Babylon: Journeys of Refugees

About the show

Babylon on Tour
Great Arizona Puppet Theater
Phoenix, AZ
November 1-5

SANDGLASS THEATER’s action-packed, high-energy production is a response to the worldwide refugee crisis and its impact on communities in the United States. Working with the USCRI Vermont (US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants), we seek to understand the challenges that face refugees and asylum seekers. Sandglass conducted research and interviews with new residents who immigrated to the US in order to gain insight into their plight and the challenges of resettlement. Babylon looks at the relationship of refugees to their homelands, lost and new, and the conflicts that exist within the countries to which they flee.

Using puppets and moving panoramic scrolls, five actor/singer/puppeteers tell refugees’ stories in original four-part choral songs. Our show is portable and accessible to a range of venue configurations in order to be able to play in diverse spaces and communities. Residencies can include a selection of workshops and community engagement opportunities. For ages 14 and up.

The Refugee Journey workshop:

Community workshops presented through the Babylon residency project engage participants through facilitated discussions that stem from a “board game” created by USCRI Vermont’s Laurie Stavrand. The game, called Refugee Journey, recreates the emotional experience of trying to bring refugee "pieces" to safety. Throughout the game, participants draw cards that tell parts of true refugee stories, and move the game pieces forward or backward on the board. Sandglass performers play the roles of border guards, smugglers, medical officers, and immigration interviewers. These characters directly confront participants in order to personalize the refugee experience in all its danger, unfairness, and bureaucracy. Frequently, the game puts a player in the situation of having to make an impossible choice, and these experiences are processed during post-game discussions. The game is over when time is up, or when one person reaches resettlement. The game’s conclusion represents the statistic that only 1% of refugees ever reach a new homeland.

The game of Refugee Journey was created by Laurie Stavrand in collaboration with Jana Zeller (design) and Sandglass Theater

Workshop duration: 90 minutes.
Number of participants: approx. 20 (but can be up to 30)
Age range: High school and older

Created in cooperation with USCRI Vermont:

Amila Merdzanovic, Director
Laurie Stavrand, Program Officer

Thanks to Dina Nayeri for the use of her texts from “The Ungrateful Refugee,” as published in The Guardian in 2017.

The game of Refugee Journey created by
Laurie Stavrand in collaboration with Jana Zeller (design) and Sandglass Theater.

Thank you to the many refugees from Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, and Somalia who told us their stories.

Who is a refugee?

A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries. Find out more:

Babylon: Journeys of Refugees has touring subsidies available through the National Theater Project award!
This competitive award supports projects that push aesthetic boundaries and reflect cultural and aesthetic diversity alive in theater today. The grant provides funding for development as well as support for touring awarded to the presenters.

(802) 387 – 4051

Video by Haptic Pictures

Babylon Artist Bios

Eric Bass, Co-Director
Co-Founding Artistic Director of Sandglass, has worked for over forty years as a director, playwright, performer and mask and puppet maker. In 1982, Mr. Bass founded Sandglass Theater in Munich, Germany, with his wife, Ines Zeller Bass. As a stage director, Eric has worked on four continents and his signature solo work, Autumn Portraits, toured around the world for three decades. His international projects include co-directing The Story of the Dog with Sovanna Phum Theater in Cambodia, Natan el Sabio with Teatro Luis Poma in El Salvador, and a puppet production of Tennessee Williams Glass Menagerie for Theater Waidspeicher in Germany. Eric toured for six years in the Sandglass production of D-Generation: An Exaltation of Larks, a piece about people with dementia, and continues to travel with Babylon: Journeys of Refugees, Sandglass’ puppetry and song exploration of the issues of fleeing war and violence and of how asylum seekers are received in a new homeland. Eric served for five years on the board of the Network of Ensemble Theaters. In 2010, he received the Vermont Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts. Eric is currently working on a new production with playwright and performer Linda Parris-Bailey from Tennessee. The piece, Flushing, explores the importance of things and values that we pass on to the next generation.

