File puptcrit/puptcrit.0811, message 158

Date: Wed, 12 Nov 2008 11:55:24 -0500
Subject: Re: [Puptcrit] Bread Puppet addition

On Nov 11, 2008, at 11:00 AM, Hobey Ford wrote:

> ...  B & P are not shy about putting their views in your face.  They 
> are extremely political <clip>  B&P has very strong
> views and put them out there.  I find their theatricallity and and 
> spectacle amazing, but have always parted favor with their over the
> head with a sledge hammer method of delivering a "message". <clip>  I 
> consider B & P  important in puppetry.  Their work has spawned a 
> distinct  branch on tree of American puppetry.  But it is political 
> theater.
   The last line here is the most important, as is the order of the last 
two words. It is POLITICAL theater. Often a show suffers when it puts 
the cart (the message) before the horse (the means of moving the 
message forward - the story), but in B&P's case, I don't think that 
there is a conventional horse and cart. Perhaps a Trojan Horse is a 
more appropriate as an analogy. To me, the pageant and performance is 
merely a means to get their message out. Granted it is inventive and 
entertaining, but first and foremost is the message. Not story, not 
entertainment, message. Even when they go over to something more 
entertainment driven they can't seem to keep the message in the other 
box. They are what they are.
   Reminds me of the parable of the man and the snake. Too long to share 
the whole parable, but basically a man rescues a poisonous snake, 
nurses it back to health, and then it bites him. Hard to complain when 
you get bitten, as you know what the snake is and what its nature is, 
and you have taken your chances. But at the same time the snake needs 
to know that sometimes it will also be driven out. Caveat here is that 
it seems the "snake" (though I am not implying that B&P is a snake, 
only playing the part of one in this anology) seems to have passed 
itself off as non-poisonous for the occasion and all were justifiably 
upset when the fangs came out.

> As for pulling any act off stage, it is censorship, and it is the 
> right of any theater to pull an act off.  It's their money. If they 
> pay you then whats the problem.  For Bread and Puppets to cry 
> censorship sounds silly to me. It sounds like a gig well done if 
> they've managed to offend their sponsor and half the audience.
   Censorship, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. We do it all of the 
time, for many reasons. You censor yourself when you talk to others, 
depending on their age or relationship to you, etc. You censor what is 
on your TV when you choose to what to watch. (You don't censor what is 
on air, only what is on your set.) You censor what you choose to expose 
yourself and your family to, and when. As children grow older we lesson 
our censorship and allow them to make those decisions.
   For a theater, its audience is its family. Most theaters, 
particularly mainstream theaters, will censor what they present to that 
family. Ideally they will try to present a balanced season with shows 
that are light entertainment, something a bit heavier, and at least 
every now and then something to really challenge you and/or make you 
think and rethink. But they need to know when they are presenting each 
   It is not when you say "you can not present/watch that HERE" that it 
is bad; it is only when we are told we can not present/watch something 
AT ALL that it begins to be negative censorship. Things have a time and 
place, few things have all times and all places. If a theater strongly 
felt that what was being presented on THEIR stage was not in keeping 
with what they intended to present, it is their justifiable censorship 
to stop the show. I'm not talking little quibblly differences of 
opinion, I'm talking offensive to their audience. That being said, on 
occasion I have had people object to a minor item on the grounds that 
someone else (not them) MIGHT object, which IMO would be censorship if 
the show was stopped.

> They seem disingenuos in calling their work approriate for "family 
> audience" without a very striong recommendationand advice to their
> sponsor's patrons that "they will present views that will offend some" 
> It should have been clear to them that many sponsors wouldn't
> appreciate an overtly  politcal show for families and it might be in 
> their favor to clue them  in. Perhaps they did and it was over looked. 
>  Presenting B & P without an understanding of their work and then not 
> highlighting that as a feature is not the way to present B&P.  
> Audiences need to see their work, but they should be invited and clued 
> in.
  I think my main objection to "message shows," regardless of the 
message or point of view, is that they are typically partisan in 
nature, presenting one side only and often condemning any other view. 
This isn't really politics, as that requires some degree of debate. It 
more borders on fanaticism or extremism. I don't even want to hear the 
views I share presented in such a manner; why would I want to hear or 
see a different view presented that way? I find B&P dances pretty close 
to that bonfire.

>  I would think B & P would get tired of being misinterpreted.  Again, 
> totally their choice.
   I don't know for sure, but I get the feeling that B&P has no problem 
with being misinterpreted by presenters or ticket buyers about the 
content of the show, as long as they get another opportunity to present 
their view. Seems at times they may even encourage it by sufficiently 
(dare I say, misrepresentatively?) vague descriptions of their shows. 
Whether this is deliberately deceptive on their part, or simply such a 
firm belief in their own work that they can't see it from an outside 
perspective, I can't say.


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