Spring Beckons US – II

Basil’s Twist’s The Rite of Spring.

Basil Twist, one of America’s premier puppeteers, is preparing a piece to Stravinsky’s world-shaking ballet score “The Rite of Spring” for the Carolina Performing Arts festival “The Rite of Spring at 100,” in Chapel Hill. At the end of February, I went to a deconsecrated church in Bushwick to see how the rehearsals were going. The church was unheated, with the result that the pipes had frozen and the plumbing had given up the ghost. (Portable toilets were brought in and set up in the vestibule.) The twelve puppeteers, in down jackets and ski hats, had to use their imaginations during their maneuvers. For the show, they would be joined by ten more, but right now those people were in North Carolina. Whereas the theatre in Chapel Hill has fifty-five line sets (stage-wide pipes in the flies, from which you can hang props and curtains), the church had just one pole, installed on ropes by Twist’s crew. But the cast was game. During the action, Twist stood behind a table, playing the score on a laptop, but he kept his finger on the play-pause button, and issued corrections: “Higher,” “Lower,” “You’re early.” If there was really a problem, he would demonstrate. During breaks, the cast crouched under electric blankets—cords snaked through the hall; you had to navigate around them—and drank tea from thermoses. They also played with a smoke machine, getting it to blow perfect smoke rings, until the stage manager ordered them back. She was the heavy. “Take five!” “Onstage!” Twist was soft-spoken and patient, but he looked nervous. The show dates, April 12th and 13th, were only six weeks away. Read more (subscription required).

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