A return to laughter is always called for when the “urgencies and absurdities of a political moment” threaten to bring you down. To that end, Time & Space Limited (TSL) presents the Bread & Puppet Circus down on the riverfront in Hudson this Friday evening for a thought-provoking romp guaranteed to lighten things up a bit.
Our Domestic Insurrection Circus is a show that Bread & Puppet has staged this past summer in Vermont, where the socially outrageous puppet theater is based. Throughout its 50-year history, the troupe has performed a colorful mishmash of politically critical, folkloric-like tales set to music and dance – and more than a bit of slapstick – to protest against and comment on some of our society’s most urgent issues. In Bread & Puppet-land, militarism, capitalism and ecological decline appear to have a common denominator: greed, which affects us all in one way or another.
Bread & Puppet’s giant papier-mâché and cardboard characters are recognized all over the world for their spectacular representations of archetypal players in the big picture, such as the washerwomen in the guise of the National Demolition and Composting Force, a giant blue pageant puppet representing water protectors and the decapitalization decapitations of capitalist monsters. In other words: the commoners against the big, anonymous bad guys in charge. Where else will you see the washerwomen triumph over the billionaires?
With Our Domestic Insurrection, Bread & Puppet hopes to inspire the public to rebel and “underthrow the current system from the toes up.” The troupe’s founder and director, Peter Schumann, says that they want to create the “possibilitarian models of the new: the sourdough, the potato patches of the new.” What does this mean? What is the nature of a “possibilitarian sunrise”? Could it be the emergence of a new political party, the Possibilitarians, who have a platform that includes promoting the “thousand alternatives” to the capitalist empire system, as well as “restoring the sky to its advisory capacity for all aspects of humdrum life”?
Like politically incorrect cartoons and other traditional and satirical performance artforms (think court jesters and clowns) that often step over the line of propriety, Bread & Puppet is widely celebrated for its street-theater brand of performance, prodding audiences to laugh at predicaments and face challenges head-on. The troupe pokes fun, gets overly dramatic to make a subtle point and activates an appropriate sense of outrage – perhaps even a sense of validation in our communal lack of control.
Says TSL’s Linda Mussman, Bread & Puppet has come to the region every year for the past 20 springs. “This was a surprise; they’re here now to participate in a march concerning the closing of Attica Prison. They wanted to stop by if we had the opportunity to host them. I thought it’d be perfect down on the Hudson waterfront, because it’s more public. They can pull in and use their bus as the backdrop. It will be a great opportunity to see their best and biggest show. They’re fantastic. It’s a perfect time for Bread & Puppet. When the political climate is generally choking us, Bread & Puppet is always good medicine to counter the negative spirits in the world. Peter has such great messages, and he’s such a creative genius – one of the great artists of our time.”
Stick around for Bread & Puppet’s famous sourdough rye bread with garlic aïoli after the show. Mussman and TSL co-founder Claudia Bruce’s food-truck buddies will be on hand with delicious edibles for purchase. Plus, Bread & Puppet’s Cheap Art will be available for sale.
Send dry-weather vibes into the universe, people. Bread & Puppet’s creations are too big and perishable for a rainy day. Two good things: The show is suitable for all ages; and no one will be turned away for lack of funds. The suggested donation is $10; $20 sponsors get a reserved seat; kids under 13 get in free.
Bread & Puppet Circus, Friday, September 8, 6 p.m., $20/$10, Henry Hudson Riverfront Park, Hudson; (518) 822-8100, http://timeandspace.org/calendar/bread-and-puppet-theater-%e2%80%a2-our-domestic-insurrection-circus, www.breadandpuppet.org.