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Games About Frontiers: Sandglass Theater Residency Focuses on Refugee Resettlement

Here in the rural hills of Putney, an issue like refugee resettlement may feel like it’s taking place a great distance away. The truth is, however, that the impact may be felt nearer than many suspect, and at a greater magnitude than we might at first realize.

Sandglass Theater has been invited to Landmark College in an effort to deepen our understanding of refugee resettlement, from both the point of view of those leaving their homelands as well as the new communities they inhabit. The weeklong residency includes performances, class visits, workshops, talks, and other activities, many of which are also open to the public and all of which are offered at no charge.

“Sandglass Theater has a long relationship with the college. [Co-founding artistic director] Eric Bass has directed our student productions in the past, and looks to Landmark as a venue for ‘Puppets in the Green Mountains,’” says LC Associate Professor of Liberal Studies, Adrienne Major. “I am excited that Eric holds such a close relationship with Landmark, recognizing both the capacity of its students and the importance of its mission in his continued work with the College.”

The centerpiece of the residency is the new work, Babylon (Showings on Tuesday, October 31 at 12:30 p.m.; and Saturday, November 4 at 7:30 p.m. in the Greenhoe Theatre). With the help of the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program (VRRP), Sandglass Theater has created this dramatic piece where seven refugees attend a metaphorical hearing about their need for asylum. The company of five puppeteers tell the stories through original, four-part choral songs in front of moving panoramic scrolls. Reserve a seat for one of the performances here.

“Whether in the United States, or around the world, our society has always dealt with the relocation of civilians,” says Eric Bass, who shares directing credit for the project with Roberto Salomon. “At a particularly heated time in this discussion, Babylon gives voice to the actual stories of refugees and the concerns of communities attempting to deal with the circumstances.”

Talk-backs follow each performance, which Sandglass characterizes as a work in-progress presentation in advance of the world premiere taking place at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington, Vermont during the winter of 2018.

The residency shifts from treading the boards of the Greenhoe theater stage to an actual game board created by members of the Babylon team and VRRP. “The Game of Refugees” (​Tuesday, October 31, and Wednesday, November 1, 7 p.m., Café Court) is an interactive experience where players take on the refugee’s journey from home, across borders, through the resettlement process, and, finally, to the airport. Sandglass cast members assume the roles of border guards, security officials and NGO workers, who throw twists into the game at various times to illustrate the obstacles that lead to less than one percent of all refugees successfully resettling.

A puppeteering workshops (Thursday, November 2; 6-9 p.m., Studio Theater) provides participants a hands-on experience with Sandglass Theater’s approach to breathing life into puppets. The company’s technique is further elaborated upon in Eric Bass’s talk, “The Puppet as ‘Other’: How Sandglass Theater Addresses Social Justice” that caps the residency (Monday, November 6, 7 p.m., Brooks M. O’Brien Auditorium).

“My vision is that students—and indeed, the Landmark College community — will be able to witness the first performance, take part in a workshop or two, and then be able to experience the second performance with a fresh perspective and deeper understanding of the artistic movement that supports the performance,” says Major.

Registration for participation in any of the activities is not required, although reserving a seat for one of the "Babylon" performances is recommended - please click here to make a reservation for the October 31 or November 4 performance. Please contact Adrienne Major at 802-387-7143 or email amajor@landmark.edu with additional questions.

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