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The Embracers are a few of the puppets on display at the Museum of Art
The Embracers are a few of the puppets on display at the Museum of Art

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Bread & Puppet Theater was unlike any other puppet show in the world. The puppets were massive affairs, used originally in the 1960s in New York City to celebrate events like Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving with a puppetry display to rival all others. By 1970 the theater moved to Vermont, where it hosted a massive annual production that turned the entire landscape into a gigantic puppet show. Bread & Puppet's founder, Peter Schumann, called it Our Domestic Resurrection Circus. For 28 years the theater staged these productions every year. Each one had a strong message, usually socialist in content, with themes of overcoming tyranny and oppression -- in the form of cops and politicians, mostly. This antiestablishment message played well in the counterculture mecca that is Vermont. By 1998, though, the scene had degenerated from a politically conscious hippie fest to a mere drug-addled bacchanal. Even so, Bread & Puppet was at the top of its entertainment field, the Rolling Stones of the puppet world; and in that year the group found its Altamont.

The Resurrection Circus of 1998 was the last annual performance, following a violent death in the campground. Schumann permanently shut the circus down, promising to do only a few smaller events in the future.

Beginning Wednesday, March 21, though, the Museum of Art celebrates all that once made Bread & Puppet Theater great. An installation of the spectacular puppets, "The Art of the Puppet," is on display until June 30, and the museum will sponsor a rare production of Our Domestic Resurrection Circus on April 21. Additionally, in conjunction with the Broward County Main Library, Bread & Puppet will participate in the Main Library's Reading Festival set for April 21 and 22. Just checking out the puppetry display makes a visit to the museum worthwhile, though another trip is definitely in order when the circus itself comes to town.

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