Yellow Barn's 2012 Scholarship Benefit Honoree

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

John Burt offers a personal account of Eric Bass in advance of Yellow Barn's Scholarship Benefit Concert:

Over a decade ago I invited Eric Bass to accompany me on one of the delegations of supporters and artists I host to visit Cambodian Living Arts. We envisioned together the possibility of how Sandglass Theater, as a western puppet company, might collaborate with one of the emerging Cambodian theater companies practicing the ancient art of shadow puppetry.

What I didn’t know about Sandglass or Eric at the time, was that a proposal of an idea from me was already becoming a reality in the Sandglass repertoire; that is to say, that if you share an artistic idea or concept with Eric and Sandglass that resonates with their artistic mission, then you can count on them already designing the opening scene of a show.

I recently was standing with the shadow puppet master, Man Kosal, in a hot, dusty, rust metal works part of a working neighborhood in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. Kosal and Eric had co-directed “The Story of the Dog,” a collaboration between their two puppet companies. As Kosal and I leaned against his long, brightly painted flat bed truck that had toured the Sandglass/Sovannah Phum companies around the Cambodian countryside nearly 6 years ago, he told me that his company had recently performed the show again… He seemed proud and sheepish at the same time. Then he smiled and said, “We were meant to do the show together; it belongs to both of us.” It is a real tribute to Eric and Sandglass that their work lives on in the hands of the international artistic community.

Just as Man Kosal’s Sovanna Phum Arts Association is in the middle of an industrial neighborhood of Cambodia’s capital, Eric and Iness Bass’ Sandglass Theater is right in the middle of downtown Putney, behind what was a 19th century Village Tavern and next to what was the Center Church, now Next Stage Performing Arts and across the way from The Putney General Store. The twentieth century said good-bye to many small downtown villages across the United States.  At the beginning of the 21st Century our communities have been deeply challenged to redefine themselves, their employment and cultural identity. But for more than 30 years, Putney has been home to Eric and Iness Bass and their preeminent international theater ensemble, whose roots grow wide and far, but whose artistic sensibility is rooted in small town values and the expression of individuals and their community.

Eric, you and your beloved collaborator Ines, and your company, Sandglass Theater, have been practicing the art saying, “yes, we can,” for a very long time and our community and state and world are more resilient because of you. We are very grateful.