Peace group celebrates name change with political puppet show


BENNINGTON -- Bread and Puppet Theater helped celebrate the Greater Bennington Peace and Justice Center's new name by performing their "Total This and That Circus" on Saturday.

Formerly known as the Peace Resource Center, the organization works to advance peacemaking both locally and globally, and hosted the Bread and Puppet Theater company for nearly two hundred people at Mount Anthony Union Middle School.

After dedicating the performance to recently passed Nelson Mandela, David O'Brien of GBPJC listed the organization's vision -- to have all conflicts resolved in non-violent ways.

Launching into the first performance of the evening's show, the six-member theater company (as well as one guest-member) entertained adults and children both with giant puppets and simply costumed actors.

Accompanied by "the circus band," members acted out the five phases of justice and the five categories of warfare, as well as direct critiques of American global-dominance and political policies, with one scene depicting a weary Santa handing out F-35s.

Founded in New York in 1963, Bread and Puppet recently celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in August. Members are based in Glover, and typically perform in northern Vermont all summer followed by month-long traveling tours the rest of the year.

"We usually spend December performing in New York but this year we switched it up," said full-time company member Esteli.

Made up of actors who have been performing with Bread and Puppet between six months and six years, most started as interns and now work solely for the company, which is one of the oldest nonprofit self-supporting theatrical companies in the U.S.

"You really have to be in a specific place in your life," said Esteli, noting the waiting list is "both long and short" for people hoping to join the troupe.

"The list of people who want to (participate) is long, but we sing and dance and play instruments -- so the list of people who can actually leave their real jobs to do that is short," she said.

The performances are given for a donation only, which is used to cover expenses and salaries.

The Greater Bennington Peace and Justice Center meets on the first Thursday of each month at 6:15 p.m., all are welcome. The meetings start with a potluck supper followed by a business discussion, and are held at the Unitarian Universalist Meetinghouse, 108 School St., Bennington.

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