Gertrude died today. At 103. One year older than West-Park. When I first arrived here, she lived one block north of the church in a Sr. Citizen section 8 that eventually went market rate when all the contracts of the late sixties war on poverty began to expire. I loved her retirement independent/assisted living place she moved into when she left her house. I used to enjoy their theme parties, their Friday afternoon happy hours. And her 100th birthday party. When she moved t the Throg’s Neck , two hours away by public transportation, I became harder. I’m sorry that I didn’t get to say goodbye.
I make it back from a Social Witness Council meeting in the Village in time to catch the last half of Bread and Puppet’s opening night. It’s a pretty full house. And as I look around, a lot of silver hair to be seen. People who remember B&P from when they were young. And the US seemed on the verge of a sea change. The War ended. But basically what we got was the American cultural revolution.
The world that B&P creates has the feel of ‘70’s avant garde. But also something medieval. Or even deeper. Ancient. Archetypal. Drawing on both ritual and spectacle. Accompanied by their Cheap Art Sale, B&P continues to be an act of resistance. They’ve never once wavered or wandered Cirque de Soleil style into the mainstream or cultural elite. Their collective work, their communal daily meals for the whole company, all continues to be an expression of visionary resistance. From the guerilla theatre of the streets to their Vermont compound, it continues.
Company founder Peter Schumann is now 80. Somehow gentle and steely at the same time. Still vivid, as Zeljko would say. And though the audience is gray, the company is filled with young people. And there are younger audience members around the edges. The performance ends with bread being brought to a central table and Schumann cutting slices to be dabbed with their special aioli from large wooden bowls and spoons. Carnivale style animals lead the audience to the table and there’s something eucharistic about it. Or again to the deeper roots that underlie the eucharist. Free bread. Cheap art. Political theatre.
The anniversary also includes a retrospective of 50 years of Schumann’s work at the Queens Museum. And a downtown bookstore printed works exhibit. (http://breadandpuppet.org/50th-anniversary-2/50th-anniversary-events-calendar )
Trailer for the Shatterer: http://vimeo.com/75177278
Once again, that intersection of beauty and justice, ethics and esthetics…