…As the Puppet Turns…Interview with Artist Michelle Connolly

…As the Puppet Turns… Delving into the lives of the puppeteers (and artists!)… Installment #5:  Artist & Curator of “Puppet Parlour” Exhibit, Michelle Connolly interviewed by Gina Gambony

I met Michelle Connolly a year and a half ago when we were both selling our wares at the local Art for the Masses event.  When I had a break, I wandered around checking out all the GREAT ART-and I was immediately drawn to Michelle and her work.  I think I bought my first Connolly piece that very day.   When I started gathering local resources for the festival last year, I knew Michelle needed to be involved.  Her contribution is fantastic-a juried exhibit of all kinds of art related to puppetry:  Puppet Parlour at ACME Art Studios.

GG: Gooood evening Michelle!

MC:  Goooood Evening Gina! Excited to be here with you!

GG:  Tell me how you came to Wilmington, you are originally from some other English-speaking places?

MC:  We-me, my husband Steve, and our boys, Aidan and Rory- moved to Wilmington in April 2007 with a secondment for Steve at GE. we were meant to be here 2 years but its been extended …Steve and I are originally from England, we moved to Sydney from UK with my software job, I was an Oracle consultant. Both our boys are Australian born .. so we moved here from Sydney Australia. We are all Australian Citizens ..funny both boys now have American southern accents.

GG:  That’s very funny, I hope to meet your boys sometime. I bet they have very…interesting accents with all the combination of things!

MC:  Yes they are a lot of fun you’d like them .. Aidan is a born performer!

GG:  Were you making art in Australia before you came to Wilmington?

MC:   I did art in Sydney but have been working as full time artist since moving here and having my studio at ACME.

GG:  Has the Wilmington art scene helped your art blossom? Because you are so incredibly prolific!

MC:  I love being here in Wilmington, so many creative people here, I have met so many great artists and musicians who have inspired me, encouraged me and supported me. I do produce a lot of work, it’s the way I like to work on many pieces at a time, to keep the spontaneity, I am an ideas person and so the ideas are always flowing.  It’s hard for me to slow down.

GG:  You have been a great addition to our arts scene. I really love the energy in your work, it’s like you don’t have the “inner critic” stopping you, you just pour it out!

MC:  ACME has been a blessing to me, given me a place to work and a good art community to relate to, I love working there.  I like being bold and daring and trying new things.  You too have inspired me with this Puppet thing, I have puppets running through my mind now!

GG: I contacted you early in the festival process because of your energy and ideas, and the content and themes of your work just fit so well with the puppet festival. I know you will have some puppets jumping out from your brain and fingertips.

MC:  Yes, I do like characters and performance, comedy and theatre. These come into my work a lot … I wanted to be a Clown when I was kid!

There has been a brilliant response to the Puppets Parlour show at ACME, lots of artists are now sending in their work. It’s great to see that energy grow, it all started from that meeting last year, thanks for sparking it off with us all!

GG:  The idea for the ACME exhibit is so fantastic, to include the theme of puppetry into all forms of art, to bring in artists of all ilks to the creative expression of puppetry!

MC:  It’s been really magical to see the interest grow. Thanks to the WHQR radio interview, we have submissions coming in from all over now.

GG:  Tell me details about the exhibit.

MC:  The exhibit will be selected from the submissions received by June 16, 2010.  Fritzi Huber and Michael Van Hout will help review the body of work.  The criteria is that the work fits in the space and is related to the world of puppets.

The exhibition will be held at ACME (711 Nth 5th Ave Wilmington NC 28401).

Opening reception: Saturday, 10 July 6:00-9:00 pm, with live music, live performance, projected film, and artwork, of course.

Michael and ACME volunteers will hang the show, so work has to be ready to display, wired etc, and, if necessary, with instructions on hanging.

GG:  Any ideas for submissions you have heard that you’d like to share?

MC:  David Hervey from Cosmic Groove Lizards has submitted some brilliant Rock Star Puppets-they are wonderful.  We had a call from a man in Burgaw whose sons work for Bread & Puppet and he wants them to show some of their work.  He says his house is full of puppetabilia.

GG:  Oh wow, I know those boys! I worked with them when Bread & Puppet was here in 2008. Fantastic.

MC:   Yes, Ross the Dad said he knew you and Fritzi, he heard me on the radio and was very excited!

