For the first time in Phoenix in over a decade, Arizonans will have the opportunity to witness the spectacle of the Bread & Puppet Theater, stirring up excitement among local artists and puppet enthusiasts.
Founded in 1963 by Peter Schumann in New York, Bread & Puppet is an iconic political puppet theater company. Since its founding, the company has performed in the United States and abroad. The theater is been acclaimed for its political satire and artistic spectacle.
Bread & Puppet's upcoming appearance in Arizona is part of its national tour. The event not only serves as an exciting prospect for art students at ASU, but more specifically the members of the Puppet Club, an ASU organization that played a large role in funding to bring the event to the University.
One such member includes Auberi Zwickel, a graduate teaching assistant at the School of Art. For Zwickel, Bread & Puppet's upcoming appearance will serve as a strong artistic motivator.
"It's things like Bread & Puppet that keep me pushing forward as an artist and not giving up on it," Zwickel said. "I don't think that I would still be believing in the power of art if it weren't for experiencing similar performances."
Zwickel expanded upon this, discussing what the company's appearance could mean for the wider artistic community at ASU.
"There’s not a lot of visibility of art communities here in Phoenix, so it’s really hard to find performances like this," Zwickel said. "I love that my students who don’t get out much get to experience this."
Another Puppet Club member includes Brittney Wegener, a graduate teaching assistant at the School of Art. Similar to that of Zwickel, Wegener also discussed the significance of Bread & Puppet’s appearance in Arizona, highlighting it as a potential learning opportunity as an artist.
"This is an opportunity to become more immersed in performance art," Wegener said. "I'm thinking about that realm and how it works into my own work."
In addition, Wegener described Bread & Puppet Theater as an artistic inspiration because of the company not sacrificing artistry for profit.
"They're not super technology or social media-based, yet they're still making a living and doing all of these cool performances," Wegener said. "They stand for that middle ground between artistry and monetary success."
Amy Simons is a graduate teaching assistant at the School of Art and one of the founding officers of Puppet Club. Simons is excited about how Bread & Puppet will push the artistic limitations of puppetry with its performance.
"Most people have seen a puppet before, but now it's taken up to level eleven," Simons said. "There's both a familiar quality and a lot of appeal to what the event is doing. For example, one act involves a tiger tamer but the tiger is the puppet being operated on and it does tricks as if you were at a real circus."
The company will be presenting the special "Our Domestic Resurrection Circus: Apocalypse Defiance," a performance which is meant to celebrate defiance in the face of "intolerable circumstances," according to the official press release.
For Simons, this represents a longtime effort by Bread & Puppet to build communal ties in response to international adversities.
"Bread & Puppet was founded during the Vietnam War, so it's always included a lot of political messages," Simons said. "I think the goal of this special will be to foster a community in the face of global challenges like climate change."
A similar sentiment was expressed by Zwickel, who discussed the symbolic meaning of the performance.
"The people at the Bread & Puppet Theater want to create hope for people in what feels like a very hopeless time," Zwickel said. "That’s one of the things that art can do: be a light in the dark."
For Wegener, such a goal is indicative of the company's stance against injustice.
"Taking the right step and not letting injustice get slipped under the rug because of 'intolerable circumstances' is what Bread & Puppet is all about," Wegener said. "They don't just want to have fun, they want to have a conversation, and a serious one."
Several students said that the Bread & Puppet Theater's performance will have a major impact both artistically and thematically.
It is for this reason that Simons – a longtime fan of puppetry – hopes that attendees will leave in awe of the potential the medium has to offer.
"I hope the audience leaves with a sense of beauty and celebration," Simons said. "Puppets are special since they represent our ability to animate and communicate anything through them."
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the visit to Phoenix as Bread & Puppet's first due to a source error. The story was corrected on Nov. 9 at 10 a.m. to correct the error.
Edited by Claire van Doren, David Rodish, Kristen Apolline Castillo and Piper Hansen.
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Amir Imam is a reporter for the Echo, providing a unique lens for The State Press and ASU to view pop culture and media through. His articles have covered major projects being done by professors, news in pop culture, and events relevant to students.