Roberto Salomon, Co-Director
Since 2003, Roberto Salomon has directed the Teatro Luis Poma, the first privately owned theater functioning year-round in his native El Salvador. In Geneva, Switzerland, he has been directing and teaching theater for the past 25 years. This is his third production with Sandglass Theater. Roberto is also the co-director of the recent·Natan el Sabio, a collaboration between TLP and Sandglass in El Salvador, a production hailed as “a mouthful of fresh air” in a country currently beset by violence. Roberto is the director of Sandglass’·D-Generation: An Exaltation of Larks, for which we won the Best Director award at the 2013 Puppeteers of America festival.

Ines Zeller Bass, Puppet and Stage Design
Ines Zeller Bass, Co-Founding Artistic Director of Sandglass, has been performing with puppets since 1968, when she became a member of the Munich marionette theater, Kleines Spiel. In 1978, she created her children’s hand puppet theater, PUNSCHI, which has toured Europe, Australia and the US. In 1982, Ines co-founded Sandglass Theater with husband Eric in Germany and moved the theater to Vermont in the mid-1980s. Ines started Sandglass Theater’s program for family audiences. Together with Eric, she teaches their approach to puppetry performance and devised composition in workshops in Vermont and abroad. She designed the puppets and set for Natan El Sabio, a collaborative project with Teatro Luis Poma in El Salvador. Ines’ puppets and design for Babylon: Journeys of Refugees, Sandglass Theater’s production, include two of her many crankies. Ines has last been touring with Sandglass’ production of D-Generation, An Exaltation of Larks, a piece about people with dementia. She is an UNIMA citation winner and in 2010, received the Vermont Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. Ines has retired from touring but is still very connected to Sandglass through her designs and puppet building, including puppets for Eric’s new collaboration with playwright and performer Linda Paris-Bailey. Ines has also built the Little Merrill puppet for Tune Yard’s new music video.

Brendan Taaffe, Composer
Based in Vernon, Vermont, Brendan Taaffe is a composer and multi-instrumentalist whose songs have been performed by choirs throughout North American and Europe. Drawing from the cadences of early American hymnody, Taaffe’s choral settings are hymns for the modern world, exploring the same eternal questions of mortality, love, and home from a non-denominational eye. Brendan is the director of The Bright Wings Chorus, and many of his original compositions are included on their four recordings: Here Below, Signs and Wonders, Vineyard, and No Time To Tarry. He is also a frequent leader with Village Harmony and has had work included in the most recent edition of Northern Harmony, a collection of contemporary shape note hymns. Brendan holds a master’s degree in performance from the University of Limerick. More at

Julian Gerstin, Percussion
Julian Gerstin, composer/percussionist, has appeared with bands ranging from the traditions of Martinique (where he lived for two years), Cuba, Puerto Rico and Ghana to experiemental jazz, afrobeat legends Orlando Julius and Baba Ken Okulolo to punk icon Richard Hell, and has worked with musicians from Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Macedonia, Bosnia, and many other countries. Julian’s current major project is the Julian Gerstin Sextet, which has released two CDs of his jazz-meets-world music compositions. He holds an MFA in Music Composition and a PhD in Anthropology, and has published in numerous academic journals. Since 2010 Julian has served as President of the Board of the Vermont Jazz Center, where he also teaches.

Jana Zeller, Stage Design
Jana has been drawing and painting since she was a child. She trained for many years as an oil painter and portrait painter, worked as a set painter for the theater, the TV and movie industry, and the opera. As one of the daughters of Sandglass Theater, she began painting puppets, sets and props early on, and later became a working puppeteer creating original shows that have been presented in the US, Canada, Mexico, Germany, and India. She performs and teaches puppetry across New England, and art classes for children in her studio in Brattleboro, Vermont.

The Ensemble

Shoshana Bass, Ensemble Performer, Project Director
Shoshana Bass is co-Artistic director and ensemble performer with Sandglass Theater in Putney, Vermont in the United States. She grew up touring internationally with the theater founded by her parents and now performs their legacy work as well as her own devised work. Her training consists of a range of physical performance disciplines spanning across theater, dance, puppetry and circus. She works as a performer, teacher, director and choreographer around the world. She is the director of Sandglass' Puppets in the Green Mountains International Festival, and produces programs and events in puppetry for all ages.

