PUTNEY—Even the best things must one day come to an end. So it is as Ines Zeller Bass presents her final performances ever of her children-friendly classic of puppet theater, Isidor’s Cheek.
Recently, Zeller Bass has been slowing her own performances in the theater pieces for children she created for Sandglass Theater.
“About two years ago, I pulled back from my heavy involvement with Sandglass,” says Zeller Bass. “I have been teaching all my puppet theater pieces to my children Jana Zeller and Shoshana Bass, who will perform them in the future. I did not not ask them to do this, they asked me.
“Isidor’s Cheek is the final show I am still performing. It was created 20 years ago, so Isidor’s Cheek is a pretty old work. It had become something of a signature show of mine. You may recognize it depicted in the mural at the Putney Central School.”
Zeller Bass had already given what she thought was the final performances of Isidor’s Cheek on tour last year in Connecticut, but people kept exhorting her to give it one more time in the home theater at Sandglass at 17 Kimball Hill in Putney.
“So here it is: the very last, last performances of Isidor’s Cheek,” Zeller Bass says.
On Saturday, March 31, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m, Sandglass Theater presents as part of the 11th season of its Winter Sunshine Series a special farewell performance of Isidor’s Cheek by Sandglass co-founder Ines Zeller Bass.
These performances will include a celebratory recognition of this local puppet master and her contributions to the culture of Putney and the field of puppetry.
Conceived and performed by Ines Zeller Bass with design and puppets by her daughter, Jana Zeller, and directed by her husband and creative partner, Eric Bass, with music by Peter Tavalin, Isidor’s Cheek was awarded an UNIMA Citation for Excellence in the Art of Puppetry in 1999 and has played for audiences around the world since its creation in 1997.
Reserving tickets in advance is highly encouraged as seating is limited in the intimate space of Sandglass Theater. The performance is appropriate for ages 4 and up. You may also take your chances at the door. Tickets are $9, payable by cash or check, and available by calling 802-387-4051.
Ines Zeller Bass and her husband Eric Bass are the co-founding artistic directors of Sandglass. She has been performing with puppets since 1968, when she became a member of the Munich Marionettentheater Kleines Spiel.
Zeller Bass has always had a special interest in puppetry designed for children. In 1978, she created her children’s hand puppet theater, PUNSCHI, which has toured Europe, Australia and the U.S. In 1982, Ines co-founded Sandglass in Germany and moved the theater to Vermont in the mid-1980s where she soon initiated the Sandglass theater program for family audiences.
But the scope of Zeller Bass in puppetry is larger than solely working with children. With Eric, she teaches their approach to puppetry performance and devised composition in workshops in Vermont and abroad.
She recently designed the puppets and set for Nathan El Sabio, a collaborative project with Teatro Luis Poma in El Salvador. Ines’ puppets and design for Babylon, Sandglass Theater’s newest produc
Ines is currently touring in the Sandglass production of D-Generation, An Exaltation of Larks, a piece about people with dementia. She is a UNIMA citation winner and in 2010, received the Vermont Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.
“Isidor’s Cheek is a work totally for children, but it is delightful for adults too,” says Zeller Bass. “The show is simple enough for children to follow yet it has delightful parts to entertain parents with kids. Isidor’s Cheek, a peaceful, even sweet work, with some adventure, is intentionally a very small show, with the stage looming around Isadore, a puppet who is only 6 inches high.”
The promo at the Sandglass website, sandglasstheater.org, characterizes Isidor’s Cheek with this tantalizing premise: “One day, something drives Isidor from out of his little grey existence. His cheek runs away, and Isidor must search around the world to find it again. This is a world of color and beauty, as well as loneliness and even danger.”
Zeller Bass elaborates for The Commons, “Isidor is a lazy guy. One day he looks in the mirror and finds that his cheek has run away. His adventure is to retrieve it, as he journeys around the doughnut of the stage surrounding him.
“Each place he stops forms a section of the story, which starts off with a song. Ultimately, all ends happily, and through his adventures of finding his cheek Isidor realizes for the first time how colorful life is.”
Zeller Bass may be pulling back, but she says she’ll never fully retire from Sandglass Theater.
“Sandglass is basically a touring company, but we are also a resident theater in Putney,” she says. “Both entailed lots of administration and logistics which I didn’t want to do anymore.”
On the other hand, Zeller Bass remains very active in the artistic aspects of Sandglass.
“I am very involved with our most recent show, Babylon, which is about refugees,” she says. “I designed the stage images and props as well as puppets. I also am still performing our show about dementia, D-Generation. We will be performing it at least one more time during our visit to Germany in the fall.
“All of which is fine by me. I think my work recently has taken a fantastic step forward. To put it simply, I’ve become better. I am by no means perfect, but I am finally content with my work.”
Outside of Sandglass, Ines Bass has found more time to devote to another of her artistic loves: paintings. But there, too, she sees connections to puppetry.
“Even here the imagery in these paintings are definitely puppet-related, but now put into life situations,” Ines Bass explains. “I consider this work to be joyful, and I give viewers a lot to look at.”
Although for now her painting work has been private, she hopes in the near future to present an exhibition.
For many years, Ines also has been developing toys for adults and children. These also are akin to her work with puppets.
”I create tiny figures made simply from pipe cleaners, masking and duct tape which you could say are sort of like puppets,” she says. “Each figure hangs from a stick attached with wire and string so that it can fly in all directions.”
Although Zeller Bass has given and sold a few of her toys in the past, they weren’t developed to be commercial. Nonetheless, now that she has more time she is “working towards something” which could make these toys more publicly available.
“I am constantly creating,” says Zeller Bass with enthusiasm. “I have a creative spirit, which I hope a lot of people have. That’s what keeps me alive and happy.”