UCLA LIVE will host the West Coast premiere of Erik Sanko´s, The Fortune Teller. Edward Gorey meets Tim Burton in this deliciously twisted marionette play by former Lounge Lizards bassist and hip New York City puppet maker Erik Sanko. Featuring a grotesque array of 15 artfully handcrafted figures, this dark comic tale unfolds in a fantastic Victorian world, as characters representing the seven deadly sins convene at a dead millionaire´s estate to claim their inheritance. With an eerie score by Danny Elfman (including songs by Sanko), this sinister puppet theater spectacle is a perverse but gleeful morality tale for grown-ups.
Buzzine Publisher/CEO Richard Elfman talks with The Fortune Teller´s creator and director, Erik Sanko:
Richard Elfman: What inspired you to create this puppet show?
Erik Sanko: It began at the request of John Eric Greenberg, brother of the notorious Matthew Bright, a.k.a. Squeezit [in the film Forbidden Zone]. John Eric was president of a CD Rom company at the time, and he asked me to contribute a story to this new venture. Well, the company went belly-up and the story languished, moldering away in the annals of my mind until the constant (but gentle) needling of your brother [Danny Elfman] and my wife brought it to the foreground again last year. I applied for a grant from The Jim Henson Foundation and shockingly got it. When I cashed the check, I realized I was in real trouble and would actually have to do something.
RE: Did you decide to collaborate with Danny because he resembled the notorious puppet, Howdy Doody? And if so, weren’t you worried that Danny might be a puppet himself–an updated, more dangerous version of Howdy
ES: Danny’s resemblence to Howdy Doody is pure conjecture and heresy and had no bearing on his selection. I heard he was a pretty good trombone player.
RE: How was working with Danny? Did he write a note, then you wrote a note, then he would write the next note, and so on?
ES: Working with Danny was an absolute delight, as it is doing many things with Danny, though I wouldn’t necessarily want to go snow-shoeing with him. Everything he wrote was brilliant and it all got used in the play. I wrote three little songs that appear in the play, and Danny did all the underscoring.
RE: How has The Fortune Teller been received so far?
ES: People seem to like the kooky, dark, marionette play! It sold out its three-month run in New York last year, and the shows at U.C.L.A. sold out in five days. It begs the question, “Who knew?!”
RE: What was the biggest problem you had to surmount in the creation of The Fortune Teller?
ES: The most difficult thing to figure out, narrative-wise, was how all the characters were related to one another (you have to see the play to understand that one). There were countless marionette problems regarding trick-stringing and weight problems (some of them are binge eaters) that are still being dealt with today. My wife, the set designer and artist Jessica Grindstaff, had the task of overseeing a group of 15 artists all contributing different elements to the set, while she was designing custom wallpapers and secretly printing them on an architect friend’s plotters at night. Not much sleep was to be had in the Sanko/Grindstaff house during that period.
RE: What´s next for you, artistically?
ES: Jessica and I just finished a three-night run of a new marionette play we created called “Dear Mme.,” commissioned and performed by The Kronos Quartetfor The Next Wave Festival at B.A.M. The gentlemen of the KQ liked it enough to want to bring it to San Fransisco next year, and we’ve aleady begun conversations regarding our next three projects to create an entire evening’s worth of marionettes and Kronos Quartet. But before all that happens, I’ll be going on tour with Skeleton Key for a month (November 30th @ The Knitting Factory here in Hollywood) and will be on the lookout for the ever-elusive record deal. After that, I will lapse into a semi-coherent hibernation-like coma state until I thaw out in the spring.
Erik Sanko's 'The Fortune Teller' will run for 17 performances only at the Freud Playhouse at UCLA from Thursday October 18 through Sunday Octover 28, 2007.