REHEARSING WITH GODS: Photographs and Essays on Bread & Puppet Theater

Ronald T. Simon, Author, Marc Estrin, Author with photographs by Ronald T. Simon. Chelsea Green $35 (240p) ISBN 978-1-931498-19-7

The Bread and Puppet Theater, which started in the early '60s on New York's Lower East Side, migrated some years later to its present location in Vermont, and the wide open spaces obviously serve its expansive, anarchic being well. Photographer Simon has conducted a 20-year study of Theater founder Peter Schumann, and Simon's 145 duotone photos show the influences of ancient theater and religions, particularly in the gravity of the massive faces of the puppets, made initially from straw, clay and, "according to some alleged medieval German formula," beer. The book is organized around the eight "archetypical" themes of Death, Fiend, Beast, Human, World, Gift, Bread and Hope; however, like Bread and Puppet itself, which combines the creative with the mysterious, themes eddy into other themes. Estrin (Insect Dreams: The Half Life of Gregor Samsa ) makes the strong social activist component of the theater clear, in tones that are by turns humorous and revealing, informational and awestruck (especially when it comes to Schumann). But the stars here are the enormous, fantastical creatures that enact possible freedoms each season. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/03/2004
Release date: 06/01/2004
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