This summer’s version of Bread and Puppet Theater’s celebrated circus—“The Grasshopper Rebellion Circus”—has been criticizing the federal Immigration Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), global warming and capitalism. It’s been honoring a medieval peasant uprising and remembering Puerto Ricans killed by Hurricane Maria.
“The Grasshopper Rebellion Circus,’” founder Peter Schumann has said, “is a circus of ruthless critique of 6,000 years of unhuman history and the uprisings against it, from the battle of Sempach in 1386 when 1,300 peasant women and men, equipped with pitchforks and hayrakes overthrew a 4,000 strong state-of-the-art army of knights, to the current battles in which ridiculously small numbers of possibilitarians underthrow—from the toes up—the incompetent billionaire democracy again and again.”
The company, based in Glover, Vermont, is internationally celebrated for its street-theater brand of political performance art featuring live music, dance, slapstick and giant papier-mâché puppets. And they’re bringing the circus on tour—to Cambridge Common in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Saturday, Sept. 8, at 3 p.m.; to Fort Allen Park in Portland Maine on Sunday, Sept. 9, at 4:30 p.m.; to Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton, Massachusetts, on Wednesday, Sept. 12, at 5:30 p.m.; and to Bard College Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, on Thursday, Sept. 13, at 5:30 p.m. After a national tour, the company performs the circus at Theatre For the New City in New York City from Dec. 13 to 16. More details here.
Bread and Puppet’s circus tends to change from week to week. A version performed at the company’s home base in Glover, Vermont, on Sunday, Aug. 19, criticized the federal Immigration Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), celebrated a medieval Swiss cavalry’s defeat by peasants, satirized an increasingly conservative U.S. Supreme Court (“We’re fascists now”), and expressed support for the Chilean feminist student movement, Indian workers, and striking nurses at the University of Vermont.
The circus included a tribute to Aretha Franklin, a “Paradise Investigation Team,” blue grasshoppers, a slapstick dance of a penguin with flamingos, a battle between cavemen and robots, a “middle class” torn between the “Capitalist Fairy” and “Communal Living Trolls,” and A Not-So-Evil-A-Tron for “transforming heinous evil into palatable banality.”
In an act about the melting arctic ice shelf, a performer playing the late ecosocialist (and friend of the theater) Joel Kovel proclaimed: “What other generation has been given the chance to transform the relationship between humanity and nature and given the choice to heal such an ancient wound? What a fantastic challenge!”
Skits lamented war in Yemen, honored “4,645 Puerto Ricans who died in Hurricane Maria due to the negligence of authorities,” and expressed solidarity with MOVE, the Philadelphia black liberation group that was bombed by police in 1985 and many of whose members remain in prison.
The photos here, all copyright by Greg Cook, are from rehearsals from Aug. 17 to 19 and a performance of the circus on Aug. 19 in Glover, Vermont.
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