Let the (Winter) Sunshine In

“Cozy Corner Past and Future” is an interactive music and puppet Zoom show.

We could all use some light and warmth these days, and Sandglass Theater is serving up both next month.

The 14th annual Winter Sunshine series opens March 1 — it will be the company’s very first virtual version of the event. The Putney, Vt.-based puppet theater moved operations online in April of 2020, in the early days following the arrival of COVID-19, and started with a series of puppet-making workshops and mini-performances called “art bursts.”

Normally the theater is available for workshops and residencies, and the company teaches a two-week summer intensive training program. But in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, Sandglass began bringing the theater to people’s screens.

“It’s the time of year we focus on work for family audiences exclusively,” said Shoshana Bass, the theater’s co-artistic director, alongside her parents. The Winter Sunshine series, she added, is puppet theater for children of all ages. “We are mindful to doing [the series] virtually in a way that encourages doing instead of sitting in front of a screen. We developed and formatted it to make up for the loss of [in-person] interaction.”

The four-week series (which runs through Feb. 28) features the work of award-winning regional artists and includes a puppet show, a workshop, two family activities, online engagement and, during the final week, a lantern parade.

Access links and instructions to view performances, workshops and family activities delivered to ticket holders’ inboxes and events will be streamed via Zoom and Vimeo. Some shows are interactive and need to be watched at certain times, while others can be watched throughout the week.

“Parents will have the flexibility to choose when is good for them,” Bass said.

This year’s featured artists (all are Vermont-based) include Nettie Lane, bringing her program, “Annabelle’s Kitchen” with weekly family step-by-step cooking tutorials featuring the clown cook, Annabelle.

William Forchion and Friends’ “Shenanigans and Non Sequiturs” will offer weekly family activities; and Sarah Frechette will perform her company Puppet Kabob’s “Snowflake Man,” a puppet show inspired by Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley, the self-educated farmer and scientist who was the first person to capturing the image of a single snow crystal.

Faye Dupras and Cozy Arts will present “Cozy Corner Past and Future,” an interactive music and puppet Zoom show, as well as a new workshop, “Imagination Station with Mrs. Flutterby.”

Z Briggs and WonderSpark Puppets will perform “Chicken Soup, Chicken Soup,” a puppet show that celebrates family, cultural heritage and the joy of cooking based on the PJ Library book by Pamela Mayer along with their Family Story Spoon Puppets workshop.

Sandglass Theater’s contribution to the series is “Rock the Boat,” a puppet show that explores themes of migration, refugees, inclusion and respectful curiosity; and the company’s lantern workshop.

“As we create relationships between presenters and artists, it’s about asking what the artist needs, what they are interested in doing, and how they want to present their work,” Bass said. “Some shows adjust beautifully to the screen; other artists are playing with the platform of Zoom and how to use it performatively — everyone is taking their own approach. It’s been great to have this opportunity to ask what each artist wants to do and curate according to that.”

The Winter Sunshine series presented by Sandglass Theater opens March 1 and runs through March 28. Each week includes a puppet show, a workshop and two family activities: “Annabelle’s Kitchen” and “Shenanigans and Non Sequiturs.” Unless specified otherwise, events are available at any time during the week via the emailed link.

Tickets are $25 per household for one week of performances, activities and a workshop. Each household only needs to purchase one ticket. If you purchase a ticket for all four weeks you will receive a 10 percent discount at check out for a total Winter Sunshine series pass of $90. Donation are always welcomed, too — when donating, select which of the Sandglass programs you would like to support: General Operations, Voices of Community, Puppets in the Green Mountains or Winter Sunshine Series.

Sandglass Theater company, founded nearly 40 years ago by Eric Bass and Ines Zeller Bass, specializes in combining the 4,000-year-old art of puppetry with music, actors and visual imagery. Since its inception in 1982, the company’s productions have toured in nearly 30 countries and have won numerous international prizes. The company produces works for adults and young people — two repertoires that tour separately and together. Sandglass also performs and teaches in its own 60-seat renovated barn theater in Putney.

For more information and to make donations, visit sandglasstheater.org or email info@sandglasstheater.org.