Week three saw the beginning of a range of workshops held by fellow students in class, allowing their peers to delve deeper into the key conventions and themes within the Bread and Puppet Theater Company.
The first workshop, which was held by Jo and Miranda, gave us an insight into the creative music ideas of the Bread and Puppet theatre, which included the explanations of the instruments used and the way in which the music of the “Sacred Harp” is performed in terms of staging, singing and locations.
Jo and Miranda firstly stimulated the groups vocal chords with a singing warm-up involving the forwards and backwards flow of the numbers 1-8, “1 1 2 1 1 2 3 2 1...” This was followed by a group rendition of The Sound of Music’s “Doe a dear...” Although not everyone know the song, Jo and Miranda incorporated this into the exercise by dividing the group up into melody and repetition of lyrics, giving the group basic experience of harmonies and groupings before challenging the group with a sacred harp song.
Once the group had experienced a sense of communal singing, it was time to learn a sacred harp song, taught by Jo (who also led the song on piano, taken over later by Matthew) and Miranda. Placing the group in a seated square formation, the group were divided into four harmonies, bass, tenor, soprano and alto. Learning the song “he leadth me”, was then the focus of the group’s attention, gradually but confidently, the group slowly became a vocally-pleasing community choir. With our new found skills and talent for learning harmonies, we then incorporated instruments (some being sticks or small metal bowls) into the piece. Each harmony section then had to manipulate the sound of the instruments to fit with their section. Upon returning to the main group, we then sang once again to perfect the noise, before taking our newly-made Bread and Puppet choir to the bridge of Wettons, to the delight of traffic and passers-by. This experience was not only extremely exciting and enjoyable, but the group’s unity and enthusiasm also generated the feeling of a community, as if we were part of a Bread and Puppet protest, to which the general public were taking an interest in. The outdoors also impacted on the piece itself, the group became louder and appeared to have more of a purpose in performing the piece, once passers’ by started to take notice of the group.
Following on from this we then discussed the idea of a “poor theatre”, to which the group contributed points such as “Can the Bread and Puppet really be a poor theatre if the puppets are so visually spectacular?” This then developed into the idea of “voluntary poverty” to which the performers are devoting their lives to the company, knowing they may not earn money, but are satisfied knowing they are influencing and making a difference to the lives of those, they perform to.
Moving on from this, we discussed the key readings, including “Sacral Theatre”, to which ideas included “the strong element of political protest within the theme of the Vietnam war”. We then discussed the possible reasons for why the Bread and Puppet theatre would hold a strong influence over Stefan Brecht, resulting in suggestions such as “both types of theatre are similar in terms of political values and aims”, “both use similar objects such as placards”, “radical movement was a key theme of the time”, “the use of puppets was completely out of the ordinary” and the lack of fear by performers to try and influence society”. The discussion generated various key themes within the Bread and Puppet theatre, such as the central theme of war in many plays.
Being three weeks into the project, the workshop groups then divided up so that a representative from each group could give feedback on the progress they have made, relating to their upcoming workshops. All groups appeared to have many creative ideas for the workshops and seemed keen to discuss their research into their topic.
Next workshop! BRING BOOTS!!! ( will need them for the workshop making)...
List of Materials:
• Black marker pen
• Toilet roll, newspaper
• Pva glue
• Old fabric/children’s clothes
• A balloon