Oct 25, 2011

The Puppet People Are Back

A few years back I had the privilege of interviewing Erik Sanko and Jessica Grindstaff, the husband-and-wife team who constitute the puppet company Phantom Limb. Quite apart from the joys of discovering their meticulous work was the pleasure of meeting them, or more precisely, meeting them in their amazing habitat. As I wrote then,
To visit the vividly antiquarian 15th-floor loft apartment in TriBeCa [Sanko] shares with his wife, Jessica Grindstaff, or just to witness this couple's beguiling notion of street clothes, is to recognize them as born show people -- post-punk heirs to purveyors of raree shows and wunderkammers.

"When I met Erik about 12 years ago, we started going to antique and oddity stores and realized we were into the same odd stuff -- taxidermied things," said composer Danny Elfman, who co-wrote the sparkling score for "The Fortune Teller"..."I always considered myself a 19th century man living in the 20th century. Erik is that, but even more so -- he's from some other place in the space-time continuum."
The same might be said of his wife, who designs a line of prize ribbons among other things. I also managed to slip into that story a mention of the one object in their apartment that transfixed me the most:
Behind [Sanko] sat a metal globe scrubbed of text.
My wife to this day rolls her eyes a bit when I start to go on about the magical "puppet people" and that text-less globe (and more to the point, how I might get my hands on one). So I was delighted to get another chance to visit with them about their new show, 69° S., inspired by the 1914 Antarctican voyage of Sir Ernest Shackleton, which plays at BAM Nov. 2-5 (after a preview run in Burlington, VT, pictured above). My piece for Time Out is here.

And this time, I found out more about that globe: It's a Geppert military globe from the 1940s, apparently used at sea; its metal surface would allow the captain or whoever to put little magnetized pins on it. Sanko and Grindstaff didn't fork over for this expensive antique, though; I'm told that his brother found it in the street. That kind of thing only happens to the right people.

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