Sandglass Theater has been awarded three grants that guarantee the next Puppets in the Green Mountains Festival in September, as well as other programs in 2015. A grant of $30,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) will support Sandglass’ 2015 presenting season, including the September international festival, the New Visions series of emerging artist residencies, and the Winter Sunshine series for family audiences. In addition, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded Sandglass a grant of $15,000, and the Fresh Sound Foundation has awarded $20,000, to support the festival’s performances, workshops, and conference-style dialogues on a special theme of “Walking to the Borders.” These grants recognize Sandglass’ achievements in producing its own shows, presenting the work of other companies, and maintaining a deep commitment in its programming to the southern Vermont community and its most prominent issues.
Sandglass is currently in the process of inviting ten companies to perform at the festival, featuring troupes from Germany, France, Cuba, Mexico, and Quebec, as well as several American companies. Highlights include:
- A Cuban retelling for family audiences of The Ugly Duckling, the classic tale of ostracizing based on difference.
- A German production of the classic Romeo and Juliet, performed without words.
- A work-in-progress video showing of Natan El Sabio (Nathan the Wise), Sandglass’ collaboration with a company in El Salvador, which addresses religious tolerance.
- A residency with acclaimed puppeteer Paul Zaloom and his show about white privilege, White Like Me.
- A workshop in making paper theater, led by artists of Great Small Works (USA) and Facto Teatro (Mexico).
The festival will also feature discussions on topics related to immigration and difference, including:
- Activists from Arizona who will speak about rescuing migrants from the desert.
- A keynote address by Erik Ehn, playwright from Brown University, who has done extensive work on the subject of genocide.
For the first time, the Festival will include elements of Sandglass Theater’s Voices of Community series, which aims to broaden our community’s cultural dialog by addressing issues of diversity and giving voice to a wide range of experiences. By integrating the festival with community-based discussions, Sandglass Theater aims at the relevance of art in communicating issues of importance to its neighbors and supporters. Eric Bass, Co-Artistic Director of Sandglass Theater and Artistic Director of Puppets in the Green Mountains, adds, “One of our aims with this Festival is to see arts and issues experiences approach each other. This is not to say that all art is necessarily political, but we feel that our programming needs to resonate with relevance in our communities, local and wide. The NEA, Fresh Sound Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation have recognized this with their grant awards to us.”
The cost to Sandglass for the 2015 presenting season, consisting of the international puppet festival, the New Visions Series of emerging artists works, and the Winter Sunshine series for family audiences, and the Voices of Community series is $155,000. This includes the fees paid to artists, their transportation, food, and visa costs, the costs of theater space usage and technical support, marketing, and administration. The $30,000 grant from the NEA is a significant share of these costs, which are also supported by awards from the Vermont Community Fund, Vermont Arts Council, and several other foundations and major donors, by ticket sales, and by local collaborators, including the Next Stage Arts Project, in Putney VT. The puppet festival, in particular, brings both artists and audiences to the community to partake in cultural exchange and enjoy local food and wares.
The grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Fresh Sound Foundation, added to the funding named above, help to expand the existing festival form to develop a new form that will give audiences more opportunity to engage with artists around the issues that inspire the art and affect the community. The Mellon Foundation and Fresh Sound Foundation awards specifically support the puppet festival in its goal of enhancing performances with a series of workshops, open interviews with artists and social justice workers, and a keynote speaker. The festival has been produced almost bi-annually since 1997 and is evolving so that audience members who choose can also attend events that allow them to dialogue with the artists and the themes of the work. The theme of the Festival, “Walking to the Borders,” is a title that embraces the many borders of our lives and culture, including issues of immigration and the many ways people are labeled as “other.”
In announcing the NEA award, NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, “I’m pleased to be able to share the news of our support through Art Works including the award to Sandglass Theater. The arts foster value, connection, creativity and innovation for the American people and these recommended grants demonstrate those attributes and affirm that the arts are part of our everyday lives.” NEA Art Works grants support the creation of art, public engagement with art, lifelong learning in the arts, and enhancement of the livability of communities through the arts. The NEA received 1,474 eligible applications under the Art Works category, requesting more than $75 million in funding. Of those applications, 919 are recommended for grants for a total of $26.6 million. For a complete listing of projects recommended for Art Works grant support, please visit the NEA website at arts.gov.
Sandglass Theater, founded in 1982 by Eric Bass and Ines Zeller Bass, has a distinguished international reputation in the art of puppetry for both adults and families, and in the presenting of challenging works of collaborative theater from around the country. Recent initiatives include the creation and performance of D-Generation: An Exaltation of Larks, a moving work about late-stage dementia; co-presentation with Vermont Performance Lab of Cry You One, a series of epic musical and theatrical performances on social justice and environmental disaster by a New Orleans company in the Voices of Community series; presentations in the Winter Sunshine series for families; explorations of new work in performance in the New Visions series.