File puptcrit/puptcrit.0811, message 160

Date: Wed, 12 Nov 2008 12:27:44 -0500
Subject: Re: [Puptcrit] Bread Puppet addition

I have volunteered with Bread and Puppet during their summer program and
while on tour for the past three years and I have never experienced anything
but a loving and open atmosphere from the theater. I wonder how many here
who are spouting negativity about the theater's work have actually worked
with the company.
<but have always parted favor with their over the
> head with a sledge hammer method of delivering a "message">

how is it that mainstream culture and politics do not beat Americans over
the head with their "message" whether it's patriotism or the sexuality of
pop singers?  Bread and Puppet circus acts, although they do represent an
alternative political view, are extremely tame compared to most television
that I can recall.

I know the touring company personally and I worked with them this summer.
 Many families come to see the show and also to bring their children
(usually aged 5-13) to perform in the shows.  Most of the touring circuses
take their form based upon the circus that we create in the summer.  I also
had my four year old son in the circus this summer.  In defense of their
decision to perform a politically controversial act, I agree that the show
is family friendly.

Although I will say the circus they were interrupted in performing has
clearly gotten much more press and discussion for having been a controversy,
so in that way I almost have a lot of gratitude towards the man who stopped
the show.


On Wed, Nov 12, 2008 at 11:55 AM, Christopher Hudert <
> wrote:

> 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
> thing.
>   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.
> Christopher
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