Puppets in Paradise

About the Event

Puppets in Paradise brings together artists and audiences for a two-day celebration of puppetry and theater arts set in the beautiful agrarian landscape of Southern Vermont. This premier biennial family event is produced in collaboration with Retreat Farm, a prominent feature of the Brattleboro landscape for 180 years. At Puppets in Paradise audiences will walk around the farm and encounter short-form puppet performances, theater artists and musicians amidst the fields, historic barns and animals. Food and refreshments from local vendors add to the delight of a beautiful day.

Last year Sandglass welcomed an exciting roster of first-time and returning performers. See more information about their shows below:

Fly features the Swan and the Flamingo, two giant birds built entirely from garbage and obsolete items, who live between two worlds and remind us of times when we were perhaps more in tune with nature around us. This piece is performed by Break-Fast Puppets, a young and innovative company co-directed by Anthony Sellitto and Joanie Papillon. Soon to be alumni of the Puppet Arts program at UConn, these artists seek to tell compelling stories that process the non-material world through sculptural techniques, choreographic vocabulary and visual storytelling.

Magnificent Monster Circus: Come one, come all, to a circus like no other! Encounter magnificent creatures from the wilds of your imagination as their quirky human caretaker tries to teach them new tricks. Kids can lend a hand to Eustice the Unicycling Unimonster, make friends with a Fiery Fanged Worm, cheer for Agnes the many-legged Acropod, and more! CactusHead Puppets was founded in 2010 by married couple John and Megan Regan. They have created several family shows, often based on folktales which tour throughout the Northeast. Megan and John are both graduates of the University of Connecticut's Puppet Arts program. Megan is originally from the Kansas City area, where she worked with Paul Mesner Puppets, now known as What If Puppets. John is from western Massachusetts, and is honored to be performing in the same venues where he saw puppet shows growing up.

Jeghetto’s Pop Up Variety Show: Join in and interact with Jeghetto’s unique style of puppets. This promises to be a magical experience for children of all ages. Jeghetto is a self taught master builder and puppeteer residing in NC. His puppets are abstract moving sculptures made of mostly found and recycled materials. He has received two grants from the Jim Henson Foundation prior to becoming a board member himself. Jeghetto has worked with Missy Elliott, Pharrell Williams, Alec Baldwin and Terence Nance. He was a guest on The Steve Harvey Show and performed puppetry on The Voice and HBO’s Random Acts of Flyness.

Subway Creatures: A beloved pet rat that gets lost in NYC’s train station. While trying to find her way back home, she encounters many “subway creatures.” Many of them are not so kind to her. Will she be able to survive the harsh and strange city world? This subterranean tale is resented by Samantha Sing, a puppeteer and animal educator in NYC. She is currently working at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater and performs with Wonderspark Puppets. Additional puppetry training includes Sandglass' Summer Intensive Puppetry Training as well as participating in the O’Neil’s 2021 National Puppetry Conference. She is the founder of Sam & Friends, a team of herself and 15+ animals. Through educational programs and art they hope to teach and spread compassion and kindness to the world.

The King’s Justice: A courtly spectacle is coming to this year’s festival. The King's justice shall be swift and merciless. Will you be spared the axe? Find out in this interactive puppet performance created and performed by Stoph Scheer. Stoph creates original puppet performances with Doppelskope, and original puppet videos with The Creatures of Yes. In addition to her work with Sandglass, her other notable performing credits include The Jim Henson Company, The Muppets, and Banksy. She recently completed her studies at UConn, earning a Master's Degree in Puppet Arts.