Kalob Martinez, Ensemble Performer
Kalob Martinez is an actor who combined his professional interests in stage combat and voice acting and found puppetry. His solo show, El Beto stands as the culmination of his theatrical endeavors in puppet arts, and in 2019 he received a Jim Henson Foundation grant for this show. He is currently an associate artist and ensemble member of Sandglass Theater’s, Babylon: Journeys of Refugees, and plays the Hippo in Sandglass' virtual production for young audiences of Rock the Boat. He voiced and served as the puppeteer for Arthur Fiedler twice with the Boston Pops as narrator for Peter and the Wolf and A Visit from St. Nick. He is currently a Company Artist for the Classical Theatre Company (CTC) in Houston,TX, and for five seasons (2008-2013) he was an Associate Artist. In 2020 his work for CTC’s Peer Gynt was awarded Best Use of Puppetry by the Houston Press Theatre Awards. He has performed as the mascot, Buster Brackets and Fantasy Frank, for the Tournament Marathon Challenge (2017-2019) and the Fantasy Football Marathon (2018) both on ESPN

Raphael Sacks, Ensemble Performer, Music Director
Raphael Sacks is a singer, dancer and theater maker from New York City, recently transplanted to Springfield Vermont with his own dance-theater company Loom Ensemble (, in residence at the Art Monastery Vermont ( on the banks of the Connecticut River.

Divyamaan Sahoo, Ensemble Performer
Divyamaan Sahoo from Calcutta, India received his BA from Bates College in 2017 and his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2020. He joined Sandglass Theater in 2017 and is honored to return in 2021 to perform in the filmed production of Babylon: journeys of refugees.

Kaitee Yaeko Tredway, Ensemble Performer
Kaitee Yaeko Tredway is a puppeteer and theater maker. In addition to Babylon: Journeys of Refugees, Kaitee also appears in Sandglass's production of Rock the Boat. In the fall of 2019, she performed in the ensemble of Martin P. Robinson’s All Hallows’ Eve. Her original work to date consists of short-form puppet pieces presented at puppet slams in both Boston and NYC. She has studied with international puppet artists Hugo & Ines and Yael Rasooly at the National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. Credits on stage and behind the scenes in Boston include the Lyric Stage Company, Company One, imaginary beasts, and Wheelock Family Theatre. You can find her online at

Jamie Keithline, Ensemble Member
Jamie Keithline has a BFA in Acting from the University of Connecticut, where he fell in with the wrong crowd and ended up a puppeteer. He created the Crabgrass Puppet Theatre in San Francisco in 1982 with his partner Bonny Hall. Together Jamie and Bonny have created more than two dozen productions and toured across the United States. Since moving to Vermont in 2001 they have been involved in several joint ventures with Sandglass Theater, and Jamie has been Technical Director for the Puppets in the Green Mountains Festival.

Rowan K. Ching (they/them), Ensemble Member
Rowan K. Ching is a queer Asian-American committed to using art as a vehicle for healing and social change. Rowan holds a BA in Dance from Bates College and has toured with Sandglass Theater and First Generation Ensemble. Rowan recently began a Doctorate in Acupuncture, as they aspire to incorporate East Asian body philosophies into their artistic practice while deepening their understanding of body based healing.

Thank you to our funders

Development of Babylon: Journeys of Refugees was made possible with funding by the New England Foundation for the Arts' National Theater Project, with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and additional support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, The Fresh Sound Foundation, The Jim Henson Foundation, The McKenzie Family Charitable Trust, The Vermont Community Foundation, The National Performance Network with commissions from The Flynn Center, Portland Ovations, and Columbia College Chicago Center for Community Arts Partnerships.

The film was created with funding from the New England Foundation for the Arts' National Theater Project, with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and additional support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and The Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art’s Building Bridges Program.

Touring support is provided through the generosity of The Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art’s Building Bridges Program and by the New England Foundation for the Arts' National Theater Project, with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and additional support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.