For my third visit to Bread and Puppet in Glover Vermont last summer, I was lucky enough to have my son along. We had just finished poking around the “Cheap Art” bus
and were headed back to our car ready to call it a day, when we saw Bread and Puppet founder, Peter Schumann crossing the street. Our chance to say hello and tell him in person how much we love his work!
He graciously set down his wheelbarrow and asked us whether we’d been to the Memory Forest. “Come along,” he said. “It’s a special place.” We persuaded him to let young, strapping Isaiah take up the wheelbarrow laden with little cement figures and down the path and into the woods we went.
I kept pace with Peter and his grandson so I could benefit from the most wondrous telling of Jack and the Beanstalk that Peter was concocting for his grandson. It is not hard to understand why hundreds of puppeteers over the last 4 decades have spent their summers laboring for free on Bread and Puppet productions. I can see that a chance to hang out with Peter Schumann would make for a magical summer. (Here’s the link to apply for a summer apprenticeship. )
We made our way through the impeccably straight pines and suddenly we saw what appeared to be a little village.
This is the Memory Forest, where each puppeteer who has passed on from this world is honored. “Every Wednesday”, Peter explained, “we gather to tell stories of one of these puppeteers. We will never forget them. Look around. Each one has a place here.”
Peter got to work unloading the wheelbarrow and added the little figures to one of memorials. When he was done he bid us farewell, saying, “Make sure you visit the Paper Maché Cathedral before you go!” A cathedral? How did we miss that? “It’s back behind the Museum, ” Peter explained. So off we went, stopping on the way to admire the amphitheater (a former gravel pit) where the outdoor performances of Bread and Puppet are held each weekend in the summer. We vowed to come back next summer!
If you’re a Vermont school bus and you’ve been very, very good, you might just come back for a second life at Bread and Puppet!
We made a pit stop on the way over to the Paper Maché Cathedral, appreciative of the excellent illustrated instructions on the side of the loo.
The exterior of the Paper Maché Cathedral is magnificent enough–but wait til you step inside…
As we cracked open the door the shaft of light illuminated the hundreds of figures dancing on the walls and ceiling:
We’d be in good company if a rainy day forced the performance inside.
This panoramic image does justice to the concept of this space as a cathedral.
Hallelujah to Peter Schumann!