The Theater of Crumbs is a methodology to invent your own plot and to make your own bread puppets for developing multimedia and multi-sensorial puppet theatre performances that discuss and address social problems and envision their alternatives or engage more widely in the imagination and sharing of dreams. In those performances the audience is an active participant – all participants are actors around the common, shared stage – the table. While kneading bread together, the diverse people around the table (any age, background, etc.) decide on the main plot of the Theater of Crumbs – as all are crumbs of the same final loaf of bread, both symbolic and real. The plot is going to be developed while deciding on local problems or dreams. This is an original rehearsal for life and for serious community initiatives for change, as we build on the research and conceptual work of the Brazilian expert Augusto Boal, who has invented the “Theatre of the oppressed”. Furthermore, the Theater of Crumbs is also tasty because at the end of the performance the bread puppets are shared as a symbol of the ultimate goal of co-creative work: sharing its creation as well as it wider impact.
Participants: up to 20 people
Materials: flour, yeast, salt, a little bit of sugar, water, oven for baking the bread, big table, additional on hand materials
Length: 60 to 180 minutes
Aim: Creating conditions for common art work, sharing, improvisation, entertainment, looking for a crossing common point on a given topic, recreating critical moments and finding out decisions for real situations.
The whole group is split into couples. Every couple is given a bowl, flour and the other needed ingredients for preparing the dough. Each group kneads dough for the figures. The facilitator helps them explaining which phase is after the other. He/She follows whether the dough is well-kneaded. Here is the moment when the more experienced participants help and show the less experienced ones.
While the dough is rising other games can be played or the other methodologies can be applied, for example “Kitchen music” or “Drawing with flour”.
– The “Kitchen music” method involves a variety of kitchen utensils, from pots and pans to forks and wooden spoons. The goals is to inspire people to explore cacophony and harmony as metaphors of social relations and social exclusion, divisions, and conflict, and work towards a common polyphony, where a few rich rhythms are kept but do not compete with each other, yet rather enhance each other and make for a richer context. The group is divided in a few smaller groups, with particular kitchen utensils divided by material (metal, wood, plastic, glass, etc) and are inspired to create their own group rhythms and then to start mixing and playing together until a common harmony is achieved.
After the music is more or less organized, the bread puppets from the Theater of Crumbs serve as the basis for the writing of song lyrics for the music piece, whose rhythms also affect the message and feeling of the song. When the common text and music are created, and the bread puppets are baked, the Theater of Crumbs performance is concluded with the Kitchen Music collective song.
– If you do not want to use the Kitchen Music, the time for rising of the dough can be used for free discussions, form which can be extracted the main topic of kneading and can be interpreted as a plot of the dough puppet performance. If you want to accelerate the process of rising from 60 to 30 minutes you can place the bowl with dough in the oven or in a warmer room, where they can rise.
After the dough has already risen every participant shapes the character he/she wants inspired by the topic of kneading. They can be additionally decorated as it is described in the method “Entertaining cooking”.
Before the figures are placed in the oven to be baked every participant introduces what has been expressed in her/his figure. A surprise for all participants is the challenge to connect his/her figure or character with the one of the previous participant in a whole storyline. This is also the moment for connecting the plot, putting all stories and characters in one. Important moment is connecting the participants, through dough puppets. Usually in the kneading workshops there are people visiting for the first time. This method is useful exactly for connecting strangers to each other. The facilitator follows and shows overlaps in ideas and the role of characters. He/She is also observing whether there is, among participants, similar visions for solving a problem.
After finishing with the improvised plot, the dough figures are left to be baked. In the meantime, while figures are being baked, the group prepares the scenography of the theatre performance. Available materials like flour, towels, candles, kitchen utensils, etc. are used. The table that was used for kneading can be used as a scene also and be covered with flour in which participants can draw or on sheets of paper, which are placed around the table and used as a scene.
After the puppets are ready baked everyone takes his/her own. A narrator is chosen, usually it is the facilitator, but it is good and more productive a person from the group to be supported to take the role. Before the beginning of the performance a general rehearsal is conducted during which everyone gets into the role of the figure. It is important for the participants to be informed that they talk for the puppet that they have prepared, which means that the phrases, dialogues, stories and denouement are happening between the characters (bread puppets) in first person.
“I am the sun that rises up every morning” NOT
“This is the sun that rises up every morning”
The performance starts, everyone is keeping silence and getting into the role. The narrator has the task to keep the plot in one direction and given an opportunity for conversation between the characters (the dialogue in this case is improvised).
At the end of the performance there is a lesson for everyone. After that the bread puppets are eaten.
Fort this option the dough needs to be prepared in advance and to have been rising for 45 minutes.
The succession of actions is the same as option 1. Here you can also include the method “Kitchen music”.
In this version the interpretation is over an already-written text (poetry, story, part of a novel, newspaper article and others).
As we have already seen the Theater of Crumbs method can include drawing in flour but it is not obligatory. It is usually used to introduce the participants with nonverbal elements – drawing symbols, name, objects or another element on the flour. Every participant, according to his/her own understanding and perception is telling about the drawing connecting it to herself/himself and saying how does she/he feels in the group.
The core of the Theater of Crumbs methodology is making bread figures and creating stories around them. Here is the experimenting with material and creating bread puppets. The puppet gets the character of a personal mean of expression, through which participants speak for and from themselves. This is happening in a projective manner through storytelling from first person, which inspired not only creative thinking but most importantly co-creative thinking where each creation – character, tune, lyric, puppets, bread, and crumb – all connect, build on each other, and share a common future.