West German immigrant Peter Schumann (1934-) founded the Bread and Puppet Theater in New York in 1961. Influenced by the peace movement in New York, Schumann wrote radical anti-war plays for his puppet theater. He incorporated religion and morality into the central anti-war theme of the plays. The Bread and Puppet Theater offered bread, baked by the group, to the audience at the beginning of every performance. Schumann declared that theater was as basic to life as bread, hence the name. A street parade with masked puppeteers on stilts, oversized puppets up to twenty feet high, banners, and at times, over a hundred singing and dancing volunteers, preceded the plays. The plays contained little dialogue, usually spoken by a narrator. Schumann believed the plays' imagery communicated best in an outdoor setting, therefore most of the plays were performed outdoors. With only a small core of paid staff, the Bread and Puppet Theater relied on a fluctuating volunteer staff whose numbers changed according to each performance. Charging the audience a nominal fee, the group received most of its funds through grants and donations. The group performed in the United States, Latin America, Europe, and Australia.
The Bread and Puppet Theater expanded in 1970 when the group moved to Cate Farm in Plainfield, Vermont as theater-in-residence at Goddard College. They offered workshops in sculpture, mime, dance, story-making, puppet building and operation, music, and instrument making. The group also held workshops to produce Bread and Puppet publications. One of Schumann's plays, the Domestic Resurrection Circus, was first performed in 1971 at Plainfield as part of a two day festival. The festival became an annual event. Beginning in 1971, Universal Movement Theatre Repertory director Mark Amitin arranged performances for the Bread and Puppet Theater. After a cancelled series of performances for the North Jersey Cultural Council in 1973, Schumann severed his relationship with the booking agency. In 1974, Schumann moved the group to Glover, Vermont where the group opened a museum for their collection of Bread and Puppet Theater masks and puppets. The Bread and Puppet Theater continued to perform for national and international audiences.