A group of six puppeteers dressed in hooded white robes on stilts working large marionettes gathered around a lit red rope.


Phantom Limb
September 23–24, 2011 at 8PM

“When I look back at those days, I have no doubt that divine providence guided us... it seemed to me often that we were not alone.”

—Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton

Inspired by Sir Ernest Shackleton's harrowing expedition to Antarctica in 1914, Phantom Limb unites puppetry, dance, film, history, and photography with contemporary music to create a stunning vision of the great arctic continent—past, present, and future. Dim light plays across a lunar terrain dotted with icebergs. Shackleton’s crew, played by half-life-size puppets, struggles to survive in this vast landscape, putting into stark relief the power of endurance and camaraderie and the price of knowledge. With sound that combines the junkyard dog aesthetic of the band Skeleton Key playing live, a score recorded by the Kronos Quartet, and glacial field recordings, 69˚S. mines the inherently bittersweet and complex nature of the Shackleton experience and what the future may hold for this fragile environment.

Following a two-week residency at EMPAC with the entire cast and crew, these performances are the final workshop showings before the piece officially premieres at Dartmouth College. A look inside the creative process in the making of 69°S.

The New York City-based Phantom Limb Company, founded by composer and marionette maker Erik Sanko and visual artist Jessica Grindstaff, is critically acclaimed for its reinvention of traditional theatrical forms, incorporating marionette puppetry, music, and large-scale installation in order to probe issues of contemporary life. Since the success of their first marionette play The Fortune Teller in 2006, Sanko and Grindstaff have collaborated on numerous original theatrical works with such diverse artists as Ping Chong & Company, Ulrike Quade, Geoff Sobelle of Pig Iron and rainpan 43, and Mark Z. Danielewski.

Jessica Grindstaff is a multimedia artist. Known for her tiny Victorian taxidermied shadowboxes, wax and chalk paintings, she has most recently taken her micro-universe macro through the medium of installation and set design.

Erik Sanko is a lifelong musician, and has played with The Lounge Lizards, John Cale, Yoko Ono, They Might Be Giants and his own band, Skeleton Key. Erik also has always made puppets, first for his own amusement, then for art collectors, and now for theatrical productions.

Main Image: 69​​​​​​˚ S. Photo: Courtesy Phantom Limb. 


Dates + Tickets

Phantom Limb
Friday 23
8:00 PM
September 2011
Saturday 24
8:00 PM
September 2011
As part of


Production Credits

Conception, writing + design: Phantom Limb

Conceived in collaboration with David Harrington/Kronos Quartet

Director: Tony Taccone

Composer: Erik Sanko

Recorded performance: Kronos Quartet

Live performance: Skeleton Key

Choreography: Christopher Williams

Production: ArKtype / Thomas Kriegsmann in association with Beth Morrison Projects


Funded in part by the Expeditions program of the New England Foundation for the Arts, made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional support from the six New England state arts agencies. Additional funding from the National Endowment for the Arts Access to Artistic Excellence program.

69°S. is an ArKtype project produced in association with Beth Morrison projects in co-production of Grand Theatre Groningen/Noorderzon Performing Arts Festival en Noord Nederlands Toneem and co-commissioned by Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College; Arts Centre of Melbourne, Australia and Victoria College of the Arts; and EMPAC/Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Additional residency development provided by Mass MoCA and Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Additional funding provided by The MAP Fund, a program of Creative Capital supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. Production design support provided by The Edith Lutyens and Norman Bel Geddes Design Enhancement Fund, a program of the Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York (A.R.T./New York).