est. July 2009

Lisa Krause's Artwork (2003-Present)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

November Wilderness- Brothers Quay, Deep in the Belly, OM, DV D'Andrea

Pretty amazing month here, November 2012...  In addition to Eamon's Songs of the Abyss Book Release and performing Ishi's Brain for the first times at Windup and in Brooklyn at Tomato House, we've experienced some really unforgettable stuff.  I feel so fortunate to live this life where we can experience such awe and beauty.

Brothers Quay at MoMA 11Nov2012

While in New York for Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival, we went to MoMA to see the first retrospective of the lifetime of work from the Brothers Quay.  I was very moved by that show- and that really doesn't happen often enough for me.  When first entering the exhibit, the room is dark and a ghostly black and white film is projected onto the wall you first see when entering.  Behind you is a large photograph of the twins and their mother- with branches of trees installed in the gallery.  Watching the film loop from beginning to end and the hypnotic flickering light and music put me in the right state of mind to enjoy the show most deeply.  I slowly walked through the exhibits- reading handwritten notes and stage directions, inspecting puppets and set construction and watching films.  I drew a bunch in my notebook but grew really annoyed at the iPhone people- quickly moving through the exhibit snapping pictures.  I didn't take any photos but stole these from people who posted them online- but it doesn't matter since they shouldn't have been taking them anyway.  The more annoyed I got, the slower I moved through the show.  And so despite those people, I found that the slower I moved and longer I took- the more the show ingrained itself into my mind in a way that just taking photos can't achieve.

If you get a chance to go, I really recommend it.  And stand there as long as possible.

Someone that wrote a way better review of the show than me: Floating World

Deep in the Belly at Black Cherry, Baltimore. 19Nov2012

Friends I met at Bread and Puppet this summer came through touring their new performance Endless Distances of Desire.  I set up a sold out show for them at Black Cherry and it was great to see their work.  Part shadow puppets, part masked dance and live music- it was a beautiful myth:  “Wilderness has been relegated and subjugated as an innately dangerous and barren desert in our world of buildings that scrape the sky and flickering boxes in every living room. Our hero travels deep in the belly to find the guts of the wild.” 

Yes...Wilderness  \m/

OM - Ottobar, Baltimore. 24Nov2012

The new OM record is incredible and seeing them play live was totally powerful.  They are now a 3 piece with the addition of Rob Lowe (Lichens, 90 Day Men), and his haunting singing and percussion is a great compliment.  Al Cisneros has a presence like a doom metal J Mascis, while exploring the same realm as Daniel Higgs.  It was a huge contrast to seeing High on Fire in DC the night before.  I can't imagine what the personality types must have been like in Sleep.  Anyway, I really was affected by them and their humble appreciation.  That show is staying with me, and prompted me to reflect and post about the wave of experiences from this entire month.

This tour is actually with Daniel Higgs, although he was mysteriously absent from the Baltimore show.  I wish I could be around to hear the conversations that occur between those rock n roll refugee mystics.

The tour poster is beautiful, and so I looked up their artist.  I'm so excited about DV D'Andrea's illustrations.  Reading a bit about his bio, he seems to go to a place much like ours- surrounded by old books with scientific flora/fauna, occult, alchemical imagry and mysticism, plant life and bones.
Below are some of my deep favorites.
Other work by David V. D'Andrea:


This has been a really great month. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bread and Puppet Summer Apprenticeship: Part 1

Photo: Matt Palo
I spent just over a month this summer as an apprentice with Bread and Puppet in Glover, Vermont.  

This is something that I’ve wanted to do for about 10 years, since when I was more of an activist doing Food Not Bombs and working at New World Resource Center in Chicago.  But it was something out of reach in my former life.  While it is easier now, coming up with the money to drop out of my life for a month was hard to do.  But now after the experience- I can't imagine not having done it.  I am thankful now that I can go because of my current lifestyle, flexible occupations, and Eamon.

