This is a conversation with Bread and Puppet founder and director, Peter Schumann…a conversation in which I ask him over and over again to answer questions that don’t really have answers, about what makes a great performance. And about what is a great performance…
Peter Schumann is a driven, prolific artist who makes huge outdoor theater performances with giant paintings and puppets and sculptures. There is music. There are people making animal sounds. Everything seems to be made of paper mache, twigs, twine and cardboard. The theater company lives in an old farmhouse in Glover, Vermont, when it’s not performing around the country and the world. And what Peter Schumann makes isn’t always good, but it’s always great. There’s a wild current that runs through all that he does, and it all seems to be alive long after he’s done with it. ((If you haven’t been to the museum, housed in a huge barn behind the house in Glover….I would highly recommend it…))
Bread and Puppet is one of the oldest, nonprofit, self-supporting theatrical companies in the country. To learn more about the company and its strange and illustrious history, I recommend going HERE to read more.
Please leave a comment or a story at the bottom of this page! It’s always good to hear from you….!
Thanks and Other Things and Pictures
The music for this show is Peter on the fiddle, and his grandson, Ira Karp, on the drums. Pictures from their epic session below. Also, the show features Sinfonia number 15 in B Minor, from the 1955 Goldberg Variations, performed by Glenn Gould.
Thanks to Clare Dolan, Jennifer Miller, Larry Massett, Scott Carrier and Marc Estrin for their help on this show. And to Elka Schumann for her patience.
Thank you Donna Bister for sending me beautiful pictures!
Thank you!! Great interview, very interesting. We’ve been making an annual pilgrimage to B&P since 1994 & love hearing Peter’s responses to your excellent questions.
I’m so pleased you liked it Ralph!
Wonderful interview, thank you so much.
I was ten in 1967 when my sixteen year-old sister graduated high school early and joined the Bread and Puppet. She traveled the world with the B & P for about 12 years, so I grew up going to shows and sometimes stepping around puppeteers sleeping all over our house when they would come to the Boston area. Peter and his wife Elka are sort of mythical figures in my childhood. I so very much enjoyed listening to this. I especially loved Peter’s comments about children and his description of listening to them in awe. I’ve been working with children for forty years and I still feel that way about kids.
At four o’clock in the morning, to hear Peter Schumann speak about the intangible miles away… A treat! Thanks.
many thanks for your deep listening and insightful questions, but still puzzling over peter’s answers, even after all these years. much food for thought/feeling.
Thanks for this. I could listen to Peter all day. And have, at times. Having witnessed Peter in action many times, having been directed by him, and having read many pieces by Peter and about Bread and Puppet, i would cower to do an interview with him. So, bravo, and, again, thanks. He has always struck me as more shaman than artist. Imagine taking on “Faust 3,” as he describes, with Goethe having died doing “Faust 2,” as he says. Damn! His responses to your questions are kind and provocative and resonate with so much soul. I know some of the things he says are hard to fathom but they are well-worth the effort (including, as he kind of implies, doing one’s homework and reading Heidegger, Adorno, Goethe, listening to John Cage, Glenn Gould, learning about Merce Cunningham, and so on). I suppose Peter has been one of the great teachers in my life and i am learning from him still. I’ve always thought that Peter exemplified what Lorca talks about in his famous essay “Play and Theory of the Duende” . Peter knows duende. It was the duende in the pageants that i first saw in 1981, that hooked me and kept me coming back. I daresay that Peter’s responses in this interview constitute a companion piece to Lorca’s essay. Finally, i think you (if you haven’t already come across it) and your listeners might appreciate this 2002 CBC Ideas series on Bread and Puppet by Canadian journalist David Cayley: http://www.davidcayley.com/podcasts/2015/1/9/puppet-uprising-the-art-of-peter-schmanns-bread-and-puppet-theater
oops – the Lorca link didn’t come through on my comment. Trying again: http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Spanish/LorcaDuende.htm
Thank you yet again Erica.
You do a truly wonderful job in eliciting responses from your subjects.