URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) – When you think of a circus you probably think of the traditional big top with clowns, trapeze artists, and animals of all kinds, but when the circus came to Urbana it wasn’t what you would expect.

“We do have a big variety of larger-than-life puppets,” Simon Bandarob, a puppeteer, said.

He’s not talking about the puppets you might see on sesame street or the one you might make at home with an old sock. No, he really means larger than life.

“I don’t think people go to the circus very often and we, we really try to bring a circus atmosphere. We don’t, I mean, we don’t have, we don’t have animals, but we do have, we do have puppet animals. So even if you’re not actually going to see real, real live horses or tigers or whatever, we do have puppet versions of these,” he said. “And so we can you know, we can sort of give that old-timey circus feeling. But it’s all people, it’s all artists.”

It’s called Bread and Puppet and they’re touring all over the country and they made a stop right here in Central Illinois.

“They were planning a cross-country tour and I had the benefit of knowing someone who knew someone on the tour planning team. They hadn’t been to Urbana before, and I got a call one day saying, we’d like to bring Bread and Puppet to Urbana and I was thrilled,” Miriam Larson, Executive Director for Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, said.

There are about 20 puppeteers in the show and they’re from all over the world.

“I’m from Canada. I live very close to the American border where Bread and Puppet is in Northern Vermont. So I’ve been to some of the shows. I’ve been a volunteer puppeteer for a while, but this is my first time ever touring with them.” Bandarob said.

“The theater gave a workshop, like, ten years ago in the town I was living in, in France, and I happened to be there and took the workshop, and that was amazing,” Raphael Royer, a puppeteer said.

It’s more than just a fun show for the whole family.

“Bread in Puppet has been around since the 60’s doing political theater and so they have this history of supporting arts for social change that I think is really inspiring,” Larson said.

And the circus is like nothing you’ve ever seen.

“I think our esthetic is a bit different. Our puppets are larger-than-life paper maché puppets, which most people probably don’t see every day. I’m surrounded by them all the time, so maybe I lose some perspective. And also we have sort of like a downhome folky kind of esthetic like that’s our, that’s our style back in Vermont, that’s where we bring as we tour around the United States,” Bandarob said.

“The esthetics of the theater is, is very strong. So what we’re performing tonight is a circus, but there are which is joyful and family-friendly. But the theater also does other kinds of shows that are sometimes more experimental, more dark. That implies a lot more dancing and more text,” Royer said.

Just like any piece of art, the puppeteers said every person who watches the show interprets it in their own way.

“Whatever they want, really. I mean, we talk a lot about political issues, obviously, but we also have a lot of fun with subjects that are, I mean, appear not to be related to politics, even if all of them have, you know, politics sprinkled in them,” Royer said.

On top of bringing some fun and mastering an art. Many on the traveling circus get to experience America for the first time in a unique way.

“It’s the first time I’m actually in the U.S., I mean, I’ve spent some time in Glover, Vermont, but everyone there told me that’s not the U.S. So, you know, I was super close to Canada as a very small town and surrounded by puppeteers. So I just get to see what the country is actually about, even though it’s like a shallow way because I’m spending like 24 hours in each city but still traveling around like from east to west and going to the south. So it’s just super exciting to have an actual experience of the so-called American way of life. That’s not just from the movies or from the songs,” Royer said.

And then, after the music has died down, and the puppets are all put away. The show isn’t over yet. The cast makes homemade rye bread, the “Bread” part of Bread and Puppet. That they share with you, the audience.

“We also serve a homemade rye bread loaf at the end of every show,” Bandarob said. “To feed the mind and feed the body”

To learn more about Bread and Puppet you can visit their website here.