” said Teddy Hoffman ’14, who was a tiger tamer, among other roles in the show. “It was like playing with toys when you’re a kid. When you buy into it, it’s not really about toys. It’s about what the imagination can do.”
by Mona Ghadiri ’11