Before leaving, I knew that going to Bread and Puppet is a chance to live collectively among activists and artists while collaborating on political puppetry and I was curious about the way that something like this can actually happen.  
I was looking forward to having the opportunity to work under Peter Schumann-  to understand just what kind of person could travel the world with urgent, politically relevant, beautiful and often terrifying puppet shows completely made out of trash for 50 years.  I have come to realize that he is not slowing down.  He is becoming more urgent with his years.

“There is no time…” 

“Art making against the existing order of life”

Bread and Puppet began as community theater, tackling the neighborhood issues inherent to a city such as New York, but it quickly grew.  The idea was to make political theater in the streets of New York in the 60s as a reaction to Vietnam.  To interrupt the faceless masses of people trying to hold on to conservative ideas during a time of world-wide insanity. Only a few people who had some of the facts  were freaking out in their minds. What can be done?  Tell their stories.  Perhaps the urgency was due to the lack of information available at that time, before computers gave us more than we can understand.  
“For us there was a need to create something better than stupid leaflets and intellectualizing- its boring."  Peter said,  "It’s the color and speed that gets to people.”

Peter Schumann began as a sculptor.  He uses scrap materials and works with the clay dug from the farm in all of it's awful naturalness. He moves quickly from project to project.  Sculpting, painting, carving... we come to finish it with paper-mache over the clay, rigging the puppets, or printing his woodcuts.  I had a very liberating feeling there watching him work.  Seeing him work quickly with whatever is available was one of many realizations that helped me reflect on my own values.  Its funny how a 70+ year old man can be more of a punk anarchist than I ever was.  He works hard with whatever is available- using cardboard collected from local businesses, mixing glue from cornstarch-based packing peanuts, and painting with leftover house paint- everything is recycled.  The aesthetic is raw, quick, unapologetic, and intense.  If you need it, you make it.  Like when I needed a strap to carry my drum- in 2 min. I was quickly shown how to make one from a flat bike inner tube, trash foam, and duct tape.

“The world is a giant terrible place.  We must create chaos to live in this terrible mess”

Peter's aesthetic style of woodcut is as much part of Bread and Puppet as the puppets are.  Jagged words chalked out and cut into scrap masonite and printed on old bed sheets with watered down house paint. Swirling archetypes, iconography and words in a form of english intended for a more urgent impending time.  
During our visit, Peter and Elka gave us a tour of the print shop.  Peter told us about how in New York he would use the masonite that was ripped out of the tenement houses that were constantly being gutted- or from the backs of furniture thrown in the alleys.  He makes the woodcuts in the quiet winter months and while it used to be his wife Elka that decided the color and printing, Lila prints them now- working with Elka on those decisions.  The fabric prints are often sewn into things used in our parades and performances as well as stocking the museum store with posters, banners, patches, flags, etc.

"A fragment of an image of a story becomes a big huge show" 

The Bread and Puppet Museum is in what used to be a dairy barn from the 1800s.  It's a massive building that houses work from across the 50 years of the theater's existence.  In addition to puppets of all sizes there are dioramas, reliefs, small paintings on cardboard, flat wooden figures and giant paper mache globes.  Each stall and bay has scenes of shows with puppets of various sizes in themes such as Anti-Vietnam War, the assassinations of Oscar Romero and Chico Mendes, My Lai Massacre, Cambodian genocide, Environmental themes, angelic figures, Uncle Fatsos- the grotesque counterpart of Uncle Sam, Persephone, St. Francis, Medieval and Pagan figures, giant red demons representing the threat of nuclear war, and the garbage men and washer women who fix everything.

During my internship, I had the good fortune of getting my first choice of jobs- working in the Museum.  I really enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with work that has spanned the entire history of Bread and Puppet.  I enjoyed the intimate experience with all of the work while cleaning the exhibits and even got to repair some of Peter's work that had proven its impermanence a little too soon.  After our Friday night shows, I was often staff in the museum store and got to anonymously overhear audience members reaction to the shows, learned how far they travelled to come, and also helped to educate the public on some of the exhibits.  My favorite part of the job was getting to know and working directly with Elka Schumann.

