Thu. Feb. 11th – Montpelier, VT
“Art is the cement that holds the individual and the society together.”
Puppet artist Finn Campman’s words summarized the life work of this year’s Governor’s Award for Artistic Excellence recipients, Eric and Ines Zeller Bass of the Sandglass Theatre (Putney, VT).
Why puppet theatre? Because “puppets are not stuck in realism, not stuck in naturalism – they’re free to move across the whole spectrum of artistic expression”, according to former Sandglass guest director Richard Edelman.
The evening’s celebration opened with a warm address by Vermont Arts Council director Alex Aldrich, who acknowledged the Award’s 42-year history in recognizing those artists whose skills have contributed both their their respective art, and to their community. Then last year’s Award winner, Rob Mermin performed a whimsical tribute to the Sandglass Theatre (in bubbles and smoke!) by re-enacting a few scenes from their past time performing and touring together.
Further remarks by Aldrich were humorously issued with decreasing visibility from behind the frame of a large puppet theatre being being set up in front of the podium by the Crabgrass Puppet Theatre. Their Buster Keaton-worthy vignette “Up On The Roof” illustrated the futlity of a puppet’s effort to get “up on the roof” and clear off a blanket of snow with a mischievous mind of its own.
The next performance was no less enchanting, as Larry Hunt’s silent character “Backward Boy” gracefully danced and moved in visually illusionistic ways uniquely enabled by his condition of bodily reversal.
The evening closed with a performance by the evening’s honorees. Sandglass Theatre (Eric, Ines, and an unidentified accordian player) enacted “Mud” from their newest piece, All Weather Ballads. With his red pickup half submerged in the muck and a pesky, steering-wheel eating goat unhelpfully standing by – what’s a poor guy to do? Exasperation sets in and before you know it, getting himSELF unstuck from the mud becomes the first task: funny, charming, and then some. (And who can’t relate?) What magic to see great puppet mastery at work.
Eric and Ines Bass have worked in theater as directors, playwrights, performers, and mask and puppet makers for more than 30 years. They founded Sandglass Theater in Munich, Germany in 1982 and relocated to Putney in 1986. A decade later they opened their 60-seat theater in the heart of Putney Village.
Sandglass Theater has become an internationally respected theater company specializing in the use of the puppet and visual imagery. Their productions have toured 25 countries, performing in theaters, festivals and cultural institutions, and garnering many international prizes.
Congratulations to Sandglass Theatre for the Governor’s award, and for more than three decades of imaginative artistry!
Tags: Alexander Aldrich, Cambodia Living Arts, Circus Smirkus, Crabgrass Puppet Theatre, Eric Bass, Finn Campman, Ines Zeller Bass, John Burt, Larry Hunt, Mara Williams, Marie Houghton, Masque Theatre, Montpelier, Putney, Rob Mermin, Sandglass Theatre, State House, Vermont Arts Council, Vermont Governor Jim Douglas