GG: We really wanted to get Bread & Puppet here to perform for the festival, but July is a very busy time for them.  [But-Cameron Art Museum is exhibiting selected works from Bread & Puppet as part of their “PuppetArt” exhibition, opening on July 15.]

MC:  Sounds like these guys have a lot of things at their Dad’s house that would be great as part of the group show.

Then we have other entries, some great paintings of puppets, some collaborative works underway by Photographers and Artists, etc.

GG:  Aside from the Opening on July 10, ACME will be open for visitors on Saturday, July 17 as well, for the festival?

MC: Yes, ACME will be open to the public on Saturday, July 17 from 11:00am-2:00pm, and again for the locals who missed the openings on our 4th Friday gallery night Friday, July 23, 6:00-9:00 pm so we have 3 openings .. not bad eh?!

GG:  Excellent! Now I don’t mean to pry…but…I just KNOW you are or will be doing something for this exhibit. I’m curious…

MC:  Mmmmm .. yep several works underway.  Can never work on just the one…small puppet creations inspired by found objects, shells, broken brushes, scraps found around my messy studio. I am creating Puppet characters, they are multiplying over time.

I am not sure where it will take me as I love to paint and draw and may end up using these chaps as still life props for my final work, but enjoying playing with them at the moment.  Endless ideas … ahhhhhh.

GG:  Just keep them flowing!

All you artists out there inspired by this project, submit pictures via email to marsconnolly@gmail.com by June 16!

…As the Puppet Turns…Interview with Eric Bass of Sandglass Theater

…As the Puppet Turns… Delving into the lives of the puppeteers… Installment #4:  Co-Founder and Performer of Sandglass Theater, Eric Bass interviewed by Drew Allison

Sandglass Theater is an award-winning company located for the past 20 years in Vermont.  Their work has received 6 UNIMA Citations of Excellence, various theatrical awards, and honors from Germany, Australia, and Hungary.  Eric Bass will be performing a piece they created 30 years ago, “Autumn Portraits.”

If you are unfamiliar with their work, Sandglass Theater may garner your interest in 2 simple ways:  the lovely photos of their work, and their elegant artistic statement: In the microcosm of theater, the puppet is a means of integrating, of pulling back together pieces torn apart from each other. The puppet is the embodiment of a world no longer ours, an abstraction of a memory, a dream which is recalled. It is other than us, but it lives through us. We grasp it, and in grasping it, it takes hold of us. In dancing with the puppet, we are dancing with our more secret side. We are integrating parts of ourselves. -Sandglass Theater

DA:  Eric, everyone on the Port City Puppet Fest staff is excited about you coming. You refer to Autumn Portraits as a “classic.” Tell us a bit about the show, the process of putting it together, etc.

EB:  I made Autumn Portraits in 1980. I was just coming off five years at The Theater of the Open Eye in New York, a theater ensemble of actors, dancers, musicians and puppeteers. I felt that I needed to make a solo show. It was inspired by that strange meeting point of classical Japanese puppetry and American Vaudeville.

DA:  I am sure that you’ve performed the piece countless times. What are some of the most memorable performances of Autumn Portraits that you recall?

EB:  In 1983 I toured in Australia for 6 weeks. Just about every performance was memorable, although not all of them for “good” reasons.

Perhaps the most interesting was one in northeastern Australia where I found myself in a seacoast town with a big prejudice against punks. I have a section of the show where I bring people up onstage with one of the puppets. I brought up a young woman with a green mohawk haircut. After the show, a woman from the audience told my tour manager that she had always hated punks but now, because of the show that evening, she discovered that they could be funny and nice, just like real people.

DA: Wow. Can you tell us a bit about Sandglass Theatre? Origins, goals, mantras, etc?

EB:  Sandglass started in Germany in 1982. I had moved there to live with Ines [Eric’s wife] and we started working together. We needed a name so that we could register as a company. Tax issue.  The hourglass was an image in both Autumn Portraits and in Sand, the show that Ines and I were working on. We liked the image but we didn’t like the word. It’s a cumbersome word, and besides, an hour is an arbitrary amount of time, isn’t it? Hourglass in German is a sanduhr, a sand clock. So we combined the languages and came up with Sandglass. Years later, I discovered it was not our invention. I found out that there had been a theater society in the 1940s (I think) call “Sandglass.”

DA: Will Ines be coming with you to Wilmington in July?

EB:  She will. We often tour together with Autumn Portraits and her solo for children, Isidor’s Cheek. We run the lights for each others shows.

DA: I believe you said you will be at UConn prior to the Port City Puppet Festival. Will you all be teaching? What’s happening there?

