Month: September 2013

Fall Puppet Forum Series Speakers to Discuss Global Puppetry Innovations and Traditions!

This Fall, the Ballard Institute’s popular  UConn Fall Puppet Forum Series will feature puppeteers and scholars explaining the past, present, and possible future of puppetry around the world.  The Fall 2013 series will focus on current developments in world-wide puppetry and its connections to ancient texts, television dramaturgy, traditional culture, digital media, and puppet museums, as all these factors interact with each other in a global network. The UConn Fall Puppet Forums will take place on Wednesday evenings at 7:30 at the Ballard Institute’s Depot Campus Center and are free and open to the public.  Refreshments will be served. The roster of Fall Puppet Forum speakers so far includes the following: 1. Wednesday, September 25: Diane Daly: “Que vivan los títeres: Community Support Among Today’s Mexican Puppeteers.”

Diane Daily

Join us for an exciting look at how traditional puppetry thrives in Mexico, when Diane Dalyfrom the University of Arizona’s School of Information Resources & Library Science, will discuss her research on peer development among Mexican puppeteers, who “continually cultivat[e] a form of puppetry fed by popular international traditions but with distinctly Mexican roots.”  Daly’s research “taps into virtual and face-to-face communication within Mexico’s puppetry community to provide dynamic glimpses of this culture and to explore how new tech platforms can help it grow.”  Co-sponsored by El Instituto, UConn’s Institute of Latina/o, Caribbean, and Latin American Studies.   2. October 16: Dr. Robin Ruizendaal, “Asian Puppet Theatre and the Puppet Theatre Museum.”


Dr. Robin Ruizendaal

Scholar, puppeteer, and museum director Dr. Robin Ruizendaal will present an overview of the current state of Asian puppet theater in the era of mass communication, and chart how traditional and modern companies function in contemporary Asia.  Ruizendaal, the Director of Taiwan’s Lin Liu-Hsin Puppet Theatre Museum, and the Managing & Artistic Director of the Taiyuan Puppet Theatre Company, earned a Ph.D. in Chinese studies from Leiden University, Holland, and has been doing research on Asian puppet theatre for over twenty years.  His talk will focus on the history and current practices of the Lin Liu-Hsin Puppet Theatre Museum which he directs in Taipei.  Ruizendaal will discuss the conservation and collection policies of the museum (which according to Ruizendaal has “the most complete collection of Asian puppets in the world”), as well as its educational projects, interactive exhibitions and performances. 3. Wednesday, October 30: Dr. Marvin Carlson, “The Ibn Daniyal Trilogy: Theatre from Medieval Cairo”


Dr. Marvin Carlson

Famed theater historian Dr. Marvin Carlson will speak about his and his colleagues’ current research into 13th-century Egyptian shadow theater, and the implications of those studies for puppet history. Professor Carlson, a Distinguished Professor of Theatre at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, is well-known throughout the world for his contributions to theater history, including 1993 book Theories of Theatre, which has been translated into seven languages.  His 2011 book Theatres of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, written in collaboration with Khalid Amine, explored the history of drama in the Arab world. At UConn Professor Carlson will further explore the history of Arabic theater by reading from his latest project, The Ibn Daniyal Trilogy: Theatre from Medieval Cairo, a series of plays translated and edited by Dr. Safi Mahmoud Mahfouz and Dr. Carlson.  These “thirteenth century shadow plays of remarkable sophistication from Egypt by the author Ibn Daniyal,” Dr. Carlson recently wrote, “are going to make a major impact on medieval drama studies,” and “puppet theatre studies as well, since almost nothing is known of these important works.”   4. Wednesday, November 6: Annie Evans, “Writing for Sesame Street.”

Annie Evans

Drawing from her experience as a principal writer for Sesame Street since 1994, Annie Evans will discuss her journey from college to Sesame Street, and the show itself.  She will explain “how we write it, how we use puppetry to its best advantage, shooting on the street or on blue screen, and how the show has changed and adapted in the past twenty years.”   Evans will discuss the ways that new technology and research methods affect Sesame Street, and her experience working with international Sesame Streets around the world, particularly in East Asia. In addition to her Sesame Street work, Evans has been a principal writer for Elmo’s World, and has written scripts and lyrics for many television puppet shows, and has also served as a consultant on Galli Galli Sim Sim, the Indian co-production of Sesame Street. All of the 2013 UConn Fall Puppet Forums will take place at the Ballard Institute’s Depot Campus Center. For more information call the Ballard Institute at 860 486 0339.

