Born to Puppeteer

Basil Twist has raised the bar on the craft of puppeteering

By Doug Rule
Published on March 29, 2012, 2:56am | Comments

(Page 2 of 2)

MW: How about Joey?

TWIST: Yes. We have a couple of them in the show.

MW: This show is technically the first time you and Joey have worked together?

TWIST: The first time that we made a show together. I mean, besides our little club things. Joey and I used to always do ''The Night of A Thousand Stevies'' at [New York party] Jackie 60. I had a little Stevie Nicks puppet and he would do his weird Stevie Nicks interpretation of a white witch.

MW: In Arias with a Twist, you're the director and the designer, but not one of the puppeteers.

TWIST: No, I kind of need to be out front, in charge. But I'm like the understudy, because I know the show. And over the course of the run from time to time I'll step in to cover their parts.

MW: What's next for you after this show and the D.C. festival?

TWIST: I have a version of The Rite of Spring that I'm working on, which will be a production with a full orchestra. That's kind of the biggest project that I'm working on. And then I have some other kind of smaller collaborations. I'm doing something with the Kronos Quartet. I'm doing a piece on the beach in La Jolla, in California, where sort of all this pageantry is going to come straight out of the water onto a beach, and then go back into the water. And then, the theater Here Arts Center where we first did Arias with a Twist is a place that I still present puppetry and help nurture other puppeteers who've worked with me to produce their own shows.'

MW: Do you have anything on tap for Broadway again?

TWIST: People are talking about stuff, but I haven't moved forward with that yet.

MW: How did you get involved with The Pee-wee Herman Show?

TWIST: Pee-wee actually knows Joey [from when] they were both members of the Groundlings. He had been contemplating a comeback. And he says that seeing Arias with a Twist really kind of turned the corner for him that he was like, "Yeah, I'm going to do this. I want to get back onstage." And so he asked me to help.'

MW: As a kid you said you were fascinated with puppets, but is it something you thought, 'I could make a career out of this'?

TWIST: As a kid, I did. And then there was a moment, as you start to grow up, you start to think, "Oh, I can't do that."

I kind of put my puppets away. I was almost like a closeted puppeteer. I mean, I had been doing it and making really wild Halloween costumes and all this stuff up until high school. And then in high school, you know, you start to really get concerned about what people think, and being cool. And puppetry at that point was not as cool as it is now. So I put all my Muppet and Miss Piggy stuff away. I tried to be cool. And then when I went to college, and it just was not working for me. There was a moment where it became clear that I wanted to pursue a career as a puppeteer. I just totally went for it and moved to New York.

MW: When did you come out?

TWIST: When I went to New York. I wanted to really be gay and come out and enjoy life in New York.

MW: But you lived in San Francisco, conceivably the gayest city in the world.

TWIST: It's different when it's your hometown. I mean, I'm sure I would have worked it out if I had stayed in San Francisco. I had plenty of stuff I had worked out in San Francisco, that's for sure. But really fully coming out was when I moved to New York.

Read Metro Weekly's interview with Joey Arias.

For more on the Twist Festival DC, including remaining performances, visit

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