Sandglass presents an evening of Crankies, songs, and storytelling

PUTNEY — The weekend of Dec. 4 and 5 will bring together a dynamic collection of artists to share their work, song, and magical cranking devices in the celebration of the storytelling medium.

Eric and Ines Zeller Bass of Sandglass Theater, along with Coni Richards, Brendan Taaffe, Dejah Leger, Anna Patton, Annie Winker, and Claire Dolan will pair song and story with rolling pictures.

Crankies are scrolling illustrations, wound inside a wooden box and then hand-cranked so that the images move across a viewing screen. Once called “moving panoramas,” crankies were as close as it got to films in the early 19th century. Recently, crankies have made a re-appearance throughout the nation, appearing in circuses, music events, and puppet theaters.

With their serenade of ballads, stories, comic songs, and originally composed music, the team of artists will present an assortment of handcrafted crankies.

Taaffe will premier two cut paper crankies: “Leatherwing Bat” and “The Man of Double-Deed.” Taaffe is a musician and crankie artist based in Brattleboro. A multi-instrumentalist on guitar, banjo, fiddle, and mbira, he performs with The Waxwing Four, The New Line, and The Bright Wings Chorus, and travels around the world teaching singing workshops.

Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, Léger began making crankies four years ago when she was asked to play a bilingual festival in Canada. Her intricately-cut crankies are in both English and French, drawing from both American ballads and French-Canadian traditional songs. She is a graphic artist for Hearth Music in Seattle, which she co-founded with her husband, Devon Leger. She also plays traditional Acadian music with her family band, La Famille Leger. This is her first visit to the Northeast.

Patton, a musician and composer, arrived at crankie-making through the love of combining music with visual storytelling. She gets involved in theatrical and multimedia collaborations whenever possible amidst her touring schedule with the dance band Elixir and other groups. She composed the score and recorded the soundtrack for Spybird Theater's production “The Eye of the Storm,” which debuted at Sandglass in 2012.

Her crankie, “Feed,” is a rumination on connection, loneliness, and social media. It's a collaborative work including art by several guest artists (including co-performer Annie Winker), and a song by Ben Patton.

Dolan is a painter, director, and performer of cantastoria, toy theater, outdoor puppetry, and stilt dancing. She's a veteran of the Bread and Puppet Theater, co-curator of Banners and Cranks (an annual festival of cantastoria performance), and founder/chief operating philosopher of The Museum of Everyday Life.

Richards, a board member of Sandglass Theater, will be presenting her first crankie, “Crankie Cat.” Finally, co-directors of Sandglass Theater, Eric and Ines Zeller Bass, will present “Babylon,” a cinemascope crankie inspired by a sacred harp song and the journey of a caterpillar.

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