Month: May 2017

“Obstreperous Puppets: The Puppeteers Cooperative,” 6/22/17-10/8/17

Co-founded by Sara Peattie and George Konnoff in 1976, the Boston-based Puppeteers Cooperative is one of the most prolific, yet un-acclaimed, puppet companies in New England. Peattie, Konnoff, and their colleagues have designed and built puppets with community groups for pageants and celebrations across the United States, including Boston’s famed First Night, the Downtown Mansfield Festival in Storrs. Many of these creations are also available to the general public through the Puppeteers Cooperative’s Puppet Free Library, located in the basement of Boston’s Emmanuel Church. “Puppeteers secretly suspect that their puppets have lives of their own,” Peattie comments, “and these puppets really do. Because they are in the Puppet Free Library, they wander off, go places I don’t know about or that I can’t get entrance to, and come back with human thanks, or even on occasion reappear with no explanation, somewhat battered and smelling oddly, to resume their places in my life, but to be greeted on the street as old friends by people who are strangers to me.”

In conjunction with this exhibition and the 14th annual Celebrate Mansfield Festival, the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry and Mansfield Downtown Partnership will host a free two-day puppet-building workshop with Sara Peattie on September 9 and 10 at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Workshop participants will help to design and build life-size and over-life-size puppets for the Celebrate Mansfield Parade in downtown Storrs. Workshop participants will be invited to parade with their puppets as part of the Celebrate Mansfield Parade on Sunday, September 17 at noon. No experience is necessary to take part in these workshops. More information will be released at the end of summer.

As part of our Fall Puppet Forum Series, on Thursday, September 21 at 7:00 p.m. Obstreperous Puppets curator Sara Peattie will discuss her work building puppets with the Puppeteers Cooperative and organizing the Puppet Free Library. Admission is free, and donations are greatly appreciated.

2017 Summertime Saturday Puppet Show Series

The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut will once more present its popular Summertime Saturday Puppet Shows series of new works by UConn Puppet Arts students and alumni for family audiences on seven consecutive Saturdays, July 1 through August 12, 2017. Each show will be performed twice, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. All performances will take place at the Ballard Institute Theater located at 1 Royce Circle, Storrs Center. “We are very excited to present these new shows by UConn students,” Ballard Institute Director John Bell said; “they all represent the ingenuity, inspiration, and high standards of UConn’s Puppet Arts Program, and will be extraordinarily entertaining.”

The schedule of Summertime Saturday Puppet Shows includes the following:

July 1 – Canteen Tales: The Curse of Bread Beard by Shane McNeal

In this sea-worthy second chapter in the Canteen Tales series, Chef Bernard serves up a second helping of fun with his story of the wannabe pirate Sidney Salts, as he hunts for the legendary treasure of Bread Beard the Pirate, the most feared privateer to sail the Peppercorn Sea! Join in as Sidney deals with beguiling buccaneers, salty sea monsters, and ghastly ghosts! Recommended for all ages.

 July 8 – Punch & Jilly by Mark Blashford

Punch & Jilly is a rollicking hand-puppet spectacle performed in the British Punch & Judy show tradition with a Connecticut Yankee twist. Mr. Punch the trickster is back again. This time he is joined by a stubborn dairy cow named Jilly. Watch Punch and Jilly look after a baby, escape a crocodile, outsmart the Devil, and cause all sorts of mischief. Recommended for ages 5+.

July 15 – Sweven by Anatar Marmol-Gagné

Dotty sees monsters, under the bed. But are they real, or just in her head? Recommended for ages 5+.


July 22 – Uncle Vlad’s Summer Spook-tacular by Shane McNeal

Join us for an afternoon of merry monsters, whimsical werewolves, and groovy ghouls, as our batty host, Uncle Vlad, regales audiences with not-so-spooky stories he’s discovered while on his annual summer road trip! Using hand and shadow puppetry, audiences will laugh along as they witness the softer side of the creatures of the night. Recommended for all ages.