EB:  Ines and I and Dave Regan teach a 3-week intensive training workshop most summers. It is training in manipulation, in connecting the breath to the puppet, and also in composition. It also trains in developing a relationship between the materials of the puppet and the metaphor that creates.

DA: Ok, here’s another lofty, conceptual question to try and stomach first thing in the morning. Personally, I am excited about the current state of puppetry in this country. It seems elevated, fresh and re-birthed. I wonder what your thoughts are on the current state of puppetry?

EB:  I don’t get to see enough. That’s one reason why Ines and are happy to be coming to a festival again. We don’t get to see many of the shows we hear about. We are too caught up in our community and sometimes too caught up in our own work. So, things look interesting, but we need to see more. We have been running an international puppet festival up here in Vermont since 1997, bi-annually. This is the first year that we will be presenting some American companies from outside of our area. Blair Thomas is coming, and Paul Mesner, and Larry Hunt.

DA:  You all are doing some exciting things in Vermont. I see where you, Ines and Sandglass were awarded the Governor’s Award. Tell us what that was like.

EB:  We went up to the State House and performed in the House Chamber. The Arts Council wanted to make an event of it. We thought it would be great to celebrate not only Ines and me, but the art of puppetry. So we invited some friends to perform: Crabgrass, Larry Hunt, and Rob Mermin (founder of Circus Smirkus) with his “puppets” made of soap bubbles.

The high point was the governor’s escorted entrance to the podium. He was escorted by tow of our camels from Between Sand and Stars. During his speech, they read over his shoulder, chewed their hooves, and spit at the audience. He took it well, though.

DA:  Hilarious! Is there anything else you would like to add, or let folks coming to the festival know about?

EB:  Just that inspiration can come from anywhere. In Autumn Portraits, one piece was inspired by music, one by image, one by a game, one by a dialogue. So there’s that and — oh yes, we are getting older.

DA:  Yes, this age thing rolls along. But life is good! Thanks so much for your time, Eric.

EB:  Thanks for the chat.  Hasta la vista.

Got Puppets?

We are looking for more puppets to display in downtown Wilmington shop windows beginning in mid-June!

The desire for puppets in the windows is bigger than I expected–the downtown stores WANT YOUR PUPPETS!  Some want big puppets, some small, some freaky, some elegant…all kinds of stores…I believe we can gather enough puppets to satisfy them all.

To get your puppet involved, you just mail it to me, with a stand if applicable, and we hook it up with the right business on Front Street downtown (this is the street where we will have the procession on Saturday, July 17).   I’ll ask you a few questions to put on the identifying card (so people will know where the puppet came from).  Then you can pick up the puppet at the festival (or designate a contact to pick it up if you can’t make it).

This is a great way to support the festivities, folks, and raise the level of puppet consciousness in Wilmington…so let me know.  Got Puppets?  We need ’em!

See more about our festival exhibits here.

…As the Puppet Turns…Interview with Drew Allison of Grey Seal Puppets

…As the Puppet Turns… Delving into the lives of the puppeteers… Installment #3:  Founder and Performer of Grey Seal Puppets, Drew Allison interviewed by Gina Gambony

I first saw Drew Allison perform in a pub in Asheville, NC – it was Grey Seal’s “Show of Virtues” for the 2006 Regional festival.  A couple of years later, I discovered Drew had spent time in Wilmington and had worked with some of the same people I work with in some of the same places I’ve worked in.  It’s been fantastic to draw on Drew’s longtime experience as a puppeteer and his passionate commitment to the art; he is one of our artistic directors for the Port City Puppet Festival!

Prior to the festival, Drew will be performing “The Emperor’s New Clothes” at Kenan Auditorium, a venue that is no stranger to Drew.  This show is for local camp groups on the morning of July 15.  Drew will also be co-hosting Potpourri at the festival with Bob Nathanson…that’s right, DREWBOB strikes again!

GG:  Drew Allison, I know a little bit about you…you studied Theatre at UNCW (our host for the upcoming festival) back in the day!

DA: Yes. Under my mentor of all mentors, the late, super great Doug Swink, professor of theatre at UNCW. Along with English Prof. John Clifford, they really transformed me while I was there.

GG:  Did you go to college intending to major in Theatre?

DA:  No, English. Which indeed is what my degree is in, with a minor in Theatre. I had dreams of being a National Geographic Photojournalist, but the puppets wouldn’t go away.