Elka giving us a tour of the museum when we first arrived.
Photo: Elmogin Huang
The Bread and Puppet Museum Store
Photo: Elmogin Huang

"PEOPLE have been THINKING too long that ART is a PRIVILEGE of the MUSEUMS & the RICH.  ART IS NOT BUSINESS!  It does not belong to banks & fancy investors.  ART IS FOOD.  You cant EAT it BUT it FEEDS you.  ART has to be CHEAP & available to EVERYBODY"  Across the street from the museum lies the Cheap Art Bus.  It serves as a place for puppeteers and interns to make a little money selling things they make- from small art to prints, patches and stickers.  I found a little time a few weeks in to the summer where I drew and painted warriors on cardboard and sewed a frame of sticks around them.  It felt good to have a quiet activity in my free time and sell all the stuff I made.

"I am an anarchist.  Bread and Puppet is over-organized anarchy."

Every morning began with a meeting at 9am during which Peter would lay out the plan for the day ...which would then be amended at the 2pm afternoon meeting.  He would often give quick plans for rehearsals, or the development of shows and other projects on the agenda- and then he'd be off to finish baking bread, paint a contestoria, sculpt or paint new puppets.  It was then turned over to those just under Peter that would decide how exactly things would get done- these were the puppeteers who have been working with Bread and Puppet for many years.  Most days there were 40-60 of us- we'd pick our jobs to be handled in smaller groups and reconvene after siesta.  At the end of each morning meeting, we sang Shape Note songs.  This was something very difficult for me because I don't just sing all the time, and I had an involuntary repulsion to many of the songs because of their Christian themes.  Later though I realized the epic intensity of reviving songs written ages ago out of awe and reverence for nature.  Maybe it was a survival tactic, but I began to realize how many of the most apocalyptic songs would be great metal covers. It was felt great to start the day yelling with a huge group of friends.

This was one of my favorites:

Word quickly got around among my new friends that I loved the idea of a shape-note metal band, and so by late in the month something epic happened.  Eamon came up to visit with Matthew Thurber and Rebecca Bird- and they bore witness to one of the most amazing things that has ever happened for my birthday: Sacred Harpcore.  A huge group of some of my favorite people made my idea happen!  It was amazing to see a them get all dressed up, sharpie tattooed, and growl the lyrics to these songs.  I was really shocked and before it was over they grabbed me, a pit broke out, and they crowd-surfed me!  Hilarious!

Our days often included night activities where we learned more about the history of Bread and Puppet through a panel discussion of long time company members taking place at Emergent Mosaic, an exhibit of photography by Mark Dannenhauer.  There were also opportunities to go to political actions and protests surrounding the Vermont Tarsands project and installation of the controversial wind turbines.  We saw many shows from visiting performers and puppeteers- including Less Miserable- a 100 person huge touring show adaptation of Les Miserables, directed by Baltimore-based Donna Sellinger of Missoula Oblongata.  There also were shows by current puppeteers doing Bertold Brecht's St. Joan of the Stockyards, a performance of Do Right Bellyfire, Do Right Monkey Brain at Plank House Farm where Bread and Puppet's Rose Friedman and Justin Lander live, and Y No HabĂ­a Luz from Puerto Rico, among others.  

* * * * *
All quotes are by Peter Schumann from my notes, unless otherwise cited. 

Next: Part 2- Bread and Puppet style 4th of July Parades, our first weekly Friday night show "The Possibilitarians", and development and rehearsals for the weekly Sunday Circuses and Pageants.

Later: Part 3- The Everything and Everywhere Dance Circus, The Pageant of The Possibilitarians, the second weekly Friday night show "The Shatterer of Worlds" and saying goodbye to your mother ...among other people. 

Disclaimer:  This is my second draft of writing this entry.  I already wrote the entire thing and had it pretty ready to publish but then accidentally deleted it.  Aaahrgh!  I hope I can recreate the mood accurately now that I've been back a few weeks.  Also, I'm using some other people's photos and giving credit- so If you see something you took not cited-Please let me know. Thanks!

