Q&A with Puppeteers and Authors of "The Fortune Tellers"
Erik Sanko and Jessica Grindstaff make the ideal couple, or should I say, the perfect team. Erik (a puppet maker and musician) and Jessica (set designer and jewelry maker) have been married for over 10 years and have created three marionette plays together. On October 28, the couple brought the critically acclaimed “The Fortune Teller” back to the stages of New York City. They will premiere their new project, “The Composer Is Dead,” in Berkeley, California at the end of November.
NSFP: You guys are putting back together “The Fortune Teller” after a four-year hiatus. What have you been up to?
Jessica (J): Since “The Fortune Teller” opened we have started our own theater company called Phantom Limb. “The Fortune Teller” has toured to California and Vermont for extended sold-out runs and we have been developing a new puppet show with Lemony Snicket at Berkley Repertory Theater. At the same time we have been exploring new ways of using the medium of theater, puppetry and dance in a piece about Ernest Shackleton and Antarctica. We traveled to Antarctica on a grant to research and record sound and light for this piece. We’ve also taught puppetry/theater design in Australia at the Victoria College of Art in the development phase of this project. Among other things, working on clothing lines, jewelry lines, operas. We’ve been busy.
NSFP: Would you mind briefly describing the story behind “The Fortune Teller?”
Erik (E): Well, it means a lot to me on a couple of levels. First, the story itself is fraught with all that good morality guff and though I am by no means a religious person, I certainly appreciate the concept of the deadly sins. Secondly, creating the show began a new phase of our lives that has become all consuming and wonderful. Thirdly, the relationships and collaborations that have grown out of this experience are life altering. Most importantly, my relationship with Jessica and how we have learned how to collaborate in an organic way while still being happily married.
NSFP: You did a West Coast premiere at UCLA with “The Fortune Teller” in the fall of 2007 and you are now doing a premiere at Berkeley in collaboration with Lemony Snicket. What is your relationship with universities?J: UCLA Live Festival booked the show out of interest. We have no relationship with the university other than that, though while there we did give a lecture to some students that were maybe vaguely interested in puppets. Berkeley Repertory Theatre is not affiliated with University of California Berkeley.
We like universities because they are centers of learning and populated by young, curious people.
NSFP: Could you tell us a bit about your future projects? I heard about an opera with filmmaker Jim Jarmusch.
J: Jim is an old friend of Erik’s and he is trying his hand at directing in the theater, specifically with opera and with his old friend, avant-garde composer Phil Kline. It’s a bunch of people doing something they’ve never done before and the subject is the inventor Nikola Tesla. We are inventing together, I think it will be amazing... but not until 2013.