Today’s iMMERSE podcast is even more unusual than many of the others. I interviewed Elke and Peter Schumann in February of 2020 in their Glover, Vermont home along with Jay Walbert, the archivist for my Archive in nearby Barton, Vermont.
The octagenarian Schumanns immigrated from Germany to New York in 1961 and have led the Bread and Puppet Theater since 1963.
In this podcast, they share their history and artistic politics and bread. As Peter says here: We went around and gave them pieces of bread to eat and found they were a better audience when they were chewing – we liked them better…"
In the beginning of our chat, Peter turns to Elke and says, "When I don’t remember something, you will".
"I will" she says. This happy conversation is ever so dear to me because Elke passed away on August 1, 2021.
I first met Peter in New York in the 1970s through public events maker, Karin Bacon. I first came to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont in 1968 to work with Fluxus artists Dick Higgins and Alison Knowles.
In the years that followed, I bought some land from them and built a house there in the 1990, the house where I now live and am recording this introduction. Since 1990, my relationship with Bread and Puppet and the Schumann in the neighboring town of Glover continued to grow.
The Bread and Puppet Theater engages people, after filling them with hand-milled sourdough bread. They work environmentally and for many decades now, they've been making amazing use of the landscape, natural light changes and natural acoustics. Puppets from tiny to gigantic, signs, banners and hand-made art have always animated their events. Their roadside museum is filled with decades worth of their fanciful performance objects from their local, national and international pageants.
The tradition of handing-out bread always guarantees good spirits and an enthusiastic audience ready to be entertained by the humor, irony, politics, pageantry and their deep concerns for humanity. But let’s just let them tell their own story.
Topics covered in podcast John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Claes Oldenberg, anti-Vietnam war protests, Judson Church, Living Theatre, Red Grooms, Stefan Brecht, Tompkins Square Park, Lower Eastside, Daily street muggings of the Bread & Puppet performers, street performances, Grace Paley, volunteerism, Burning Man, War Resisters League, Strike for Peace, Vermont, Barton, Glover, Northeast Kingdom, Socialist pageants, searching for clay, puppet historian, John Bell, Alison Knowles, Dick Higgins, Earth People Park, Burke, pianist Karl Schwartz, Sheffield, baking rye bread, summer Bread & Puppet performances in Vermont, homemade clay bread oven, May Day, Pageant Park, Crystal Lake, Peter Schumann’s sculptures, the Bread & Puppet Museum, Sheffield River clay wall, The Charlie Morrow Archive ...
Samples playlist: Insurrection Oratorio • Charlie Morrow / Strange Circus • Lee Volfoni / Carnival Of Souls • Verne Langdons / Wonder Bread Commercial 1950s / Bread and Puppet Theater 2021 • Tetsuro Hoshii / Brother Bread Sister Puppet • Grace Paley / Grosse Fuge • Charlie Morrow / Fellini’s Circus • Daniele Benati / Kiddie Land • Prelude to a Nightmare
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