July 29 – 100 Birds by John Cody

The 100 Birds, an intergalactic troupe of feathered friends, come to help Jada Jones, captain of her middle school’s basketball team, after she wishes upon a shooting star for help to get her team to their playoff game. Using their love of math, the avian crew bands together with Jada to host the biggest fundraiser ever and create the world’s largest pizza! Recommended for ages 5+.

August 5 – Sheldon Explains It All by Zach Broome

Sheldon is a turtle, and he is scared of everything: absolutely everything. What scares him the most are the things he doesn’t know yet. Join Sheldon as he learns about everything under the sun and shares all of his new knowledge with you. Recommended for ages 5+.


August 12 – The Superhero Within: Episode 2! by Anatar Marmol Gagné

It’s summer break from Superhero Academy and Alex and Sage can’t wait for their summer adventures. They quickly learn that even though they are superhero cadets, villains will try everything to ruin their holiday. With the help of the Vigilantes, Alex and Sage will stop at nothing to get their summer back! Recommended for all ages.

Admission is $6 for children (12 years and under), $8 for adults.

Ticket will be available in the near future. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, by calling 860-486-8580, or online at A surcharge will be added to any purchases made online. Tickets may also be purchased at the Ballard Institute on the day of performance starting at 10 a.m. There will be open seating, and no reservations. Visitors can park in the Storrs Center Garage located at 33 Royce Circle. Parking in the Storrs Center Garage is free for the first two hours and $1 per hour thereafter, with a daily maximum charge of $8. For more information about these performances, call 860-486-8580.

Free Museum Tours for CT Open House Day on 6/10!

The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut will participate in the 13th Annual Connecticut Open House Day – a unified celebration of the state’s fascinating world of art, history, and tourism – on June 10, 2017. During this one-day event, the Ballard Institute will offer free tours at 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. of its current exhibitions: The World of Puppetry: From the Collections of the Ballard Institute and Banners and Cranks: Paintings and Scrolls in Performance.

On Connecticut Open House Day, more than 200 other organizations and attractions throughout the state will open their doors and offer special incentives to visitors. This exciting statewide event, sponsored by the Connecticut Office of Tourism (COT), is designed to broaden awareness among residents of Connecticut’s exceptional cultural and tourism assets and encourage them to become ambassadors who share their newfound discoveries with visiting family and friends.

The Ballard Institute’s free tours at 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. will feature these current exhibitions:

  • The World of Puppetry: From the Collections of the Ballard Institute showcases an array of different puppets carefully selected from the Ballard Institute collections to reflect the amazing richness of global puppet traditions and contemporary innovations in puppetry. The exhibition includes an array of hand puppets, marionettes, rod puppets, toy theaters, and shadow figures from Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas, with particular attention to twentieth-century United States puppetry.
  • Banners and Cranks: Paintings and Scrolls in Performance (Closing on June 11!): Cantastorias and crankies are forms of sung picture story-telling that trace their origins to sixth-century India. These paintings mounted on sticks, flipped over and revealed, or unfurled on scrolls and moved by means of a crank are performing object precursors to the popular puppet traditions of many countries. Despite the prominence of new technologies in popular culture, an innovative dynamic engagement with the simple mechanical cranky and cantastoria has blossomed among young puppet theater companies, activist educators, folk musicians, visual artists, playwrights, and students who infuse this old form with diverse new content and bold variations in technique.

To qualify for any Open House Day special, at least one person in each visiting group must show a valid Connecticut driver’s license. Connecticut Open House Day also includes opportunities to become a Connecticut Ambassador as part of COT’s Ambassador Program, an ongoing initiative designed to cultivate pride among residents in the state’s many diverse historic, arts, tourism and entertainment treasures. For more information about Connecticut Open House Day, visit or call 1-888-CTvisit.

The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry is open Tuesday-Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Visitors can park in the Storrs Center Garage located at 33 Royce Circle. Parking in the Storrs Center Garage is free for the first two hours and $1 per hour thereafter, with a daily maximum charge of $8. For more information about museum exhibitions or programming, visit or call 860.486.8580.