Family-friendly Film Premiere Commissioned by UMass Fine Arts Center Features Puppetry of Sandglass Theater

Cast of "Rock the Boat" (Photo by Willow O'Feral)

Imagine a poet in a boat, alone at sea, stuck in a rut of writer's block. While observing his daily routines, he suddenly finds his floating home filling with characters seeking shelter and safety. On Sunday, Nov. 22, at 3 p.m. ET, the UMass Fine Arts Center premieres a family-friendly, virtual, film screening of “Rock the Boat” by Sandglass Theater. “Rock the Boat” aims to get young audiences thinking about relocation, displacement and the interconnectedness of racial, climate and social justice. The production addresses attitudes about acceptance of those who come from other countries and cultures, and provides a narrative in which there is room for everyone in an inclusive society. As part of its fall 2020 virtual season, the Fine Arts Center presents this screening free of charge. 

In “Rock the Boat” audience members learn that each newcomer on board has fled some disaster: war, fire or flood. As the human poet and his puppet colleagues navigate life together on the vessel, they explore conflict, generosity, kindness and questions about who each other are. The Poet’s poems become richer and deeper as the unlikely collection of beings pull together to steer through threatening waters.

Developed by a multi-ethnic ensemble including slam-poet D. Colin and composer Julian Gerstin, “Rock the Boat” is directed by Eric Bass, co-founder of Sandglass Theater. The animal puppets, created by Ines Zeller Bass and Jana Zeller, come to life under the capable hands of puppeteers Shoshana Bass and Kaitee Yaeko Tredway. Live actor Kalob Martinez portrays the poet. The film was made by Haptic Pictures with underwriting from the UMass Fine Arts Center. 

Sandglass Theater is a Putney-based theater company specializing in combining puppets with music, actors and visual imagery. Since 1982, the company’s productions have toured internationally in nearly 30 countries, performing in theaters, festivals and cultural institutions and winning numerous international prizes. The company is dedicated to the arts of theater and puppetry as means of exploring contemporary issues, inspiring dialogue and sparking wonder by creating original ensemble performances and collaborations, presenting diverse theater artists, and producing events that serve communities to seek truth, a broader perspective, generate compassion, and celebrate the human spirit.

“Rock the Boat," a film commissioned by UMass Fine Arts Center, premieres in a public, online event on Sunday, Nov. 22, 3 p.m. ET. After the broadcast of the film, audience members are encouraged to stick around for a live post-show Q&A with the collaborating artists. Online access to the content will be available through Sunday, Nov. 28.

This performance is part of the Fine Arts Center's Reimagine Residencies Series, a new residency program working with nationally-recognized artists, and dedicated to addressing contemporary social issues through performance, education and outreach activities. More deeply, artists are asked what it means to be engaged with their art form as well as community and the public in this historical moment, and to allow that inquiry to serve as the impetus behind their residency. As part of their residency, Sandglass Theater will be conducting virtual residency workshops along with a special screening of “Rock the Boat” with Newton School in Greenfield, MA. The Reimagine Residences Series is supported by Applewood and Loomis Communities. The family event and school residency is also sponsored by PeoplesBank. 

For more information and tickets for "Rock the Boat," visit fineartscenter.com/RocktheBoat. For tickets and questions, the box office can be reached by email at facbox@umass.edu and currently by phone at 413-545-2511 or 800-999-UMAS, Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., hours subject to change.