Month: August 2013

“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

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.

Summer Family Puppet Series

This Summer, The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry will once again be presenting puppet shows for all ages performed by students from the famed UConn Puppet Arts Program.

Every Saturday from June 29th to July 27th at 3 pm, join us for these exciting and unique presentations.

Performances will take place at The Puppet Arts Complex (as the Thompson Building on this map) down the street from The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry on UConn’s Depot Campus off US-44.

June 29th, 3 pm: Puppet Arts Family Friendly Potpourri! Vignettes from current Puppet Arts students including “The Fluff Catillion,” a meow-velous toy theater by Dana Samorski and Carianne Hoff, and “The Most Beautiful Tree” a toy theater production by Anna Fitzgerald.

July 6th, 3pm: Seth Shaffer performs Dick Myers’ Cinderella with Myers’ unique rod puppets. Come early or stay late and check out the Dick Myers exhibition at The Ballard Museum.

July 13th, 3pm: Xing Xin’s Shadow Show. Xing Xin Liu’s original pieces of shadow theater, inspired by her studies with Chinese Shadow Puppet masters.

July 20th, 3pm: Seth Shaffer performs Dick Myers’ Beauty and the Beast with Myers’ unique rod puppets. Come early or stay late and check out the Dick Myers exhibition at The Ballard Museum.

July 27th, 3pm: Sarah Nolen’s Tales from the Woods including her shadow puppet performance of “Lisa the Wise.”


Performances are $5  for Adults and $3 for children. Come early or stay late to see the current exhibitions at The Ballard Museum.

A Toy Theater by Dana Samborski and Carianne Hoff