John Bell discusses his work as a creator of street spectacles with Bread and Puppet Theater, Great Small Works, and the Honk! Festival in Boston, New York, and other cities in North America and Europe. Street spectacle is one of the oldest forms of global performance, in which larger-than-life theatricality combines with urban architecture and public thoroughfare to articulate a community's ideas about politics, religion, and society. How have the rituals of street spectacle functioned in previous centuries, and how might they function in the 21st century?
John Bell is a puppeteer, scholar, and teacher whose interests combine practice and theory. He started performing as a puppeteer with the Bread and Puppet Theater and as a member of that company for over a dozen years learned about the global breadth of puppetry. Recognized as one of the preeminent historians of puppet theater in the US, he performs, directs, and otherwise collaborates with Great Small Works, a Brooklyn-based theater collective. He is the author of Strings, Hands, Shadows: A Modern Puppet History (Detroit Institute of Art), edited Puppets, Masks, and Performing Objects (MIT Press), and is currently working on American Puppet Modernism, a study of US confrontations with puppet and object theater over the past 150 years.