Bread and Puppet: : Part 2- Bread and Puppet's 4th of July Parades, our first weekly Friday night show "The Possibilitarians", and development and rehearsals for the weekly Sunday Circuses and Pageants

"We are all in the same Boat"  As soon as the internship began, we started learning the sequence for the parades Bread and Puppet had been booked to participate in for the 4th of July celebrations in 5 surrounding Vermont villages.  We revisited a parade that they had done in New York for May Day this past year.  It was a chapterized performance where the first part involved many people inside of a boat that was made of a long continuous printed fabric and several large flags that look like sails- each person holds up a section and dips while walking forward.  I was in the a drumline in the boat that alternated with the yodeling singers, giving them a break and keeping momentum for the length of the parade.  There were random interruptions by cymbalists that ran around the boat clashing- signaling rough seas and the sinking of the boat.  People would thrash the fabric back and forth and collapse to the ground- drowned, while the drums were beating wildly.  We would then resurrect with Genevieve Yeuillaz beginning the calling yodel from the front of the boat- echoing back and forth until the sails and boat rose and we began to march again.

Each time we drowned, we would be heckled by longtime puppeteer Linda Elbow- dressed as a CEO, and Peter Schumann- dressed as Santa Claus who was walking with Uncle Fatso in his own ship: The Pursuit of Want.  Behind them were the 1% stilters and their brass band- dressed in fancy clothes and drinking cardboard martinis saying "they're all in the same boat".  Following them were skeleton with long arms wearing signs that said "Excellent Wind" representing the controversial wind farming- and the end were children dressed in blue waving flags that said "the Wave of the Future".   Reactions were varied from applause to crossed arms, support to confusion- but Peter said it was one of our most successful parade performances.  Each town had invited us and were happy we were there to add a spectacle to their annual parade celebration.

Video by my friend Myra, one of the printshop interns

 “Cultural preparation precedes revolution, not through organizing or arms training”  Every day through the week was spent in rehearsal of some kind.  Either we were practicing for the Friday show, the Sunday Pageant, or developing acts for the Sunday Circus.  The process of developing acts began with us listing ideas and inter-/national or local issues that we were passionate about.  It was facilitated by the staff puppeteers, and they would do a great job guiding projects and helping them be most successful.  We would go over the list in small parts deciding which acts we each would want to participate in.  Then we would break off to go to the shed where all of the masks, puppets, and props are stored.  There were things made over the course of the history of Bread and Puppet available for us to use in this space.    

It is a really well organized and beautifully overwhelming place.  I enjoyed wandering the walkways exploring all the giant boxes and masks hanging overhead.  This process was pretty hard for me, because I'm not used to improvisational acting.  But it was always interesting to see what everyone was able to come up with in the 20 minutes or so that we had to put something together before showing it to the group.  Acts that weren't used in the Circus were available to be revisited on our own as Ding-Dongs- side shows that happen before the Circus starts, as a way to welcome the audience that trickles into the Circus Field.  Peter seemed to appreciate the new interpretations of characters created for acts and performances long ago.

An act that wasn't used about Immigration

"Remember the importance of joy and uplifting in activism" While some of our acts had serious tones, it was important to keep them fast and strange in order for them to be exciting to the audience.  So much can be conveyed in humor or absurdity, even when the theme is somewhat bleak.  After returning from the shed and practicing a bit in our small groups, would show our skits in the backyard between the garden and the house where the staff puppeteers live.   We would go through each act- with or without a response.  Then the acts would be further developed, combined, shortened, put on hold for the next week or axed all together.

(somewhat) Captive Audience

The Circus band showing new songs and rehearsing Flatso movement for the Pagaent

Vermont Yankee act- about America's Geriatric Power Plants and the Zebra that runs through the Circus

“We use all our performances as rehearsals.  We never ever finish them because the performance is a rehearsal. Its just a rehearsal with public, so the public becomes an actor...

Interior of the Dirt Floor Theater
(AKA the Paper-Mache Cathedral)

...Its not that you bring something to perfection and they eat it up- that’s not the case- you bring something to imperfection and they have to then help you ...chew it, do something with it, digest it.  They have to help, they have to do something.  If you just dish up something they can expect anyways, it’s not good.”

