The Bread and Puppet Theater was founded in 1963 by Peter Schumann on New York City’s Lower East Side. The concerns of the first productions were rents, rats, police, and other problems of the neighborhood. Many performances were done in the street. During the Vietnam War, Bread and puppet staged block-long processions and pageants involving hundreds of people. In 1974 Bread and Puppet moved to a farm in Glover, Vermont. Our Domestic Resurrection Circus, a two day outdoor festival of puppetry shows, was presented annually through 1998. Today the shows range from tightly composed theater pieces presented by members of the company to extensive outdoor pageants which require the participation of many volunteers. Bread and Puppet continues to be one of the oldest, nonprofit, political theatre companies in the country.
Photo credit: Tony Bacewicz & The Hartford Courant
Moderated by Sam Wilson and John Bell
Panelists: Peter Schumann, Mike Romanyshyn, Teresa Camou Guerrero, Amy Trompetter, Margo Lee Sherman, Maria Schumann
Live performances by Bread and Puppet ensemble
Curated and directed by Michal Gamily
Sam Wilson is a puppeteer, painter, bartender and proud Union member of I.A.T.S.E. local 829. She moved from Buffalo, New York, to New York City 25 years ago to attend school at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn where she earned her B.F.A. Following Pratt she was part of the World War III Arts in Action collective that participated with street art in protesting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. She co-founded and designed art for Milk Not Jails, an organization that fought to change the rural urban relationship in New York State by both advocating for criminal justice reform and building support for local agriculture. She has performed and toured internationally with Bread and Puppet Theater, and Great Small Works and designed and built puppets for various groups including Circus Amok! and the Funhouse Philosophers. She is a founding member of the Boxcutter Collective. Boxcutter Collective writes, builds and performs puppet shows with the aim of taking down the rotten empire one cardboard spectacle at a time. Follow their post-post-consumerist anti-deepfake antics on instagram: @boxcutter_collective.
Puppeteer and theater historian John Bell is the Director of the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry and an Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts, both at the University of Connecticut. He learned puppetry as a member of the Bread and Puppet Theater company from 1976 to 1986, and received his doctoral degree in theater history from Columbia University in 1993. He is the author of many books and articles about puppet theater, and is an editor of Puppetry International. John is a founding member of the Brooklyn-based theater collective Great Small Works; one of the creators of the Honk! Festival of Activist Street Bands; and a member of the Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band.
Michael Romanyshyn joined the Bread and Puppet Theater in 1975 and was a member of the company until 1992. He serves on the board of directors.He co-founded Los Kabayitos Puppet Theater at The Clemente in 1996 and was Executive Director until 1999 when he moved with his wife, Susie Dennison, to her family home in Temple, Maine. They built the Temple Stream Theater into a former church in Temple and ran a program of puppet theater and music until 2018. From 2008-2014 he was the Musical Director of the Allstar Refujdzi Band in-residence at the Archa Theatre in Prague. Since 2013, he has been a birch tapper producing birch syrup on the family's farm as the Temple Tappers where he lives with his wife and two sons.
Born and raised in México, Teresa Camou Guerrero is a film director and producer, her recent documentary films are CRUZ (2021) and SUNÚ (2015). She is the founder and director of El Teatro Indígena de la Sierra Tarahumara (2002-2011), a puppet theatre company based in Mexico’s Sierra Madre and has been part of Bread and Puppet Theater since 1996. She studied visual arts at Bennington College.
Amy Trompetter is a puppeteer, trumpeter, World Theater historian, teacher & community organizer. She founded Redwing Blackbird Theater in the late 90’s as a workshop and performance space in the Hudson Valley. Her roots are in Bread & Puppet Theater in the 1960’s in NYC. She has taught, directed & performed all over the globe. She is the driving force behind the theater's drive to invent new forms, connect with the broad range of world theater traditions & address the urgency of local and global issues. Amy taught as an Assistant Professor of Theater at Antioch (tenure), Bates, Bard & Barnard Colleges. For several years she taught as part of the Bard Prison Initiative.
Margo Lee Sherman was one of the original members of the Bread and Puppet Theater. She joined in 1966 when its activities were centered in NYC. She created many of the major women's characters in which women often represented humanity in distress or struggling against the odds or fighting back. She performed with Bread and Puppet at international festivals throughout Europe. She was part of their historic visit to Iran under the Shah. She then turned to solo theater. Margo creates and premieres her shows atTheater for the New City. In that capacity, she has performed at festivals throughout Eastern and Western Europe, and in Russia, Egypt, Colombia, Cuba and Mexico. Her show TEREZKA is inspired by a photo of a disturbed child in a Polish orphanage after WWII. A CURIOUS TALE is based on a French peasants' tale about a prince who devoured his brides. WHAT DO KNOW ABOUT WAR? is based on first-hand accounts of American soldiers in Iraq. A NIGHT WITHOUT A BLANKET is a dramatization of two stories by the great Palestinian writer, Ghassan Kanafani. George Bartnieff said of her: "Margo has an ability to transform herself into men and women as if she were literally able to live their lives from inside out.”
Maria Schumann is a folklorist, farmer, singer and ritual practitioner. She milks sheep, leads singing groups, and practices bringing to life ancient calendrical agricultural rituals of our ancestors, through community, song, and dance.
Massimo Schuster, born in Lodi, Italy, in 1950, is a puppeteer, actor, and storyteller. He graduated from the Actors School of the Piccolo Teatro, Milan in 1969 and started working with Bread & Puppet Theater in 1969. Back in Europe in 1975, he moved to Southern France and started his own puppet company, Théâtre de l'Arc-en Terre. He has performed his shows in 60 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas and has directed shows in France, Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belgium, and Ethiopia. He has been teaching puppetry in Italy, France, Poland, Bulgaria, Ethiopia, Niger, Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Brazil, and Canada. He has been President of UNIMA (Union Internationale de la Marionnette) and has written various articles for theatre magazines in France, Italy, and Hungary as well as a published book of photos, "Bread and Puppet Museum" (2006). He retired from the theatre in 2016, has published a book of poetry, and worked as a photographer for various italian jazz festivals.
Independent documentary filmmaker Robbie Leppzer (www.TurningTide.com) is directing the first feature-length documentary film about Bread and Puppet in over 20 years, entitled BREAD AND PUPPET: THEATER OF THE POSSIBILITARIANS, which will be released in 2023. For more information: www.BreadandPuppetMovie.com
Coffeehouse Chronicles is an educational performance series exploring the history of Off-Off-Broadway. Part artist-portrait, part history lesson, and part community forum, Coffeehouse Chronicles take an intimate look at the development of downtown theatre, from the 1960s’ “Coffeehouse Theatres” through today.