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Casting and Backstage Tours Announced for 20th Anniversary Production Of Basil Twist's SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE At HERE


SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE - the singular creation by designer, director, performer and master puppeteer Basil Twist and set to the revolutionary 1830 score by composer Hector Berlioz - returns to New York City for a 20th anniversary production, running 12 weeks only from March 29-July 15, 2018, with opening night scheduled for Tuesday, April 3 at HERE Arts Center (145 Sixth Avenue), where the ground-breaking work first premiered in 1998. HERE's Dream Music Puppetry Program's production of SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE returns to its original home at HERE to celebrate the venerable SoHo Off-Off-Broadway theatre's 25th anniversary season, it was announced by HERE's Artistic and Producing Directors Kristin Marting and Kim Whitener, and Barbara Busackino, HERE's Co-Founder and Executive Director of Tandem Otter Productions, Mr. Twist's Production Company.

"Although I have been a puppeteer as long as I can remember, the premiere of SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE in 1998 really started what has been career filled with blessings," commented Mr. Twist. "Since then, I've worked on Broadway, in opera and ballet and Lincoln Center, and all over the world, but I remain in my essence a proud artist of New York City's downtown. I'm thrilled to bring this piece back HERE to its true home. The world has changed, I have changed, and even this piece has changed, but we all still want and need to gather together in the dark and be swept away by enchantment."

"Over the years, HERE's beloved Dream Music Puppetry Program has packed houses with local, national, and international works that surprise and bedazzle our audiences. After making his debut 20 years ago, it means so much to us all to have Basil make HERE the home to his unique and magical puppetry vision," said Kim Whitener, HERE's Producing Director.

Previously performed to a recording of Berlioz's intense, ravishing symphonic masterpiece, this engagement marks the first time in New York City that SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE will be performed to live piano accompaniment, using the Franz Liszt piano transcription. Berlioz wrote SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE likely in part while under the influence of opium, and reportedly due to an unrequited love, creating bold, bright and moody flourishes of music through five short movements. At the piano is Christopher O'Riley, who has been a soloist with the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony and San Francisco Symphony, along with a recitalist throughout the U.S., Europe and Australia. Mr. O'Riley is also widely known as the host of NPR's "From the Top," now in its 15th year.

Hailed as a creative masterpiece when it debuted in 1998, SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE takes place in the most unlikely of places - a 1,000-gallon water tank, in which five unseen puppeteers swirl countless pieces of fabrics, feathers, fishing lures, flashlights, glitter, dyes, plastic, vinyl and bubbles in all shapes sizes, creating a dream-like world of imagination and surrealistic storytelling. When it premiered, theatergoers and critics swooned at the production's hallucinatory power. The New Yorker wrote, "No other theater artist in New York shows more poetic force or technical skill than the puppeteer, Basil Twist." Time Out New York wrote, "In a seen-it-all world, you've never seen anything quite like this." The Village Voice anointed the work as "a new art form."

Casting for the 20th anniversary production features some of the puppetry world's finest artists: SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE veterans Lake Simons, Andy Gaukel, Ben Elling, and frequent Twist collaborators, but SYMPHONIE newcomers Kate Brehm and Jonothon Lyons.

Audiences who have seen SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE before, or who are new to the production will also have the opportunity to get a unique behind-the-scenes glimpse of how the magic is created. Following each performance, the puppeteers of SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE will welcome interested audience members to visit backstage for a walk-through to see the tank, and some of the materials used for the mesmerizing production.

A native of San Francisco, Basil Twist is a third-generation puppeteer now living in NYC. Following early success in the Jim Henson International Festival of Puppetry, and his award-winning "The Araneidae Show," Mr. Twist was recognized as a singular artist of unlimited imagination with the debut of SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE. Highlights of his subsequent work include Petrushka (Lincoln Center), Dogugaeshi (Japan Society), Behind the Lid (with the late Lee Nagrin), Arias with a Twist (co-created by Joey Arias at HERE), and The Pee-Wee Herman Show, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Oh, Hello! and The Addams Family on Broadway.

He has collaborated with the Tony-nominated, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel, on The Long Christmas Ride Home at Trinity Rep, Vineyard Theatre and Magic Theatre. His ballet without dancers, Rite of Spring, was performed at Lincoln Center's White Light Festival; and his work has also been featured with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Houston and Atlanta Operas, The Joffrey Ballet's Nutcracker with Christopher Wheeldon, and Cinderella with Dutch National and San Francisco Ballets.

