Month: April 2018

“Puppets and Film: Paul Spirito’s Ancestral” with Paul Spirito, Helder Mira, and Sarah Nolen on 4/26 at 7 p.m.

As part of the 2018 Spring Puppet Forum Series, the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut will present a discussion with Paul Spirito, Helder Mira, and Sarah Nolen on Thursday, April 26, 2018 at 7 p.m. in the Ballard Institute Theater, located at 1 Royce Circle in Downtown Storrs.

Director, puppeteer, and UConn Puppet Arts technical supervisor Paul Spirito, Hartford filmmaker Helder Mira, and puppeteer, filmmaker, and UConn Puppet Arts alumna Sarah Nolen discuss the process and dynamics of Spirito’s new puppet film Ancestral. The film, shot entirely on UConn’s Depot Campus by Spirito, Mira, Nolen and other UConn Puppet Arts Program students, tells the tale of an eccentric inventor, living in the shadow of his father’s failures, who overcomes the doubts of his community and reconnects his culture with its past. This forum is co-sponsored by the UConn Puppet Arts Program.

Paul Spirito began his career as an industrial designer in the toy industry, and then entered UConn’s Puppet Arts graduate program, completing his MFA in 2007, after which he became the program’s Puppetry Technical Supervisor. At UConn, Paul guides students through every step of the puppet making and performance process. His obsession with the people of the industrial age and interests in machinery are the driving forces behind much of his work. Paul hopes to push the art of puppetry forward by infusing traditional forms and techniques with 21st-century materials and processes. He is the founder of the Hartford Art Sled Derby, an annual event celebrating the creativity and excitement of sliding down a snowy hill in an original creation–art sledding!

Independent filmmaker Helder Mira is a native of Hartford, CT. After producing video for the City of Hartford and Hartford Public Access Television, he started Rabbit Ears Media. He produced short pieces for the CT Forum, the Greater Hartford Arts Council, the Wadsworth Atheneum, and various music videos, and went on to work as second-unit director of photography on such features as The Last Intervention, Asockalypse, and Subconscious. In 2010, he wrote and directed Royal Comics, featuring the acting talents of frequent collaborators, Sea Tea Improv. The comedy short brought together his love for films, comedy, and comic book storytelling. He is currently the Multimedia Producer for the Office of Communications at Trinity College, where he produces videos about the engaging work of the college’s students, faculty, and alumni. Helder lives in Hartford, a city that introduced him to art and diversity of storytelling. His work is viewable at

Sarah Nolen is a puppeteer and filmmaker, originally from Austin, Texas. She has a Master of Fine Arts in Puppet Arts from UConn, as well as a bachelor’s degree in Cinema-Television from Southern Methodist University. In 2017, Sarah moved to Boston and is currently Puppet Showplace Theater’s third-ever resident artist. Sarah has performed as a puppeteer for the Boston Pops Orchestra, EnvisionFEST Hartford, and toured internationally with her own work, as well as part of the ensemble for Red Ball Theater’s Reverse Cascade. Her solo puppet works have been selected for the National Puppet Slams of 2013, 2014 and 2015. She has trained with Sesame Street’s Puppeteer Workshop, Sandglass Theater, and the National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. As a filmmaker, Sarah has worked as a production coordinator for nationally syndicated television shows on networks such as CMT & HGTV. Her television pilot, Treeples (2016) was selected to screen at film festivals around the country, including the Slamdance Film Festival and the Atlanta Film Festival. She was a 2015 recipient of The Mister Rogers Memorial Scholarship in support of this project. For more information on her puppetry work, visit

Admission to this event is free (donations greatly appreciated!), and refreshments will be served. Come early, and experience our puppet exhibitions, as well as the video resources in our library nook. 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. The discussion portion of this forum will be streamed via Facebook Live starting at approximately 7:25 p.m. Call 860-486-8580 for more information.