This weekend Bread and Puppet Theater begins a tour of its “The Heart of the Matter Circus” with shows in Cambridge and Lawrence, Massachusetts. (See schedule below.) Admission is free. Donations are welcome.

Stilt dancers, papier-maché beasts, and a brass band perform a raucous spectacle of protest and slapstick satire and celebration.

The show, Bread and Puppet co-founder Peter Schumann says, is “in response to our totally unresurrected capitalist situation, not only the hundreds of thousands of unnecessarily sacrificed pandemic victims but our culture’s unwillingness to recognize Mother Earth’s revolt against our civilization. Since we earthlings do not live up to our earthling obligations, we need resurrection circuses to yell against our own stupidity.”

The Circus changes from week to week as it’s performed each Sunday in July and August at the theater’s home in Glover, Vermont, then goes on tour in the fall. In the version I saw in Glover at the end of July, a giant Mother Earth puppet watched as kids successfully sued to stop oil extractors, who complained “But that would require massive societal changes!?!” The Gates of Hell opened to reveal a dance of flamingos (masked performers and stilters). They called for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to be freed. They rejected of climate doom-sayers: “We are not going to die! Stop this goddamn climate catastrophe!” They demonstrated how women of the Middle East “use handkerchiefs as a tool of protest.” Peter Schumann played violin and critiqued the Russia versus Ukraine war: “Puppet president of NATO pours in as many weapons as they can to promote peace.” They sang tributes to puppeteers who had died. As puppet animals paraded by, the 19th century Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin urged, “Natural selection always seeks new ways to avoid competition. … Competition is injurious and unnecessary. Instead combine in mutual aid.” A climate-denier from the Petroleum Institute got swallowed by a giant wave, followed by a tribute to workers repairing Vermont roads after the summer flooding. Honey bees danced “to a better society.” The Rotten Idea Theater Co. unleashed cluster bombs. “An Ode to the Summer Siesta.” An act noted the 80th anniversary of the debut of Aaron Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” and the 70th anniversary of Copeland’s interrogation by Republican U.S. Senator Joseph R. McCarthy: “Are you now or have you ever been a communist? Have you ever had an abortion? Have you ever read a banned book?”

And, of course, after each show Bread and Puppet will serve its famous sourdough rye bread with aioli (free) and Bread and Puppet’s “Cheap Art” – books, posters, postcards, pamphlets and banners from the Bread and Puppet Press – will be for sale.

Tour schedule:

• Friday, September 1, 2023, at 6 p.m. – Hancock, VT
• Saturday, September 2, 2023, at 4 p.m. – Cambridge, MA
• Sunday, September 3, 2023, at 4 p.m. – Portland, ME
• Monday, September 4, 2023 (Labor Day), at 5 p.m. – Lawrence, MA
• Thursday, September 7, 2023, at 6 p.m. – Vernon, NJ
• Friday, September 8, 2023, at 4 and 8 p.m. – Brooklyn, NY
• Saturday, September 9, 2023, at 4 p.m. – Annandale-on-Hudson, NY
• Sunday, September 10, 2023, at 5:30 p.m. – Easthampton, MA
• Monday, September 11, 2023, at 6 p.m. – Pittsford, VT

Previously: Lots of earlier coverage of Bread and Puppet Theater.

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Categories: Theater