BY GEORGE MARATOS

Eric Bass takes a long pause when asked how he first got his start in theatre.

“High school theatre,” he eventually says, speaking at The Old Fire Hall in downtown Whitehorse.

Bass is in Whitehorse to workshop a script with Sour Brides Theatre and perform his original piece, Richard 3.5.

Bass’ love for theatre may have also had something to do with his upbringing as his father was a music arranger and songwriter.

The soft-spoken Bass says as a child he always had an interest in puppets, but it wasn’t until after college that he really became passionate about the craft.

“My first interest in theatre was acting and playwriting but that shifted to an interest in puppets because puppets are something you can play with,” says Bass. “There is a cartoon element to puppet theatre and, as a performer, it’s more fun.”

Regardless of where he got his start, today Bass is one of the most celebrated puppeteers in the world.

After leaving New York in 1980, he collected awards like the Diploma of Excellence in Pecs, Hungary (for his first solo effort), a critics’ award in Adelaide, Australia and the Firgurentheatre Prize in the City of Erlangen, Germany.

The accolades seem endless for Bass, who on top of puppetry is also an accomplished director, playwright and puppet maker. In 1982, he founded Sunglass Theatre in Munich, Germany, with his wife, Ines Zeller Bass.

And now he is in Whitehorse to present his latest project, Richard 3.5, together with long-time friend, Bob Berky.

The play, described by Bass as a two-person ragtime cabaret version of Richard the Third, marks the first time Bass and Berky have worked together and is a show Bass calls perfect for puppets.

¬”What I liked about it for puppets was that it essentially was a series of 11 murders,” explains Bass. “One of the wonderful things you can do with puppets is just kill them night after night and they’ll be back the next night.”

In Richard 3.5, Bass plays the part of the MC and accomplice to Richard (Berky) in all these murders.

Together they also operate the 12 puppets on stage and play four musical instruments, while singing and dancing their way through seven original blues songs they wrote using the scripture of William Shakespeare.

“We’re singing and dancing our way through English history here and we don’t leave the stage so it’s a great challenge,” smiles Bass. “What we’ve come up with is a piece that’s been written by Berky, Bass and the bard; there’s a lot of Shakespeare but a lot of us as well.”

Bass calls his latest work a comedy with a really dark underbelly.

“It’s a comedy about the lust for power, political ruthlessness, self hatred,” says Bass. “It’s a comedy about only dark, serious things, but at some level the things we really need to be laughing about are things that we have the most reason to fear.”

Richard 3.5 runs at The Guild Hall from Dec. 17 to 19 at 8 p.m., with a matinée show on Dec. 20 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at the Yukon Arts Centre box office, Arts Underground and at the door.

PHOTO: GARY BREMNER www.garybremner.com