Founded by Peter Schumann, the Bread and Puppet Theater emerged as one of the first alternative theater groups of the 1960s
and 1970s. Schumann incorporated religion and morality into the central anti-war theme of the plays. The Bread and Puppet
Theater offered bread, baked by the group, to the audience at the beginning of every performance. Schumann believed that theater
was as basic to life as bread. The Bread and Puppet Theater Archives (1962-1981, bulk dates 1964-1975) includes scripts, programs,
monographs, and serials of the experimental theater.
West German immigrant Peter Schumann (1934-) founded the Bread and Puppet Theater in New York in 1961. Influenced by the peace
movement in New York, Schumann wrote radical anti-war plays for his puppet theater. He incorporated religion and morality
into the central anti-war theme of the plays. The Bread and Puppet Theater offered bread, baked by the group, to the audience
at the beginning of every performance. Schumann declared that theater was as basic to life as bread, hence the name. A street
parade with masked puppeteers on stilts, oversized puppets up to twenty feet high, banners, and at times, over a hundred singing
and dancing volunteers, preceded the plays. The plays contained little dialogue, usually spoken by a narrator. Schumann believed
the plays' imagery communicated best in an outdoor setting, therefore most of the plays were performed outdoors. With only
a small core of paid staff, the Bread and Puppet Theater relied on a fluctuating volunteer staff whose numbers changed according
to each performance. Charging the audience a nominal fee, the group received most of its funds through grants and donations.
The group performed in the United States, Latin America, Europe, and Australia.
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