Puppeteers To Be Honored By Governor

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(Host) A pair of world renowned puppeteers will receive Vermont’s highest artistic honor on Thursday.

Eric Bass and Ines Zeller Bass, founders of Sandglass Theater in Putney, will receive the 2010 Governor’s award for Excellence in the Arts.

VPR’s Susan Keese has more.

(Keese) Sandglass Theater’s home is an old barn set back on a residential street in the village of Putney. There in a small performance space, creations of wood, wire and papier mache come to life.

(Zeller-Bass) "Dear Uncle Isadore lived in a shack, with a dog and a horse and a garden out back. The doggie had fleas, the horse losing hair, and the poor little garden was bare."

(Keese) Ines Zeller Bass is rehearsing for a show. She’s standing inside a wheel that moves around her waist like a little revolving stage with miniature scenes: An apple orchard. A big city.

Ines Zeller Bass uses small handmade figures to spin the story of Isadore’s Cheek.

In a couple of hours the theater will be full of families engaged in the tale of a man who stays indoors so much his cheek runs away to get pink again.

Ines Zeller Bass and Eric Bass founded Sandglass Theater in Germany in 1982. They were a touring company when they moved to Putney a few years later.

(Zeller Bass) "And over the years have become more rooted in the community."

(Keese) They built the theater behind their house in 1996.

The couple has collaborated with Vermont composers, writers, and circus acts. They use their 60-seat theater to present the work of other artists as well as their own.

And they teach and encourage other puppet makers.

Eric Bass says not all of their work is aimed at children.

(Bass) "We do an international festival every two years."

(Zeller Bass) "Called Puppets in the Green Mountains."

(Bass) "A festival of unusual theater."

(Keese) Bass thinks the influx of puppeteers from around the world has educated local audiences about how creative and sophisticated the art form can be. He says in some ways it’s the audience members who bring the puppets to life.

(Bass) "I guess you could say in some ways that the magic of puppets is in some ways that you know that they’re not real but you still believe in them, you still feel what they feel, It’s so theatrical."

(Keese) Alex Aldrich is the Executive Director of the Vermont Arts Council, which is presenting the award. He says Bass and Zeller-Bass have an international reputation in their own right.

(Aldrich) "And the fact that they founded Sandglass Theater and moved it to Vermont is just a bit of luck and great circumstance for the people of Vermont."

(Keese) The couple say the honor isn’t just for them – it’s also for puppetry.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese.


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