Month: April 2013

Ballard Institute Moving to New Location in Downtown Storrs this Fall

The new Ballard Institute at Downtown Storrs will be located in this complex.

The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, part of the University of Connecticut’s world-renowned puppet programs in the School of Fine Arts, will become part of Downtown Storrs in the fall.

The museum will relocate from its current location at UConn’s Depot campus to a more accessible exhibition and performance space that is part of the new branch of the UConn Co-op in Downtown Storrs.

“Our move to Downtown Storrs is a great opportunity for the Ballard Institute to thrive in the middle of a busy community environment,” says John Bell, Director of the museum and a theater historian. “We are looking forward to expanding our hours of operation, presenting more puppet performances, forums, film showings, and symposia, and collaborating with other parts of the UConn and Mansfield community.”

In its new home, the Ballard Institute and Museum will occupy 4,332 square-feet of museum, performance, and support space on the first floor of the building, providing for an expanded space for one large exhibition or two smaller simultaneous exhibitions.

“We are very excited about the move,” says Cynthia van Zelm, Executive Director of the Mansfield Downtown Partnership, Inc. “We feel it will be a destination for visitors with a key location inside the UConn Co-op and near restaurants and other businesses in the downtown.”

The Museum’s permanent collection includes 2,500 puppets consisting of a wide variety of marionettes, hand puppets, shadow fingers, rod puppets, toy theaters, and other figures, as well as hundreds of traditional puppets from Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. It also includes hundreds of books and more than 1,000 videos and other audio-visual resources.

William Simpson, President and Chief Operating Officer of the UConn Co-op, says working with the Museum in its new Downtown Storrs location will create an innovative experience for the UConn Co-op and its patrons.

“This will offer the bookstore customer/museum patron a unique environment that they will want to experience again and again. We can’t wait,” says Simpson.

Tony Sarg marionettes from “The Mikado” (1936).

Current exhibitions at the Museum at the Depot campus include “Exceptional and Uncommon: The Puppetry of Dick Myers,” the first-ever exhibition devoted to the unique puppetry of Dick Myers, whose one-man shows excited audiences around the world in the mid-20th century; and “Strings, Rods, and Robots: Recent Acquisitions,” which showcases the exhilarating diversity of puppets from around the world recently acquired by the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry.

UConn is one of only two universities in the country offering a bachelor’s of fine arts in puppet arts and the only one offering master’s degrees in puppet arts. Graduates of the program perform and design for many theatres around the world. Shortly before her death earlier this month, Jane Henson, a puppeteer and original collaborator with Muppets creator Jim Henson, donated $100,000 to establish a scholarship fund for students majoring in puppet arts.

Downtown Storrs is a new mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented downtown in Mansfield, Connecticut.  The downtown features shops, restaurants, services, and apartment homes that are interspersed with a town square and public areas in a new neighborhood located at the intersection of Storrs Road and the University of Connecticut.


“Strings, Rods, Robots: Recent Acquisitions” Showcases Global Puppet Traditions and Innovations

Kathpulti Marionettes from Rajasthan, India

Puppets from around the world representing several centuries worth of global traditions, as well as as cutting-edge hybrids of puppetry and digital technology, make up the rich array of performing objects on display in the Ballard Institute’s new exhibition Strings, Rods, Robots: Recent Acquisitions.


Jim Henson’s “Wizard of Id”

The exhibition, curated by UConn Art and Art History graduate student Lindsay Simon, showcases an exhilarating diversity of puppets from around the world recently donated to the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry.  Strings, Rods, Robots exhibition brings together ancient puppet traditions and Modernist innovations, with objects ranging from Vietnamese water puppets, Persian ritual marionettes, and Javanese shadow puppets to 1930s Alabama marionettes, department store automata by Ellen Rixford, a lifesize robotic marionette by French media artist Zaven Paré, traditional Egyptian shadow puppets, a Dada-inspired marionette by Australian artist Sally Smart, a spectacular Danish toy theater, and a stunning array of global puppet forms collected by John E. and Marilyn O’Connor Miller.

Electronic Marionette by Zaven Paré

These visually striking–and sometimes startling–juxtapositions reveal the contemporary world of puppetry as a fecund and florid network of hybrid culture, where centuries-old traditions of epic, religious, comic, and political puppetry performed with wooden, cloth, and leather figures rub shoulders with mechanical or electronic puppets made of plastic, metal, and glass.  And yet, despite these fascinating contradictions, the old and new puppets continue to reveal to us what is happening in our societies, with insight, humor, and wisdom.

“Exceptional and Uncommon: The Puppetry of Dick Myers” Now on Exhibit

Cinderella and the Prince, from Dick Myers’s “Cinderella”

An eye-opening exhibition of a ground-breaking 20th-century American puppeteer, Dick Myers, is now on display at the Ballard Museum.  “Exceptional and Uncommon: The Puppetry of Dick Myers” is a fascinating in-depth look at a puppeteer’s puppeteer—an innovative and ingenious designer, builder, and performer whose work, while highly respected in the international world of puppetry, never brought him fame.

Curated by Puppet Arts Program graduate student Seth Shaffer, “Exceptional and Uncommon” brings together scores of rod puppets, marionettes, and hand puppets designed and performed by Myers; innovative sound, lighting, and stage equipment he designed; photographs of Myers at work and in performance; and a documentary video filmed and edited by Shaffer in which Myers’s friends and colleagues describe his work and his life.

Dick Myers was one of the leading American puppeteers of the later 20th century.  Although his work is now relatively unknown, in its time his puppet shows were highly respected by puppeteers around the world for the compelling and original design of the puppets, Myers’ skillful manipulation, and the challenging tasks he set out and achieved with his creations.

In the early years of his career Dick Myers worked with many well-known puppeteers including Connecticut’s Rufus and Margo Rose, and Martin and Olga Stevens of Indiana.  He was, however, best known for his unique solo rod puppet shows: Dick Whittington’s Cat (1966), Cinderella (1967), Beauty and the Beast (1969), Simple Simon (1976), and Divertissement (1978).

“Exceptional and Uncommon: The Puppetry of Dick Myers” is a revelatory and thought-provoking window into puppetry of the late 20th century, when American puppeteers combined technological innovations with home-grown humor and popular culture in order to re-define puppetry as an aspect of contemporary American culture.

UCONN Spring Puppet Slam: Friday May 3rd, 8 pm at The Palace Theater in Stafford, CT!

Back in February our UConn Winter Puppet Slam was thwarted by snow. Thankfully, Spring is here and the event–now the UConn Spring Puppet Slam is back on for Friday May 3rd at 8pm.

The show will take place at a new location: the Palace Theater in Stafford, Connecticut, a few miles from the UConn Main Campus. Tickets are $5. You can buy them in advance here.

Our UConn Spring Puppet Slam performers will include Great Small Works, performing their toy theater spectacle Living Newspaper; Jana Zeller, performing a hand-puppet excerpt from her Spybird Theater production Eye of the Storm;  Jim Napolitano presenting a dynamic shadow theater show; and Puppet Arts students  Anna Fitzgerald, Carianne Hoff, Seth Shaffer, Dana Samborski, and Sarah Nolen all presenting new works for puppet and mask theater.  Join us for this exciting event!

Please find a map and other information here.

This event is supported by a generous grant from the Puppet Slam Network.

Great Small Works' Living Newspaper