“Our glorious civilization glorifies itself with what it calls high art. Puppeteers have no soul-searching trouble in that respect. What we produce has no ambition to be high art. Low art is what we make and what we want. Not the Fine Arts—the Coarse Arts are what we use.”
— Peter Schumann, lecture to art student at SUNY Purchase, 1987
On Thursday, October 8, 2015, from 4pm-6pm, San Francisco Unified School District Visual and Performing Arts Department Elementary/K-8 and Secondary Arts Coordinators gathered on the stage of the Curran Theater for a Cantastoria Workshop, led by Clare Dolan and members of the 2015 West Coast touring company of Bread and Puppet Theater.
The workshop participants were welcomed to The Curran: Under Construction by Carole Shorenstein Hays, Greg Backstrom and Brian Farley. Andi Wong of Rooftop Alternative School spoke on the theme of “Inspiration,” having received a healthy dose of wonder at the Bread and Puppet Farm in Glover, Vermont, in advance of the troupe’s Bay Area visit. SFUSD Arts Education Master Plan Implementation Manager Antigone Trimis drew connections to student learning, school site culture and climate. After an introductory slide show about Bread and Puppet Theater and cantastoria by Clare Dolan, the art coordinators gathered on the stage of the historic theater to learn by doing.
Cantastoria is one of the oldest performance forms known to humans, originating in India more than two thousand years ago. It typically involved one or two performers, often performing on the street, and a multi-image scroll or a series of paintings mounted together at the top. Bread & Puppet Theater’s version of Cantastoria is usually performed with a narrator who points at the pictures and one or two “choruses” who respond to the narration. The subject of the cantastoria can be anything and directed to any age audience.
Clare Dolan and Bread and Puppet performers Esteli Kitchen, Joshua Krugman,Kali Therrien, Luis Gabriel Sanabria, MJ Hicks, and Tom Cunningham guided participants through the creation, narration and choral performing of this ancient art form.
Bread and Puppet Theater & Cantastoria / Common Core Connections
• Ensemble • Risk • Improvisation • Visual Literacy • Inquiry (necessary for the ensemble to create the piece, will bring added empathy for subject being presented) • Oral Presentation • Close Reading (visual and physical movement, etc, what is the ‘text’ in this work? For the performer? For the audience?) • Student Voice (primary in this work)
For additional information about Bread and Puppet Theater and Cantastoria:
• Bread and Puppet Theater http://breadandpuppet.org/
• The Internet Archive “Bread and Puppet Archive” is preserving 150 hours of video of circuses, pageants, passion plays, 250 puppeteers, and making it available to the public. https://archive.org/details/breadandpuppet
• “Ah! The Hopeful Pageantry of Bread and Puppet” by Dee Dee Halleck and Tamar Schumann https://archive.org/details/ah_the_hopeful_pageantry_of_bread_and_puppet
• “About Sung Paintings or Cantastoria” by Clare Dolan, Museum of Every Day Life http://museumofeverydaylife.org/wp-content/uploads/About-Sung-Paintings-or-Cantastoria3.pdf
• Clare Dolan answers the question: What is cantastoria?
• Clare Dolan & Bread and Puppet Theater perform “The Sky” (2007). https://youtu.be/NcmvHzeLwvY
• Banners and Cranks: a traveling cantastoria & cranky festival http://bannersandcranks.org/