Sun and Puppets
With the beginning of the summer commences the Bread and Puppet (more info here) summer season at their farm in Glover, Vermont. During the first week the company created, developed and rehearsed various shows that would become the Whatforward Circus and Onward Pageant Sunday shows, as well as Faust 3 and TINA, a cantastoria about Margaret Thatcher's political world, presented on Fridays. The acts evolve, as the season progresses  with new segments added, deleted or altered and apprentices, on ocassions, taking on leadership roles within segments.
 
The company welcomed apprentices-puppeteers from various cities of the United States, but also from St. Thomas, Switzerland, Puerto Rico and Canada. Apprentices become an essential part of the farm as they help with daily chores, besides learning about puppetry. Some of the them spent 9 weeks living in the farm, others will stay for 5 weeks, after which a new batch of apprentices, long time puppeteers collaborator and volunteers will join in the company.


I lived with the company during this week documenting their rehearsals.

Stage and backstage areas for the Whatforward Circus. Farther away, the field where performance area for the Onward pageant.

The farm, located in the Northeast Kingdom area, in Central North Vermont, functions as a semi isolated temporary community for apprentices where members eat, rehearse, spend time off together and contribute to the daily operation of the farm. Here, company members during a moment of rest.

Apprentices were encouraged to create and present mini performances for the Whatforward Circus, although many of them ended up repurposed for Ding Dongs, or mini performances presented before the beginning of the Circus. Here, two of the apprentices and looking for props for their act.

During the first week, apprentices are assigned minor parts within shows, which they have to learn in a few days. Later on, they move into more important roles, sometimes taking leadership roles for apprentices that come in the middle of the season. At the same time, apprentices are adapting to the partially off-the-grid (camping, compost toilets, no wifi, or cellphone reception) communal life at the farm.

Open fields are a staple of many of Bread and Puppet shows. Rehearsals and shows take place outdoor, on a field where puppeteers transport  human size puppets as the show develops. During the Onward Pageant, spectators look from afar, as puppets and humans follow their choreograph movements. The musical sounds and short dialogues complement the dramatic visuals of the play. 

Taking cover under one of the flags used for the Whatforward Circus. 

Puppets are made out of cardboard, and other cheap materials. It’s part of the Bread and Puppet manifesto: Cheap Art, rejecting commercial production values the company attempts to make art accessible to everyone.

Despite the high temperatures and blistering sun the mood during rehearsal is always jovial, resembling dreams of carefree days.

During the last meeting before the beginning of the Circus one of the company volunteers pay attention during the last meeting before the Whatforward Circus! starts.

Apprentices during the opening acts of the What Forward Circus.

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