Puppetry: Fundamentals & Possibilities
with Basil Twist
Offered in partnership with The National Archives at NYC (U.S. Customs House)
Monday, December 4, 2017

Puppetry, as practiced by Basil Twist, is poetic and ​profound, magical and mysterious, sometimes abstract, sometimes not, and utterly dependent on the remarkable human capacity to suspend disbelief. ​“Puppets are alive and not alive,” says Twist. “We know they are not alive and then, we believe that they are.” Participants in this intimate, creative workshop will learn the fundamentals of the elemental art of puppetry and explore its stunning possibilities for theater, dance, music, and storytelling. ​Working in small groups, they will breathe life into inanimate cardboard or fabric—humble materials readily available in any classroom—to create short, original dramatic scenes.

Basil Twist is a third-generation puppeteer. His stunning creations have been featured in major museums, grand opera houses, Hollywood movies, Broadway musicals, off-Broadway dives, and drag shows, in work ranging from classic stories to abstract visualizations of orchestral music. His most famous piece, Symphonie Fantastique, employs a complex choreography of fabric, feathers, tinsel, and cutouts in a 500-gallon tank of water to evoke human characteristics and emotions which illuminate Berlioz’s score in unexpected ways. Twist’s wide-ranging and trailblazing body of work is informed by puppetry traditions from around the world, including hand puppets, bunraku, and string-and-rod marionettes, and is establishing puppetry as an integral element in all the performing arts. He is the only American to graduate from the École Supérieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionnette, the most famous puppet school in the world, and was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius” Fellowship in 2015.