On the Spot: Basil Twist

March 28, 2012

Basil Twist doesn’t play with puppets; he creates complete theatrical works of art with them. His multifaceted, music-oriented productions toy with abstraction (“Symphonie Fantastique”), classical traditions (“Arias With a Twist”) and Japanese stage styles (“Dogugaeshi”). Such variety is why it takes four area theaters to host the Basil Twist Festival D.C., which started last week at Shakespeare Theatre Company with “Petrushka.”

Why does music play such a big part in your work?
A lot of puppet theater seems to relate well to music because it’s kind of like a dance form. With “Symphonie Fantastique,” I was looking to create an abstract puppet show. And when you look at the origins of abstract painting, artists like Kandinsky refer to music as something to aspire to in its qualities.

Is puppetry making a comeback?
There is a lot more puppetry in contemporary theater: “The Lion King,” “Avenue Q,” “War Horse.” But probably since the mid-’80s, there’s been this increasing strain of puppetry that‘s more of an artistic puppetry, speaking to a more sophisticated audience than children. I feel like I’m part of that.

Are there any plans to film your work?
People have talked to me about making films or TV shows, but I really like the live experience. Puppets are actually powerful when you see them live. You know something is not alive — but it looks like it’s alive. It’s kind of profound.

Through May 6, locations vary; for a full schedule of events, go to Twistfestivaldc.org.
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