The Bread and Puppet Theater was founded in 1963 by Peter Schumann on New York City’s Lower East Side. It is one of the great, long-standing political theatre groups and the one responsible for introducing giant puppets into the US social movement demo repertoire. Their belief is that puppet theater is a wholesome and powerful language that can touch men and women and children alike. Besides rod-puppet and hand puppet shows for children, the concerns of the first productions were rents, rats, police, and other problems of the neighborhood. More complex theater pieces followed, in which sculpture, music, dance and language were equal partners. The puppets grew bigger and bigger. Annual presentations for Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and Memorial Day often included children and adults from the community as participants. Many performances were done in the street. During the Vietnam War, Bread and puppet staged block-long processions and pageants involving hundreds of people.
In 1974 Bread and Puppet moved to a farm in Glover in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. The 140-year old hay barn was transformed into a museum for veteran puppets. Their Domestic Resurrection Circus, a two-day outdoor festival of puppetry shows, was presented annually through 1998. The company makes its income from touring new and old productions both on the American continent and abroad, and from sales of Bread and Puppet Press posters and publications. The traveling puppet shows range from tightly composed theater pieces presented by members of the company, to extensive outdoor pageants, which require the participation of many volunteers.
Today, Bread and Puppet continues to be one of the oldest, nonprofit, self-supporting theatrical companies in the country.