In 1972 I graduated from Goddard College, where I studied Early Childhood Education with the remarkable June Edson. I taught in nursery and daycare settings for a few years, and then I ran away with the circus, that is to say, I joined the Bread and Puppet Theater, which has been the foundation for my life ever since.
What did Goddard teach me? How did Goddard change my life?
As a student, I was reading ideas about progressive schooling and dynamic non-institutional ways of learning, while at the same time living the philosophy within Goddard’s unique educational practice. I learned how to be a critical thinker, I was encouraged to find and share my own voice.
I heard about women’s liberation for the first time, which shook the foundation of my social assumptions.
I saw the Northern Lights, indelibly etched in my brain. I still don’t believe what I remember, the dark heavens completely deep red, with circles of iridescent green orbs pulsating and shooting rays out across the sky.
I walked across the fields to Cate Farm, and saw a puppet show that moved me deeply, a large gray puppet with a crystal prism slowly descending from her eye, her tear for the death of her son in war.
The Haybarn welcomed us puppeteers, where Bread and Puppet continues to present its shows. I saw Charles Ludlam perform “Camille” there. I saw Julian Beck and Judith Malina and their shockingly wild Living Theater company there. I danced to the incredible music of Buddy Guy there.
Now I continue to make puppet shows, using traditional theater forms to tell contemporary, often political, stories. I play in a street band and organize an annual festival of activist street bands from around the world. I work with a collective of artists who create theater and visual art to support political actions. I teach accessible theater forms to help people of all ages tell their own stories.
Goddard understood how to nurture and support me in my earliest attempts to find a place for myself in the world. I hope it can continue to do that for young people for a long, long time.
TRUDI COHEN was a full-time member of Bread and Puppet Theater’s resident company in Vermont for 10 years, and has performed as puppeteer in productions directed by Peter Schumann, Janie Geiser, Amy Trompetter and David Neumann. She is a founding member of Great Small Works, a NYC-based visual theater company founded in 1995. She was Director of Great Small Works’ 2008, 2010 and 2013 International Toy Theater Festivals and has curated dozens of the company’s Spaghetti Dinner events. She plays bass drum with the Boston-based Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band, and is a founder and organizer of the HONK! Festival of activist street bands in Somerville, MA. She is on the board of Bread and Puppet Theater, and is Secretary of UNIMA-USA (the U.S. chapter of the international puppetry organization, Union Internationale de la Marionette). Together with John Bell she received Puppet Showplace Theater’s 2014 Paul Vincent Davis Award for artistic excellence and mentorship; and the 2017 Rebecca Blunk Fund Award from New England Foundation for the Arts.
Great Small Works is a collective of six theater artists – John Bell, Trudi Cohen, Stephen Kaplin, Jenny Romaine, Roberto Rossi and Mark Sussman — who create original performance aiming to keep theater at the heart of social life. Drawing on folk, avant-garde and popular theater traditions, the company addresses contemporary issues in productions which vary in scale from huge outdoor community-based pageants to miniature Toy Theater shows in living rooms. We perform in theaters, schools, community centers, prisons, and the streets. GSW received a 1997 Obie Award, 1997 and 2008 UNIMA-USA Citations for Excellence, and the 2006 Puppeteers of America Jim Henson Award.
Together For Goddard Stories are presented to showcase Goddard’s 2020 fundraising campaign, along with Goddard’s history of inspiring students. We will feature new stories every Monday. Do you have a Goddard story to tell? Submit your 250-400 words to firstname.lastname@example.org or post on social media with the hashtag: #together4goddard