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The Mass Media

First World Insurrection

First World Insurrection: World on Fire and How To Turn Distress into Success was performed at the Cambridge YMCA for a “post election ruckus,” by the Bread and Puppet Theater based out of Vermont. I went to the play, and I totally did not know what to expect. I read about it in online, and it sounded like something different: a political puppet show for a mature audience.

The show was put on in conjunction with other events in the area. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons a family friendly show was performed called “The Upside Down World Circus.” It featured upside down figures trained by first world leaders, such as Thomas Jefferson. There was also an art exhibit at Lesley University by Peter Schumann, the director of The Bread and Puppet Theater, called “The U.S Senate reads an Email by the late Rachel Corrie to her Parents.”

The play opened with two groups of people, one dressed in red and one in white. One of the women in red gave a speech on fire and why people would set one. The chorus sang out after her the reasons to start a fire. Then a group of people in wild red and white costumes dressed as clowns in rags, some with Pinocchio noses, came and screeched musical instruments and captured all the people dressed in white and dubbed them “The Asymmetrical Prisoners of War.” The people changed their clothes into prison uniforms.

The performers in red disappeared behind the curtain, and the people in the clown costumes danced around and played their instruments and spouted wisdom about fire and war, repeating “World on Fire,” several times. A pig with a paper mache hat turned around a music stand with a saying on it periodically displaying different things, such as “The Hands of the World Were on Fire.” Then, the pig would open a curtain and giant hands would move around, and “The Asymmetrical Prisoners of War” would play their instruments and shout or scream or make funny noises.

There was a pattern to the show, in which parts would repeat, and after a few times I knew what section would happen next. It was more like poetry or performance art than a play, with themes repeated to drive the point. There was a part when one of the clowns in the red and white costumes played a broom like a guitar and another one screeched and made the guitar noises. In between the performers would shout political messages, such as “The President ordered the fire!”

The second act of the show was “How to Turn Distress into Success.” The story was about a school that tried to teach someone (a puppet) how to be successful. The More More More Society (which consisted of men in suits holding giant puppets) tried to show him how to turn distress into success by teaching him about war and why it shouldn’t happen. There was a part when the narrator said, “You have to invent an enemy,” and the demonstrators pointed to a puppet and placed a sign on him that said “Enemy.” Then the enemy changed. The message of the show is that war is wrong, no matter how we view it.

The show concluded with only large heads on the stage that looked like Easter Island monuments, with the chorus singing “Oo. Oo.” I enjoyed the show, because I like things that are different, but I think that people who are not into offbeat entertainment would have liked it as much as I did.