UConn Fall Puppet Slam Saturday, September 21 to Feature Alumni Performers

The 2013 UConn Fall Puppet Slam, on Saturday evening, September 21 in the Dramatic Arts Department’s Studio Theatre will feature short works by acclaimed alumni of the Puppet Arts Program as well as new works by current students in the program.  For the first time, the UConn Puppet Slam will offer two performances of the same program: at 8 p.m. and at 10 p.m.  Guests at a Ballard Institute fund-raising event will attend the 8 p.m. showing, so the general public is urged to attend to 10 p.m. showing.

Zachery Dorn and Murphi Cook

The Fall Puppet Slam will feature works by Puppet Arts alumni Zachery Dorn, Carole D’Agostino, Dave Regan, and Joseph Therrien.

Pittsburgh-based Zachery Dorn has recently focused on live-streamed internet performances of toy theater productions using hand-held cameras, some of which he will perform at UConn: What Time is it in Berlin? and A Story About the Saddest Story.



Carole D’Agostino has been performing in New England-area Puppet Slams since 1997.  She will present scenes from The Hoarding Show, a miniature spectacle combining tabletop puppetry, shadow theater, and object theater “about the clutter we keep, mentally and physically in our lives,” including the story of the famous Collyer brothers of New York City.



Zachery Dorn and Jason Hicks

Joseph Therrien, working with puppeteer Jason Hicks, will present scenes from their handpuppet spectacle Weasel, Citizen Hero, an irreverent series of shows featuring found-object puppets and political satire, which the duo have created at Bread & Puppet Theater, where Therrien is now a company member.

And Dave Regan of Fluke Theater will perform a handpuppet piece entitled Fight or Flyght.

The Puppet Slam movement is a nation-wide flowering of short puppet productions for adult audiences, encouraged by the Puppet Slam Network created by Heather Henson and Marsian De Lellis.  UConn Puppet Slams have been taking place since 2008, thanks to the generous support of the Slam Network.

The UConn Fall Puppet Slam is free and open to the public–donations are greatly appreciated.  Both the 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. showings are open to the general public, but more than half of the seats for the 8 p.m. showing will be reserved for fund-raiser attendees.   For directions to the Studio Theater see this site.   For more information call the Ballard Institute at 860 486 0339.

Puppet Arts Students Create Puppet Production of Erik Ehn Play for Human Rights Institute Conference

A Ballard Institute project to support new works for puppetry will culminate in a production of Erik Ehn’s The Architecture of Great Cathedrals on Friday, September 20 at 6:30 at the University of Connecticut Human Rights Institute‘s international “Contexts of Human Rights” conference.  The performance will take place at the Wilber Cross Reading Room at UConn.

Sarah Nolen, Dana Samborski, and Anna Fitzgerald rehearsing

Puppet Arts Program graduate students Anna Fitzgerald, Sarah Nolen, and Dana Samborski, working with Puppet Arts Director Bart Roccoberton and BIMP Director John Bell, conceived, designed, built, and will perform Ehn’s play–part of the playwright’s celebrated Soulographie cycle of dramas about genocide–as a tabletop puppet production which they began to work on last spring.

“I’m extremely excited to see this work,” Dr. Bell said; “the combination of these talented Puppet Arts students and Erik Ehn’s stunning text is going to make for a compelling puppet production.  I’m glad the Human Rights conference participants can see it.”

The first performance of the show will be exclusively for Human Rights conference participants (see their website for registration information); however the Ballard Institute hopes to produce public performances of the production in the future.

“The World of Puppetry” at Vernon Community Arts Center, September 9 – October 5

Tolu Bommalata shadow figures from India

An amazing array of puppets from the Ballard Institute collections and UConn’s Puppet Arts Program will be on display September 9 through October 5 in “The World of Puppetry”, an exhibition at the Vernon Community Art Center in Vernon, Connecticut!  The Opening Reception for the event is Sunday, September 8 from 1 to 4 p.m.

The exhibition includes the following amazing workshops, performances, and talks:

– Three puppet shows created and performed by graduate students of the Puppet Arts Program on Saturday, September 14th at 2:00; Sunday, September 22nd at 2:00; and Saturday, October 5th at 7:30.

– Shadow Theatre Workshop on Saturday, September 21st

– Toy Theatre Workshop on Saturday, September 28th. These intergenerational workshops, led by UConn Puppetry faculty and students, are intended for children, parents and/or grandparents.

Rod puppets by Frank Ballard

– “Behind the Puppet Stage”: a lecture by Puppet Arts Program Director Bart Roccoberton on Sunday, September 29th.

Gallery hours for the exhibition, from September 12th through October 5th, are Thursday through Sunday 1 – 5.

For details about the performances and to register for the workshops, please visit the Vernon Community Arts Center website or contact the VCAC by phone at: (860) 871-VCAC (8222).

This project is made possible by a grant from The Greater Hartford Arts Council and funding from The Vernon Arts Commission.