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Revisiting the Past: An Interview with Master Puppeteer Basil Twist

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Revisiting the Past: An Interview with Master Puppeteer Basil Twist

Richard Termine

Revisiting the Past: An Interview with Master Puppeteer Basil Twist

Twenty years ago, Basil Twist wowed audiences with his mesmerizing abstract fantasy Symphonie Fantastique, presented in a small basement space at the HERE Arts Center in Soho. Twist, then 28, conjured up a beguiling and phantasmagoric world inspired by the evocative music of Hector Berlioz's 19th-century composition of the same title. Aided by lights, dyes, and bubbles, he created his magic by manipulating pieces of fabric, feathers, plastic, vinyl, and fishing lures—all suspended in a small tank filled with water.

In the two decades since, Twist has come into his own as a master puppeteer and international theater artist, continuing to make his own distinctly individual works while also collaborating with other artists both on and off Broadway, as well as in the ballet world. He also made a small foray into the world of Hollywood, contributing to Alfonso Cuarón's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. His dazzling creativity has been honored with Obie, Drama Desk, and Bessie awards, as well as a 2015 MacArthur “Genius” grant.

Proving you can go back to the past, Twist has returned to HERE to recreate his original 1988 career-making triumph. This time, Symphonie Fantastique is presented at the theater's main stage, with five puppeteers working in a water tank double the size of the one featured in the original production and with the Berlioz score performed live with dramatic flair by pianist Christopher O'Riley (host of NPR's From the Top). As an additional perk, Twist pulls back the curtain to allow audience members to visit backstage after the show to meet the puppeteers and discover how the magic is created.

Recently, I got to sit down with Twist to discuss his work, new and old, and the direction he's going in as he approaches 50.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap Season 10, Episode 5, “The Bossy Rossy Show”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 5, “The Bossy Rossy Show”

VH1

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 5, “The Bossy Rossy Show”

With apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein, how do you solve a problem like The Vixen? So far this season on RuPaul's Drag Race, she's outpestered every pest, driven hornets from their nest, and even thrown that whirling dervish Eureka out of whirl. Conditions are to the point that, because she knows that if she has to sit in that Untucked area backstage she'll end up popping off on some other queen, The Vixen privately confides that she just hopes she's not deemed “safe” this week. She'd rather be in the bottom three than risk cutting off valuable kiki time by reminding white queens of just how loaded words like “crafty” actually are. During an earlier fight, Monique Heart said she worried that The Vixen's commitment to the warpath would stand in the way of presenting “her blessing.” And “The Bossy Rossy Show” fully brings that conflict to a head. And only on Drag Race could a fiery semiotics lesson so comfortably stand shoulder to shoulder with another personality donning a full-body pickle suit and toting around a doctor's clipboard.

Theater Review: Joshua Jackson Soars in Children of a Lesser God at Studio 54

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Theater Review: Joshua Jackson Soars in Children of a Lesser God at Studio 54

Matthew Murphy

Theater Review: Joshua Jackson Soars in Children of a Lesser God at Studio 54

On paper, Mark Medoff's 1979 drama Children of a Lesser God might sound like an outworn issue play, tackling the way the hearing impaired were treated in the Jimmy Carter era by their loved ones as well as institutional systems. For better or worse, however, it's still relevant, as revealed by its first Broadway revival (now at Studio 54), not only in regard to its portrayal of the deaf community, but also its more general depiction of people who challenge cultural norms and get encouraged to conform.

In the play, a deaf woman, Sarah, and a speech therapist, James, fall in love, get married, and break up. When they meet, he's teaching the deaf to speak and read lips at the institute where she works and studies, and she refuses to do either. James has outmoded ideals, about helping those who are different to adapt to the mainstream, while Sarah just wants to be herself. And these conflicts, between the hearing and the non-hearing, divide Sarah and James culturally and thus push them apart romantically, ultimately proving irreconcilable. Almost 40 years after its publication, Children of a Lesser God remains an excellent drama, with knottily human characters navigating realistic relationships amid complicated circumstances.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap Season 10, Episode 4, “The Last Ball on Earth”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 4, “The Last Ball on Earth”

VH1

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 4, “The Last Ball on Earth”

The question of who's got your back is at the heart of this week's episode of RuPaul's Drag Race, and it nearly gets lost amid an otherwise curiously early-season ball challenge that probably sets the new record for the most runway lewks in Drag Race herstory. Ru's franchise has, from the very beginning, established that no queen can really make it without a solid support system, even if it comes in the form of a highly engineered reality TV series on the prowl for tissue-clutching moments of emotional vulnerability. Queens who've been subject to self-sabotage have seen their stars rise with a reintroduction to the camaraderie of the workroom. Queens who've refused to pay testament have found themselves in the midst of a bitch edit faster than you can say “Shante, you stay…for the editors' manufactured drama.”

