2020 Spring Puppet Forum Series

For its 2020 Spring Puppet Forum Series, the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut will host four free scintillating discussions with nationally and internationally acclaimed puppeteers, scholars, and artists on Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. in February through April in the Ballard Institute Theater, located at 1 Royce Circle in Downtown Storrs. The forums will illuminate new perspectives on the creation, history, aesthetics, and performance of puppetry today. 

The Spring Puppet Forum schedule will include the following talks: 

Thursday, Feb. 20: “Walt Whitman and Lively Materiality” with Jane Bennett

Internationally famed scholar Jane Bennett, of Johns Hopkins University, is an interdisciplinary political theorist and philosopher best known in the puppetry world for her work on “the material world in performance,” especially her influential bestseller Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Drawing from her new book Influx and Efflux: Writing Up with Walt Whitman, Professor Bennett will speak about Whitman’s sense of “lively materiality” and the implications such ideas for puppetry studies and other subjects. Co-sponsored by UConn’s Philosophy, Political Science, and English Departments, Humanities Institute, and American Studies Program. 

CANCELLED: Thursday, March 26: “Puppets and Little Shop of Horrors” with Martin P. Robinson, Rob Cutler, and Will Smith

Join famed Sesame Street puppeteer Martin P. Robinson and Puppet Arts graduate students Rob Cutler and Will Smith in a discussion of puppetry and Little Shop of Horrors. Robinson, who designed, built, and performed all of the Audrey II puppets for the original Off-Broadway production of Little Shop, as well as for its Broadway incarnation, will talk with Cutler and Smith about the design and performance of puppets for the professional stage, in the context of Smith and Cutler’s work on the upcoming Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s April 23-May 3 production of Little Shop. Special ticket discounts for the CRT production will be available at this event!

CANCELLED: Thursday, April 2: Things That Act Shakespeare” with Jungmin Song

Professor Jungmin Song discusses the ideas behind her new Ballard Institute exhibition Shakespeare and Puppetry, which questions our preconceptions of character and asks what it means for objects to have stage presence. Jungmin will consider Shakespeare productions by such puppeteers and performers as Forced Entertainment, Hogarth Puppets, and the Little Angel Theatre from England; ShadowLight Productions, Fred Curchack, Jim Rose, Bread and Puppet Theater, and Great Small Works from the U.S.; and Dov Weinstein from Israel. 

CANCELLED: Wednesday, April 29: “Engineering in Puppetry” with Ed Weingart

Preceded by a special 6 p.m. reception for Engineering and Fine Arts students, faculty, staff, and the general public, this forum features Professor Ed Weingart, Technical Director of UConn’s Connecticut Repertory Theatre. Weingart will discuss how engineering and puppetry have been deeply intertwined in his work with famed puppeteer Basil Twist’s 2015 New York production of Sisters Follies: Between Two Worlds, and visual artist Jordan Wolfson 2016 puppet installation Colored Sculpture. The essence of puppetry is the movement of objects in time and space, practices which are also at the heart of mechanical engineering and the theatrical work of rigging. How is such movement achieved in modern art and theater in the performance of engineering in puppetry?  Co-sponsored by the UConn Schools of Engineering and Fine Arts. 

Admission to these events 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. Forums will be broadcast via Facebook Live. For more information or if you require an accommodation to attend a forum, please contact Ballard Institute staff at 860.486.8580 or bimp@uconn.edu.