GG:  How did you get drawn into the Theater Department and by extension, puppetry? Or was it the other way around…?

DA:  I was already doing puppetry. I had actually started Grey Seal Puppets while in High School. So, the puppets were there and thus all the theatre courses. Doug Swink gave me a space to work in and helped me produce two full-length solo pieces while I was there.

GG:  So let’s get in the WAYBACK machine for a moment…what happened in your youth that got you started with puppetry?

DA:  I grew up here in Charlotte. I was inspired by television puppetry; Capt. Kangaroo was a favorite, Sesame Street, etc. Personifying objects was fascinating to me. Building scarecrows and such was a real natural high for me growing up. My parents were very supportive and gave me a book by Helen Fling for Christmas on making marionettes. It was game-on then, I started really building tons of puppets and started doing birthday party shows, etc. etc.

GG:  Now, at UNCW Doug Swink had his office in Kenan Auditorium, and he gave you some puppet space there?

DA:  Yes, his office was just off of the lobby. There was a vacant faculty office on the balcony level that he let me use as a studio. To this day I can’t believe his kindness and generosity.

GG:  It is truly amazing. I don’t know if faculty can “do” that kind of thing anymore on campus.

While Doug was not a puppeteer, he obviously had a great impact on you. Did this go beyond offering the space?

DA:  Yes, I think he shaped my whole approach to theatre, and moreover an outlook on life. He was kind, patient and above all else, always laughing and enjoying life. He wore shorts most of the time. I try to emulate all of these characteristics. He respected puppets as a theatre form. He directed me in the pieces I produced while there. He used me and my puppets in outside productions, particularly with the Junior League and their productions.

GG:  The Pied Piper Productions!

DA:  A show Tony Rivenbark starred in is the one I remember most.  I was sort of in awe of Tony’s talent. In one Junior League production, I played a puppet character that was the Director of the show and Tony played the Director’s assistant. He would crack me up the whole show. He was wonderful.

GG:  Tony is a funny guy. Did you know he has an entire Punch of Judy set from Great Britain?

He tries to hide it, but he loves puppets.

DA:  Yes, you showed me when I was there.

GG:  During your time at UNCW, did you know before you graduated that you would be choosing puppetry as a career?

DA:  No. I never thought that was going to happen. When I graduated I came back to Charlotte and went to work for a filmmaker here in town. It gave me a great background in all sorts of film and TV production which turned out to be invaluable for our on-camera work here at Grey Seal Puppets.

GG: And what spurred the quantum leap into full-time puppetry, how did it happen?

DA:  The Great Recession of the early 80’s which got me laid-off at the filmmaker’s. This was the catalyst to focus all energy on puppetry.

GG:  What are some of the milestones in the development of Grey Seal along the way?

DA:  I think moving into a downtown studio in 1984 helped us a lot. Winning an UNIMA Citation of Excellence in the mid-80’s [for “Animal Farm”]  was a real affirmation for us and was a great confidence booster. Having a 10 year Anniversary Documentary made about the company was huge. But overall it’s more of a steady exploration of what we are capable of as performers using puppets.  [Grey Seal also received UNIMA Citations of Excellence for “Bathtub Pirates” in 1996 and “Show of Virtues” in 2007.]

GG:  One thing Grey Seal is known for is FOAM. First, where did you learn your amazing foam skills?  You published the first foam book 10 years ago, and you are also creating an online foam community now!

DA:  Ha! Well, my first real adventures in building “real puppets” in the corner of our attic involved plastic, wood, molds and what seemed like an interminable process for a teenager. I was probably drawn to foam by the Muppets, but what I loved about it from the start was its immediacy, its forgiveness and its flexibility to create all sorts of different looks. Our “look” grew out of years of just playing with foam and finding out what it was capable of.

It amazes me how many people have found solace in The Foam Book.  We just had the 7th printing of The Foam Book. We are writing The Foam Book 2.0 as we speak. Thanks to Amazon, etc. it goes all over the world.

We also did a DVD version of me actually demonstrating the techniques on camera which seems to be helpful for folks.

Grey Seal Puppets-Drew on camera

GG:  Tell me a little about Grey Seal’s work on film.

DA:  Well, there’s some exiting news to that end. Donald Devet, who I worked with for a long time until he changed careers in 1998, is putting together a 6-DVD disc set of a retrospective of all of GSP’s on-camera work. As we compiled all the footage, we were both amazed at how much there was. Enough to fill 6 DVDs??  Holy cow. Our work centers on commercials, family specials, corporate training tapes, etc. The retrospective should be ready by the Festival!