Hugo and Claude: High on a french cathedral sit the gargoyle duo Hugo and Claude. Alike in stone only, one delights in the daily visits from pigeon friends and dreams of flying freely with them, while the other can't stand them and can only grumble about those pesky little birds. One day, a miracle happens. Shoshana Bass, in collaboration with Kirk Murphy, will bring Hugo and Claude to this year’s festival. Shoshana is artistic director of Sandglass Theater based in Putney, Vermont. Having been raised in a traveling family of internationally acclaimed puppeteers, she has spent her life witnessing and in dialogue with artistic voices of diverse cultures, heritages, and perspectives. Now she performs, directs, and choreographs internationally. She is the director for Sandglass’ Puppets in the Green Mountains International Biennial Festival. She is a touring ensemble member with the company in Babylon, Journeys of Refugees; Rock the Boat; and Punschi, Oma and her solo performance When I Put On Your Glove. Kirk Murphy, long associated with Sandglass Theater, is a puppeteer and musician based in southern Vermont. He has toured exclusively with the company, performing first with Sandglass in their collaboration with Cambodian shadow puppet theater Sovannah Phum beginning in 2005. He also toured with the company in D-Generation, An Exaltation of Larks, Sandglass’ award-winning piece that explored the creative potential of people living with mid-to-late stage dementia.

Bee Resilient: An exploration of life connections and cycles. The bee yearns for the great gift of pollen afforded by the sunflower, a massive and triumphant feat of annual growth through the hills of Slavic lands. Sova Dance & Puppet Theater seeks to highlight the relationship between their ancestral Slovak cultural representative, the busy bee, and the sunflower, the symbol of neighboring Ukraine. Each relies on the other as neighbors, cousins, and further yet as a global community, so when the safety of one is threatened we all are. Bee Resilient is the newest piece from Adelka Polak, an internationally-acclaimed mask and puppet performer based in CT. Her company, Sova Dance & Puppet Theater, celebrates humanity and the environment by engaging audiences through live performance, communicating that which cannot easily be described in words alone, making art accessible to communities around the globe.

Selections From Conference of the Birds: A play adapted from a great 12th Century poem from Persia – the ancient land that is now the country of Iran. In this excerpt directed by Eric Bass and Mackenzie Doss the birds are on a quest for happiness. The birds each represent a different type of person, a different defensiveness against reaching higher for our freedom and our ability to truly love ourselves. The performers in Conference of the Birds work together as an ensemble (a collective group or company). Presented in collaboration with the New England Youth Theater, an organization that fosters the growth of young people through the practice of theater arts in a welcoming, youth-centered community.

Bug: An unsuspecting scientist peeking through a microscope beholds a bug that opens its wings and reveals a series of mysterious transformations that are entirely unscientific. Created and performed by Jana Zeller. Jana has been a working artist for almost three decades, practicing two art forms she has loved since she was little: painting and puppetry. She has painted and exhibited a big body of oil paintings, and has been performing and teaching puppetry for thousands of people in New England and abroad.

To Sheep To Dream: We are but sheep in the wild, and so we dance. Perhaps for fun, maybe for hope, or even a bit for protection, we build a dance one step, one body, one gathering at a time. Celebrating local traditions of shepherding and contra dance, long-time Putney Choreographer Virginia Scholl and Director Gabriel Pasculli are creating a community event that we hope you’ll flock to join! Gabriel Thom Pasculli is the Creative Producer at Sandglass Theater as well as an interdisciplinary performance artist, theater director, and professor of acting, movement and voice. Before Sandglass, Gabriel was an artistic director of Walkabout Theater in Chicago (now Wender Collective) and a founding co-director of VoxFest at Dartmouth College. Virginia Scholl choreographed a sheep dance twenty years ago for Putney’s 250th celebration, and she is delighted to be reimagining it for PIP, with costumes decorated with wool from her son’s sheep farm and inspired by watching his dogs work the flock. She has spent years playing jigs and reels, and has invited a team of local contradance musicians to accompany the dancers and invite the audience to join in.

Thank you to our 2023 funders

Puppets in Paradise is sponsored by Landmark College, Oak Meadow and M&T Bank, with additional funding from the Windham Foundation, The Thomas Thompson Trust, Brattleboro Savings and Loan, The Two West Foundation, The Vermont Arts Council with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New England States Touring program of the New England Foundation for the Arts, made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts Regional Touring Program and the six New England state arts agencies.