Eric Bass has worked in the theater as a director, writer, performer and puppet maker. In 1982, he founded Sandglass Theater in Munich, Germany, with his wife, Ines Zeller Bass, and moved to Vermont in 1986. His newest projects include D-Generation: An Exaltation of Larks, a piece about dementia, with support from National Theater Project/NEFA and an new work called Babylon, about refugees. Eric Bass will be presenting the hands-on workshop, “How to Make a Puppet Breathe” on Saturday May 27th, and the talk, “The Making of D-Generation – an Exaltation of Larks” on Sunday May 28th.
Why puppets? What inspired you to get into puppetry?
Puppets help us to define separate worlds. We are often living in the intersection of these worlds — places where dream meets awakening, or memory meets the present. None of these worlds is more real than the other. There is no real world. Dreams are real, as are memories, and we are just as impacted by them as by a bus ride or a trip to the supermarket. Puppets help us to define these worlds, as they are always metaphors and they are always of a different world from us.
What is your favourite puppet related childhood memory?
This has to be when my parent’s gave me a puppet of Bil Baird’s Charlemagne the Lion, as a present. i loved that puppet!
How do you connect generations and/or communities with puppetry?
We do it through the art form, but often through the events that the art form inspires. A festival is a large-scale community event, and our Puppets in the Green Mountains Festival has had a big impact on our community and on our relationship to our community. We also do a two-day puppet and food garden party, which is one of the community’s most popular events. Puppets define the event, but the event itself is the attraction.
Can you tell me about a time when you could see a lasting response or impact of your work?
We often measure impact in terms of recognition. If someone gives you an award, or a job, you know that your work has been seen and valued. If someone asks you to teach, you know you are already having an impact. So by the time you have taught that workshop, or done that performance job, you are already at the next stage of response. For me, I like hearing from people who have trained with me, or seen a show, that it meant something to them — and sometimes I hear that years later, which is even better. And if I hear that they went on to further training, or formed a company, then I feel good for everyone — even though I know they would make more money as a dentist.
Is there someone who is in a different generation that inspires you?
My daughters, absolutely.