Twist has received a host of awards including an Obie, two Drama Desks two Bessie Awards a Doris Duke Award and a coveted MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant."

Kate Brehm (Puppeteer) is new to SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE, but has developed work and toured with Twist since 2005. Projects include: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Dorothy and the Prince of Oz, The Rite of Spring, Sister's Follies, Dogugaeshi, and Petrushka. She produces her own work as imnotlost, and teaches puppetry, visual and physical theater.

Ben Elling (Puppeteer) is a performer and theater technician. In addition to SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE, Elling has worked with Tandem Otter on Basil Twist's The Rite of Spring, and Sister's Follies.

Andy Gaukel (Puppeteer) Highlights include SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE (Dodger Stages; Twist Festival, D.C.), original ensemble of Paula Vogel's The Long Christmas Ride Home (Trinity Repertory Company/Long Wharf Theatre), and Gaukel's original work Schweinehund (World Premiere 2015 Festival Mondial des Théâtres de Marionnettes, Charleville-Mézières, France; 2016 Internationales Figurentheaterfestival Blickwechsel, Germany; Casteliers, Montreal, and 2017 Biennale internationale des arts de la marionnette, Paris.

Jonothon Lyons (Puppeteer) is a New York-based writer and performer. This is his first time performing SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE, and his fifth show with Basil Twist. His barbershop quartet, The Apple Boys, can be seen all over the city delivering apples in four-part harmony.

Lake Simons (Puppeteer) is a veteran SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE performer, having performed in the production in 2003 at Lincoln Center and the run at Dodger Stages in 2004, as well as the tours that followed. Other credits include Puppetry Associate on War Horse on Broadway, and as a puppeteer with The Rockettes for the New York Spring Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall.

The OBIE-winning HERE (Kristin Marting, Artistic Director and Kim Whitener, Producing Director), which celebrates its 25th Anniversary this season, was named a Top Ten Off-Off Broadway Theatre by Time Out New York, and is a leader in the field of producing and presenting new, hybrid performance viewed as a seamless integration of artistic disciplines - theater, dance, music and opera, puppetry, media, visual and installation, spoken word and performance art. Standout productions include Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, Basil Twist's Symphonie Fantastique and Arias with a Twist, Hazelle Goodman's On Edge, Trey Lyford & Geoff Sobelle's all wear bowlers, Young Jean Lee's Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven, Corey Dargel's Removable Parts, Taylor Mac's The Lily's Revenge, Kamala Sankaram's Miranda and Robin Frohardt's The Pigeoning, among many others. Its acclaimed PROTOTYPE festival of opera-theatre and music-theatre, co-produced with Beth Morrison Projects, is now in its sixth season. In 2008, following an extensive renovation, HERE re-opened the doors to its long-time downtown home for the arts, where it continues as a vibrant, welcoming haven for artists and audiences alike.

HERE's Dream Music Puppetry Program, under the artistic direction of Basil Twist, with producing direction from HERE co-founder Barbara Busackino, is one of few programs in the country to grow and commission contemporary adult puppet works, particularly works that feature live music as a collaborative element. Dream Music seeks to secure the future of puppetry by providing increased development and performance opportunities to puppet artists, and by collaborating with artists from other disciplines to develop new puppetry techniques. This program was inaugurated with the premiere of Twist's OBIE-award winning SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE in 1998 and the opening of the Dorothy B. Williams Theatre, an intimate space created specifically for puppetry. HERE's Dream Music is also proud to house the Griff Williams Puppetry Collection. The six antique marionettes of Harry James, Griff Williams, Cab Calloway, Arturo Toscannini, Ted Lewis and Paul Whiteman were all performed with The Griff Williams Orchestra in the 1930s & 1940s throughout America's big band era. They have a permanent home outside the Dorothy B. Williams Theatre at HERE.

Scheduled for 12 weeks, SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE will play March 29-July 15. Performances schedule: Tuesday through Saturday at 8:30 PM, with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 4:00 PM.

Tickets ($30-$60) can be purchased online at or by phone at (212) 352- 3101. HERE is located at 145 Avenue of the Americas, entrance on Dominick Street, one block south of Spring Street.

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