'One Brief Moment In Which Everything Is Decided,' Putney's Sandglass Theater Tells Refugee Stories

Jan 5, 2018

For seven refugees who fled their homelands of Syria, Afghanistan, El Salvador, and Burundi to make new lives in Vermont, Putney's Sandglass Theater will tell their stories in a new production called, Babylon: Journeys Of Refugees. The theater company will blend their narratives with song, using puppets and hand-drawn scrolls; "... simple means," the website states, "... not much more than someone could carry with them as they flee."

The arts theater company, which specializes in creating original theater with puppets, was founded in Germany in 1982. The company relocated to Vermont in 1986, according to co-director Eric Bass. The theater's mission is to explore contemporary issues and to inspire dialogue.

Bass, along with Sandglass Theater producer, Shoshana Bass, recently spoke with VPR about the upcoming premiere of Babylon, which makes its debut at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts on Jan. 12.

Eric Bass said the theater company production also relays the stories of how people embraced and sometimes recoiled from refugees resettling in their communities. He said, "It awoke something in us ... We just really felt that we had to address this."

To do so, the theater company formed a years-long partnership with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program. Through VRRP, the company collected first-hand narratives and then created songs, props and puppets to tell the refugees' stories.

The stories might take place in one brief moment in which everything is decided. - Eric Bass, co-director of Sandglass Theater in Putney, talking about how its new production, 'Babylon,' tells refugees' stories through puppetry and song.

"All the refugees in the story, they only speak through song," Shoshana Bass said. "The cast would listen to the interviews, we'd pull out imagery, dialogue. Then, we'd explore. We worked on trying to find all the different voices of the people in the communities in which new citizens are being resettled and all of the fears that are coming up there ... We are trying to encourage an atmosphere of listening above all else," she said.

Eric Bass talked about how using puppetry to tell these stories differs from actors' theater: "... our narratives are not linear plots," he said. "They are more explosions of a moment and the song form is like that, also. The stories don't necessarily take place over time."

Babylon, journeys of refugees from Sandglass Theater on Vimeo.

Sandglass Theater's production of 'Babylon' begins Friday, Jan. 12 at the Flynn Center For The Performing Arts in Burlington.