GG:  Grey Seal is obviously more than just the amazing Drew Allison. Who are some of your right hand (and left hand) folk?

DA: Grey Seal is definitely a sum of its parts. We are a team and approach everything that way. Vania Reckard runs our workshop, Megan Agee runs our office and we have several builders that we use on a regular basis: Cheralyn Lambeth, Jeff Hawley, Dominie Doig…

GG:  What would you say is the bread and butter of the company, how has it lasted so long and been so successful?

DA:  Ours has always been a three-pronged approach: live performances in schools and theatres; on-camera work; and building characters for other people.

This approach allows for three revenue streams; when one trickles, hopefully another one flows. That’s our philosophy.

GG:  Grey Seal isn’t just puppets-you build big MASCOTS and such.

DA:  Yes, we custom design mascots for sports teams, corporations, etc. We do the New Orleans Hornet which is well-known, along with the Charlotte Bobcat, lots of local teams here, lots of colleges, etc. The mascot projects are usually one right after another.

GG:  What are your hopes/visions/dreams for Grey Seal for the next 5 years?

DA:  Hmmmm. New stuff. Keep exploring. More on camera work which I love. Nurture young puppeteers.

I feel good about the state of our theatre form. I’m blown away by puppetry I’m seeing on stage and on camera. Very exciting! I’m very excited about the Port City Puppet Festival and hope that people in Wilmington realize how unique it is for them to have something like this in their city and they take advantage of it!

GG:  I’m looking forward to having you here in the Port City again this summer.  What are some places you plan to revisit?

DA:  Elizabeth’s Pizza, Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn, and Goody Goody Omelet House.

GG:  What can I say…Goody Goody!

…As the Puppet Turns…Interview with Lee Bryan: “That Puppet Guy”

…As the Puppet Turns… Delving into the lives of the puppeteers… Installment #2:  Puppeteer Lee Bryan interviewed by Gina Gambony

Lee Bryan, also known as “That Puppet Guy,” is a puppeteer of national renown situated for many years in Atlanta, Georgia.  Lee is a two-time grant recipient of the prestigious Jim Henson Foundation for his solo productions of “Pinocchio” and “Suitcase Circus.”  His professional film credits include work with the Muppets on the feature film, “The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland.”  The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences honored Lee with an Emmy nomination for his work with Public Broadcasting on the award-winning Spanish language series, SALSA!

Lee will be performing “Pinocchio” at the Festival:  Friday, July 16, 7:00 pm at Kenan Auditorium.  Tickets will be available to the public!

GG:  Lee, I’m wondering what brought you into performance generally…I have the sense (after seeing you perform) that you’ve had theatrical training/experience.

LB:  I have a theater background and grew up performing musical theater. I was “that kid” doing backyard puppet and magic shows.  I graduated to working with puppets in a local church ministry where I helped create a puppet program as a teen.  From there, I worked as a performer and later auditioned for the Center for Puppetry Arts. I didn’t get the role I was auditioning for, but was offered an internship. That was around 1992.

Under the education department, I began touring my shows. They discontinued their touring artists program (hopefully not because of me), but by then I had already caught the puppeteering bug. I created my first show: “The Princess and the Pea, Y’all” and started my own company.

GG:  Where did you grow up?

LB:  I grew up in Lumberton, NC, Class of 19[static].

GG:  Did anyone provide you with puppet experience before you went to Atlanta? Were there puppet folk in Lumberton?

LB:  No, there was no one there. The library was my friend… I checked out a lot of books. My first inspiration came from Edith Flack Ackley author of Easy to Make, Fun to Use.

In Lumberton, I helped create the program, built the puppets, and wrote the shows… much like I do today.

GG:  Was it with “The Princess and the Pea, Y’all” that you chose your handle, That Puppet Guy?

LB:  Actually, that was bestowed upon me by librarians here in Georgia.

It was catchy and I liked it, so I went with it.

GG:  Yeah, it’s a great name. I can just imagine kids, parents, teachers saying, “Hey-remember that puppet guy??? He’s gonna be here tomorrow!”

LB:  It really happened much like that…and it is easy to remember.

GG:  What was your first experience doing puppetry for television?

LB:  The first time I had a character, and wasn’t a background character was with Georgia Public Broadcasting’s SALSA!

SALSA! was a Spanish language series that taught the language through familiar fairy tales.