After our shows on Friday night and the Circus and Pageant on Sunday- we had a day off on Monday.  Tuesday morning meeting was when we heard back from Peter about the performances and got an outline for the week ahead. It was then that we learned what would be changed in each of the shows or acts, and what would need to be developed in the week ahead.  Following that Tuesday morning was also our work day- where we did our main jobs on the farm.  I was in the Museum restocking the store, cleaning, and repairing displays; but after that we returned to work on our shows and acts. 

“What is a Possibilitarian?  It is a utopianist, someone who believes in what is possible in this impossible world”  

Photo: Matt Palo

This years season of imperfect performances began on July 6th with our first show of The Possibilitarians in the Paper Mache Cathedral.  The Cathedral is a former barn that is now a dirt floor performance space covered in paper mache reliefs and paintings from floor to ceiling. It was a show we did the next 2 Fridays -until we first performed The Shatterer of Worlds on July 27th.  The Possibilitarians was inspired by the Diggers- an 17th Century squatters movement in England where people reclaimed common land and lived in peace without god or government.  The show began with a contestoria, which is a series of painted pictures on fabric banners attached to a pole so they can be  flipped as the song is sung.  We sang World Turned Upside Down that told the history of their uprising in order to set the tone for our show. 

One of my favorite verses:

They make the laws
To chain us well
The clergy dazzle us with heaven
Or they damn us into hell

We will not worship
The God they serve
The God of greed who feeds the rich
While poor men starve

Photo: Cynthia Ene
Once the gong rang and the audience was seated, I helped open the show by lowering the biggest marionette I've ever seen from the loft above so it could dive over the audience and begin a dance sequence with clouds.  It took 12 people working in tandem to operate the puppet smoothly, and my job was basically what my thumb does to control the marionettes that we use at Black Cherry Puppet Theater- I helped steady the head and make her movements more dramatic.

In this video by Matt Palo taken on July 20th- our last performance of this particular show, You can see the descent of the Blue Sky Goddess that began The Possibilitarians.  I'm up in the balcony to the right.  In the second act, you can also see me playing the chimes- which were basically 6" washers, rusty circular saw blades, and iron scrap chunks of metal tied to the 2x4s that framed the walls and hit with smaller metal rods as strikers- for the Animal Dance in Paradise.

The Earth Momma, a gift from the Blue Sky Goddess
The Earth Momma was delivered during the Blue Momma's first appearance.  Following the cloud dance, puppeteers manipulated separate pieces of her form.  The Earth Momma was confused- pieces were at war with one another- it kept forming different sculptural shapes until finally becoming a reclining woman and gave birth to a small, naked, and scared looking man.

The Proletariot
I'm not sure if that spelling of proletariat was intentional, but it seemed that way.  In this act- these 2D cardboard people came out garbling and hooting in a wild mess- dancing forward to see the man born from the Earth Momma.  Various representatives came forth from the crowd preaching about agrarian theology, injustices committed against the earth, and respect for all kind.  The other characters echoed back what each representative said in a silly chatter and danced from side to side.

Following this act was the University of Hands and Feet, where we learned basic skills such as caring for one another, the benefits of digging in the dirt, and raising hands against the existing order of life.  We learned to walk carrying our body and soul, and to kick the ass of government.  

Then everyone moved to put on jackets and ties, grabbed weapons that had been lain around the stage and raised them in unison for next act: The Epic Battle of Good and Evil.  The battle was entirely in slow motion and we silently killed each other off until we were all dead on the ground, and operatic singers advanced through the bodies- joining us on the dirt floor.  Peter gave his Fiddle Sermon of the folly of our times, calling us to rise up to the potential of a new understanding.  We finished with several verses of The Diggers Song.

* * * * *
All quotes are by Peter Schumann from my notes, unless otherwise cited. 

Coming Soon: Part 3- The Everything and Everywhere Dance Circus, The Pageant of The Possibilitarians, the second weekly Friday night show "The Shatterer of Worlds" and saying goodbye to your mother ...among other people.