4 August 2012

Puppetry banned in USA once again!

Bread & Puppet's production of Attica 2011
While puppets have been a feature of the political landscape at conventions and large-scale demonstrations for decades, officials have effectively banned them for the Republican National Convention in Tampa. The Tampa Bay Times reports that the city has essentially declared puppets’ components illegal in the RNC event zone, which covers most of the downtown area.

“Their components are not allowed inside the event zone,” Andrea Davis, spokesperson for the Tampa Police Department, told the Tampa Bay Times. “Also their heads have been used to hide weapons and other matter, fecal matter.” No sticks, strings or masks allowed — therefore, no puppets.

Puppet protesters call it a “suppression of civil liberties.”  Tampa-area protesters have held a series of puppet-making workshops in recent weeks for those who plan to protest at the Republican National Convention in from 27-30 August. (See the Tampa Bay Times report here).

Now those of you who are new to the world of 'Puppets and Politics', you may still be aware that this type of phenomenon has been going on for some time, in fact many hundred of years, if not longer.  

The 17th Century saw the violent transition from a pastoral economy to industrial capitalism, the destruction of the commons and the rise of popular resistance movements such as the diggers and the ranters. In England in 1642 Cromwell and his puritans locked the theatres due to fear of spreading revolutionary propaganda, but the puppets were not seen as important and so slipped through the cracks. A short while after, a young Samuel Foote was arrested when took to the streets of London with his 'Punch & Judy' to protest again the monarchy.

The Bread and Puppet Theatre in Glover, Vermont was among the first American groups to practice puppet advocacy. During the Vietnam War, they debuted "Uncle Fatso," who smoked a cigar and tossed dollar bills around and a mother with a dead baby to represent the tyranny of war.

More recently, you can discover for yourselves a whole bunch of news reports in which puppets have been restricted from the public eye, starting with George W Bush’s re-inauguration campaign in 2004 when puppetry was temporarily banned in the United States and the story of the Punch and Judy man who was banned from using Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden puppets in his Kent seaside show in August 2005 (see here). In September 2005, an American puppeteer-activist for the Greenpeace movement, Scott Parkin was deported from Australia because it was discovered that he had been involved in protest theatre in the United States against Exxon Mobile and the list goes on...

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