GG:  How is the experience different, working for film vs. live?

LB:  It is a whole lot of hurry up and wait.

There are hours and hours spent on set while shots, lighting, and sound are lined up.

Working live, I show up, I set up my stage, sound, and lights… perform, take it all down and repeat up to 3 times a day.

Film can be shot over and over with precision demanded of the script. In a live performance, I know the route I want to take, but the path isn’t always exactly the same. Sometimes jokes work; sometimes, I try something new. It is important to listen to the audience and invite them on the journey with you.

GG:  That’s what I like about live performance, the symbiosis between the performer and the audience. But tell me about the film, “Elmo in Grouchland”-you worked here in Wilmington on that, right?

LB:  Yes, at the Screen Gem Studio. It was a great experience meeting all the icons of Sesame Street. As I type this, I can look across at a collage of pictures that I took with Mandy Patinkin [Princess Bride, Alien Nation, Yentl, Dick Tracy] and Carroll Spinney [Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch].

It was a wonderful experience and a memory that I will not soon forget.  I was a puppeteer for various Grouchland characters.

GG:  I haven’t seen the movie, what should I look for to see your work?

LB:  Among others, I did a boyscout grouch, a character in the “Car Mess” (Opposite of Car Wash) and I even got to hold the Cooke Monster in a background scene…hmmmmmm is talking about this illegal? I don’t know.

Of course, all the lead characters were from NYC.

GG:  Ha ha, the leads are always from NYC. Or  LA. I have an actor friend here in Wilmington who had a nice role in the film as a human, but was replaced by a puppet.

LB:  Puppets are easier to manipulate.

GG:  ~groooaaaaan~  Did you see much of the town, are you excited to come back for the festival?

LB:  Growing up in Lumberton, NC, I was not unfamiliar with the beaches of Wilmington. I am excited to come back. It is a beautiful town with excellent seafood!

GG:  The show you are performing for us this summer is “Pinocchio,” I saw you perform it in Asheville 4 years ago. The performance was fantastic, and the puppets are awesome, the found object puppets. What inspired you to make these?

LB:  Lack of money… ha ha…Actually, I wanted to embrace the movement towards a more “Green” existence. I was fascinated by children who could create whole worlds out of sticks and boxes and baskets. I wanted to tap into the imagination…

Not only is it a performance, but an invitation to dream and play for audiences of all ages.

Pinocchio, I feel I should say at this point, was partially produced with a generous grant from The Jim Henson Foundation, Inc.

GG:  I bought several of your puppets in Savannah, your playful spirit is so very evident in the puppets you make. I’ve taken them to share with kids at schools as some examples of the limitless possibilities in puppet creation.

LB:  Wow! Thank you!

GG:  Are you going to bring some puppets to sell in Wilmington?

LB:  I won’t have an assistant there this time, so I don’t know how much space I will have in my truck. I am performing in SC the week before Wilmington with a different title and have to have both shows in the truck.

GG:  I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Before we wrap up, I want to ask you about the National POA Festival 2011.  You co-directed last year and you are doing the same next year, right? A bit of masochism here?

LB:  Yes, we have already gotten started. We have a call out now for Performance and Film submissions. For more information, you can always visit www.nationalpuppetryfestival.org to download applications.

Admittedly, it was a crazy week for me with set-ups, strikes, workshops, stores… but I think by doing it two Festivals in a row, the unknown is no longer scary… we learned a lot. If you don’t do it twice, that knowledge is lost.

We are also very excited that we have Paul Mesner as our Artistic Director.

GG:  A crazy week?!? The last year+ has been crazy for me! What advice to have for festival directors, what pithy nugget of wisdom?

LB:  Surround yourself with good people who you can count on, who return phone calls and emails promptly, and who know how to tell time.

GG:  Great advice.

LB:  A glass of wine really helps.

We were so lucky to have such an incredible team last year, many of whom did not learn their lesson and are returning to the team.  Me included.  It was great to have everything so prepared so that we could deal with emergencies which invariably rear their ugly head…

GG:  Lee, I am excited to see you – and your performance this summer! You probably don’t remember this, but I know a secret about you…

LB:  What secret? OH NO…

GG:  You are a really good swing dancer.

LB:  In Asheville in my Kilt?

GG:  Oh Yes.

LB:  IT TWIRLED! Fun night.

GG:  I’m making sure we have some swing music. And I’m hoping to dance with you again!

LB:  I look forward to it!  Save me a dance!