Saturday, August 04, 2007


The lead story in the Sunday NYT's Arts and Leisure is about Bread and Puppet. For years the Times' reviewers (with the exception of Mel Gussow) have ridiculed the "strident politics" of the Vermont-based theater group. For whatever reason, that mood has changed and today's Times gives Holland Cotter the space and freedom to extoll the group. I made two films about Bread and Puppet: Meadows Green (co-directed by animator George Griffin) and Ah! The Hopeful Pageantry of Bread and Puppet (with co-director, Tamar Schumann). I made the latter film in response to one that was made in the late eighties by Jeff Farber, a young Vermonter who went to great expense to make "the definitive" documentary on the group. I hated that film (Brother Bread and Sister Puppet). It took the magic and spiritual qualities out of the theater and treated it as if it were just another in a long line of funny political skits. To me the theater is community and hope-- things totally left out of the Farber film. So I felt I had to make one myself. I had made Meadows Green in 1974, but that had started out as an animation film. The idea was to work with theater founder, Peter Schumann, to create an animated Bread and Puppet film. However to do that we would have to work with Peter and he never had the kind of time to give to the project that an animated work requires. So we just patched some footage together and included some of the animation tests we had done. The theater collective loved it and it became their favorite film, so they were happy when I said I would like to "up-date" it with a new film in the 90s. I teamed up with Tamar Schumann, eldest daughter of the director, and we worked for several years taping and putting together a sort of over-arching narrative of producing the huge festivals that were held in those years. The resulting film is available on VHS or DVD at recently, the theater has decided not to do one big festival, but weekly programs of a smaller scale. This is an excerpt of the 2007 Circus in Vermont.

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