La MaMa Blogs: 6 Questions for Shoshana Bass of WHEN I PUT ON YOUR GLOVE

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

6 Questions for Shoshana Bass of WHEN I PUT ON YOUR GLOVE

Shoshana Bass is co-artistic director and ensemble performer with Sandglass Theater (Putney, VT), which begins performances of When I Put On Your Glove in the Downstairs Theatre on October 7 as part of La MaMa Puppet Series 2021. There are only 4 performances at La MaMa, so get your tickets now! Follow @sandglasstheater on Instagram and Facebook.

1. Do you have a favorite puppet in your performance?

Most of the puppets I perform in this piece were built by my father over 40 years ago. I grew up with them and have seen them perform in my father's hands for most of my life. I love them all dearly and each of their stories speak to different spiritual journeys in my own life. I remember not touching them when I was young, except sometimes carefully handing them in their silk packing bags to my father while he set up. It was a meaningful experience to receive these puppets and their stories and the most significant for me was Zedyl the shoemaker. It took me months to be able to perform him as he deals with the ultimate question of mortality. My own "Little Puppet" is my contribution to the puppet ensemble. She represents my own creative and rebellious spirit and is modeled after a simple rope and masking tape prototype I made when training with my parents in their summer intensive. In this way, she also embodies the apprentice and a not yet fully molded being. 

2. How is When I Put On Your Glove inspired by your childhood and family?

This piece arose from a moment in time where looking back and integrating past and present was really important for my own healing. Though it is specific to my story of growing up in a touring family of puppeteers and theater directors, I have also found that there are vital questions and experiences that are relatable for many different kinds of lives. The space for my father to offer me his vignettes began when I took a bad fall and was dealing with overwhelming experiences of betrayal and loss. The process was-- is-- an important part of my healing and really came down to love, and how, in the moments when something bad happens to us, we have to dig deep for the creativity to transform our narrative. In working with my director, Gerard Stropnicky, we began family story circles around the kitchen table about all the tours these puppets were part of. The piece lives within this family history, and also the larger process of artistic legacy and transition. 

3. What do you mean by “puppets are containers of memory”?

I speak about puppets as containers of memory because we were interested in a horizontal approach to narrative: capturing a moment in time is about creating space for a multitude of perspectives, memories, and associations to exist simultaneously in an uncompetitive truth. In my opinion, this is one of the most amazing things about a puppet. They are empty vessels into which we can freely project without fear of harming, appropriating or overloading it. When an audience breathes with the puppet, they are breathing with everything that puppet might evoke for them and they are physically investing in that puppet's life by imbuing it with their own capacity to imagine and animate. There is room for everyone's memory to hold a valid space. So in spending our time with the spiritual questions posed by the puppet, we are invited into spending time with our own associations and memories. 

4. What does legacy mean in the field of puppetry?

In my personal experience, legacy doesn't only mean inheriting my parents' theater, some of their creative work, and a technique. It also encompasses a lifetime of relationships with other puppetry and theater artists around the world, hosting, being hosted, learning about cultures through their artistic ambassadors, and celebrating an art form which, at its core, is about practicing compassion. We have been in a process of transition at Sandglass as the artistic leadership of the organization passes from my parents to me. Two vital aspects of this legacy work include honoring the roots of this great tree and making sure there is space for new branches, eco-systems and dreams to grow. I feel so fortunate that this delicate transition is guided by love, as letting go, making room, including, and letting something transform can be challenging. Legacy is not only looking back, it is also looking forward and investing in new voices and systems that promote justice and equity.  

5. What do you hope for the future of puppetry?

The future of puppetry is dependent on puppeteers, emerging and seasoned, having access to basic needs, venues, audiences, funding and supportive systems and communities. Right now, I imagine the strength of this support is in the relationships we build between artists, presenters, funders, other sectors, diverse communities of audiences, social justice organizations, etc, so that the network can emerge from a difficult time with an ever-stronger and more sustainable cultural fabric that is responsive and resilient. 

6. What does working at La MaMa mean to you?

This will be my second time performing at La MaMa. Last time, my sister and I were able to present a show that was created by our mother in the La MaMa Kids puppetry series. Now I am thrilled to be returning with an adult piece celebrating some of my father's work. I am so happy that La MaMa has embraced puppetry as part of their programming, and has created an access point for folks to meet, support and celebrate this art form together. 

La MaMa presents

When I Put On Your Glove

By Sandglass Theater
Performed and Created by Shoshana Bass (USA)
Creator of the original Autumn Portraits, Eric Bass

October 7 – 10, 2021

The Downstairs
66 East 4th Street, basement level
New York, NY 10003

Oct 7, Thursday at 7pm
Oct 8, Friday at 8:30pm
Oct 9, Saturday at 7pm
Oct 10, Sunday at 2pm

Ticket Prices
Adults: $25
Students/Seniors: $20
Multi-Show Puppet Packages Available

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