By Alex Young
“Puppetry goes beyond entertainment into issues of life, death, and the soul…”
Puppet shows. For most of us, these two words will conjure up a number of images, all of which are childish, humorous and in many cases, unrefined. Punch and Judy anyone? The Potter Puppet Pals? As a third-generation puppeteer and the only American to graduate from the prestigious École Supérieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionnette, Basil Twist creates pieces that are far from unrefined.
The Araneidae Show, first performed in Charleville-Mézières, France in 1993 was Twist’s first piece to draw attention in New York. After that Twist went on to create Symphonie Fantastique, a mixture of puppetry, music and abstract art. This piece received many awards and has toured internationally.
Many of Twist’s works integrate puppetry and live music. Dogugaeshi combined puppetry and the Japanese dogugaeshi stage mechanism technique with live music performed on the shamisen by master musician Yumiko Tanaka. Petrushka, the Russian ballet, is performed with puppets dancers and set to a two hand piano version of Stravinsky’s composition. Twist’s Master Peter’s Puppet Show was developed with the Eos Orchestra in 2002 and later performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Twist directed and designed Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel on a commission from The Houston Grand Opera and the Atlanta Opera.
Twist is the director of the Dream Music Puppetry Program at HERE Arts Center, which supports the production of new puppet works in New York City.
Basil Twist’s original works include Arias With a Twist, Hansel and Gretel, La Bella Dormente Nel Bosco, Dogugaeshi (2005 Bessie Award), Symphonie Fantastique (1999 Village Voice Obie Award, 1999 UNIMA Citation of Excellence, 1999 Drama Desk Award nomination for Unique Theatrical Experience), Master Peter’s Puppet Show, Petrushka (2000 UNIMA Citation of Excellence), and The Araneidae Show (1997 New York Dance and Performance Award—Bessie, 1997 UNIMA Citation of Excellence).
Twist is currently developing a piece, Love Suicides, set for World Premiere in 2010.
Gutierrez, Eric. “Basil Twist.” Welcome To United States Artists. N.p., n.d.
Web. 14 Oct. 2009. <http://www.unitedstatesartists.org/Public2/Stories/
Twist, Basil. “Biography.” Basil Twist. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2009.