Watch the New Trailer for Ocean’s 8 Starring Sandra Bullock and Rihanna

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Watch the New Trailer for Ocean’s 8 Starring Sandra Bullock and Rihanna

Warner Bros.

Watch the New Trailer for Ocean’s 8 Starring Sandra Bullock and Rihanna

The new trailer for Ocean’s 8 reminds us, more than once, that committing a crime can be deliciously fun if you happen to be part of a crime syndicate composed entirely of women and that counts Sandra Bullock as its boss lady. In the film, Bullock stars as Debbie Ocean (Danny Ocean’s estranged sister, if you’re wondering), who, along with her motley crew of merry women (played by Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Sara Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, and Helena Bonham Carter), plans a heist at the annual Met Gala. Among the reported cameos in the film: Anna Wintour, Alexander Wang, Kim Kardashian, Maria Sharapova, Zayn Malik, Kendall Jenner, Katie Holmes, Olivia Munn, Serena Williams, Kylie Jenner, and Zac Posen. Sadly, no Madonna, a staple of the Met Gala. Or Rebecca Romijn, star of Brian De Palma’s Femme Fatale, which opens with what may be the most incredibly directed heist in the history of the movies. Which is to say, Ocean’s 8 director Gary Ross has a lot to live up to. Notably, the trailer for the film sees Debbie Ocean and company riding the subway, perhaps to get to the Met Gala, suggesting that they will actually not get to the event in time to rob Anne Hathaway’s Princess Diaries jewels. If you don’t live in New York: Sorry for ruining the movie, but our subways are no good. Please send help.

Watch the New Trailer for Hot Summer Nights Starring Timothée Chalamet

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Watch the New Trailer for Hot Summer Nights Starring Timothée Chalamet

A24

Watch the New Trailer for Hot Summer Nights Starring Timothée Chalamet

All eyes (at least most) are now on Timothée Chalamet, Oscar-nominated actor and the Second Coming of Leonardo DiCaprio according to everyone from Call Me by Your Name producer Rodrigo Teixeira to Interview magazine’s Trey Taylor. With the release of Woody Allen’s A Rainy Day in New York still in question, Chalamet fans will have to make do with the two films starring the actor that are definitely coming down the pipeline in 2018: Beautiful Boy, in which Chalamet plays a young man struggling with meth addiction, and Elijah Bynum’s Hot Summer Nights, in which he stars as a nerd who finds his mojo after unexpectedly becoming a weed dealer.

Cannes Lineup Includes New Films by Spike Lee, Jean-Luc Godard, and More

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Cannes Lineup Includes New Films by Spike Lee, Jean-Luc Godard, and More
Cannes Lineup Includes New Films by Spike Lee, Jean-Luc Godard, and More

This morning, the lineup for the 71st Cannes Film Festival was revealed. Among the most high-profile titles to make the cut: David Robert Mitchell’s Under the Silver Lake, Spike Lee’s BlacKKKlansman, Lee Chang-dong’s Burning, and Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Livre d’Image. As previously announced, Asghar Farhadi’s Everybody Knows, also in competition, will kick off the festival on May 8, and Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story will screen out of competition on May 15, 10 days before the film hits U.S. theaters. (The Director’s Fortnight and Critics Week selections will be announced at a later date.) Only 18 titles were announced to be competing for the prestigious Palm d’Or, and as that number is usually in the low 20s, it’s likely that more titles will be added to the official lineup in the upcoming weeks.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap Season 10, Episode 3, “Tap That App”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 3, “Tap That App”

VH1

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 3, “Tap That App”

I know gay bars everywhere have to fill their valuable Thursday cocktail time, and that VH1 probably feels some level of responsibility to make sure that lasts as long as possible. But seriously, for a show that once could pride itself on whip-crack pacing, the “new normal” 90-minute episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race are starting to really put the “drag” in Drag Race. But at the same time, the fact that VH1’s strategy of maximalism has also resurrected Untucked from its recent YouTube ghettoization practically makes it all worth the effort. Because The Vixen’s performance in Untucked thus far is damned close to turning what most would call bonus material into must-see TV. And at the risk of making the main show feel like the background material.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap Season 10, Episode 2, “PharmaRusical”

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RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 2, “PharmaRusical”

VH1

RuPaul’s Drag Race Recap: Season 10, Episode 2, “PharmaRusical”

For anyone who’s ever watched a RuPaul’s Drag Race challenge and thought, “What drugs did they take before coming up with that?,” tonight’s episode, “PharmaRusical,” is for you and probably not too many others. The second-episode lip-sync challenge is almost always the most frustrating and least satisfying of every season. The challenge doesn’t ever allow any queen the chance to really polish up her persona. Instead, the girls get separated into two teams, are usually assigned to their roles by someone who barely knows them yet, are forced to work within an ensemble when audiences are still just trying to remember who’s who, and finally have to wrap their lips around nonsensical gibberish dialogue. And then keep a straight face when Michelle Visage tells them they “kind of faded into the background.”