Author Laura Collins-Hughes explores contemporary puppet theater in conjunction with the current Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival. She describes her recent visit with puppeteer Basil Twist to BROADWAY 1602 UPTOWN in, “Give Them a Hand: Puppet Artists Are Having a Moment” in the “New York Times”.
“…Mr. Twist, 47, talked about his preference for pure puppetry — a mismatch, he knows, with his many collaborative forays into theater and dance. Then he told me there was an exhibition I needed to see: “The Theater of Robert Anton,” running until Saturday, Feb. 11, at an Upper East Side gallery called Broadway 1602.
When I went there, I ran into Mr. Twist, who cheerfully showed me around, filling me in on Mr. Anton, an avant-garde puppeteer who died in 1984. Mr. Anton’s puppets, some of which Mr. Twist lent to the show, are tiny objects with minutely detailed faces — one evidently modeled on Ellen Stewart, the founder of La MaMa, where Mr. Anton did much of his work.
Mr. Anton performed his puppet plays for no more than 18 people at once and did not allow them to be filmed or photographed. His art is the purest of pure, and there is something sacred and beautiful about it. But also, in its hermeticism, a tinge of sadness.
Because in Mr. Anton’s time, in America, puppetry for grown-ups wasn’t on the margins entirely by choice. There wasn’t much call for it center stage.
‘Puppetry’s kind of an underdog,’ Mr. Thomas told me. ‘We’ve always existed on the periphery of the dominant culture. In some ways that’s our strength.’
Is it, though? Not everything has to be a popular art. Not everything can be. But sophisticated puppetry appears to be moving swiftly in that direction. So far, it’s gaining power as it goes.”
– Laura Collins-Hughes