Month: March 2021

2021 UConn Spring Puppet Slam: Online! on 3/26 at 8 p.m. ET

The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry and the UConn Puppet Arts Program will present an online version of its popular UConn Spring Puppet Slam on March 26, 2021 at 8 p.m. ET on the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry Facebook Live ( The 2021 UConn Spring Puppet Slam: Online! will feature short works by professional puppeteers and performers from around the United States and across the world and new works by UConn Puppet Arts students.
The 2021 UConn Spring Puppet Slam: Online! will showcase the work of Puerto Rican puppeteer Brenda Plumey; the famed Boston-based Puppeteers Cooperative, led by Sara Peattie; Dawn Jordan String Theatre from Auburn, NY; director, designer, and puppeteer Jaerin Son of Chicago; Brooklyn-based puppeteer Dorothy James; Kettlehead Studios from Portland, OR; the puppet collective Eat Drink Tell Your Friends, based in Brooklyn, NY; Lormiga Títeres, a puppet company based in Sonora, Mexico; Mirek Trejtnar and Leah Gaffen’s Puppets in Prague; and recent UConn Puppet Arts graduate Hailey Bendar. 
The UConn Spring Puppet Slam will also feature fascinating new works by UConn graduate and undergraduate students from the UConn Puppet Arts Program. Funding for the UConn Spring Puppet Slam: Online! is made possible in part by the Puppet Slam Network.

The UConn Spring Puppet Slam is free, but donations are greatly appreciated. These performances are recommended for mature audiences. The UConn Spring Puppet Slam will be available through April 30, 2021 on the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry Facebook page ( and the Ballard Institute YouTube channel ( 
For more information about these performances, please contact Ballard Institute staff at 860-486-8580 or

“Puppet and Spirit: Living Gods, Demonic Snakes, Robotic Buddhas, and Migrant Relics” Forum on 3/25 at 7:30 p.m.

For its second online installment of the 2021 Spring Puppet Forum Series, the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut will host “Puppet and Spirit: Living Gods, Demonic Snakes, Robotic Buddhas, and Migrant Relics” with puppetry studies scholars Claudia Orenstein, Tim Cusack, Ana Martinez, and Deepsikha Chatterjee on March 25 at 7:30 p.m. ET, one half hour later than the usual forum start time. This forum will take place on Facebook Live ( and will be available afterwards on Facebook and the Ballard Institute YouTube Channel ( 

Join these four distinguished scholars as they explore the diverse relationships that exist between the spiritual world and performing objects, in both traditional forms of puppetry and contemporary artistic expressions. This forum is co-sponsored by the UConn Asian American Cultural Center, Asian and Asian American Studies Institute, Puerto Rican and Latin American Cultural Center, and El Instituto.

Why and how do we turn to the material world to connect with spiritual and supernatural dimensions of experience? How are performing objects used in ritual activities or other performative acts that touch on our deepest beliefs and questions about the nature of human existence? What religious and ontological perspectives frame these endeavors in both religious and non religious contexts? Our Forum participants will address these issues in terms of their own research into: the objects migrants have left behind on the southern U.S. border; the ritual use of oversize animal puppets in Assam, India; humanoid android characters in the HBO series Westworld; and other ways that puppets are considered powerful spiritual entities with a consciousness.

Claudia Orenstein, Theater Professor at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY, has spent nearly two decades writing on contemporary and traditional puppetry in the US and Asia. Recent publications: co-edited volumes Women and Puppetry: Critical and Historical Investigations and The Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance. She worked as dramaturg on Tom Lee and kuruma ningyō master, Nishikawa Koryū V’s Shank’s Mare, is Board Member of UNIMA-USA and Associate Editor of Asian Theatre Journal. Current book projects: Thinking Through the Puppet: Essays on Puppet Dramaturgy and a two-volume co-edited anthology with Tim Cusack, Puppet and Spirit: Ritual, Religion, and Performing Objects.

Tim Cusack is an adjunct lecturer in the Hunter College Theatre Department, where he teaches basic acting techniques. He was a founding artistic director of the downtown indie company Theatre Askew, which was twice nominated for the GLAAD Media Award in the Outstanding Off-Off Broadway Production category. He was the assistant editor on both the Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance and Women and Puppetry. His essay analyzing Susan Sontag’s celebrity persona through the lens of queer performativity was published in the anthology Susan Sontag and the Camp Aesthetic: Advancing New Perspectives. He has a BFA from NYU/TSOA and an MA from Hunter/CUNY. 

Dr. Ana Martínez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Texas State University. Her book Performance in the Zócalo: Constructing History, Race, and Identity in Mexico’s Central Square from the Colonial Era to the Present (University of Michigan Press, 2020) addresses the ways in which the material center of the Mexican capital, the Zócalo, manifests and contests its symbolic power through performance practices. Dr. Martínez’s fields of specialization are theatre practices in Mexico, Latinx drama, and performance design. Her current research and upcoming article focuses on migrancy’s material traces in performance. She holds a degree in Theatre Studies from the City University of New York Graduate Center, and MA in Scenography from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, and an Architecture degree from Universidad Anahuac in Mexico City.  

Deepsikha Chatterjee teaches at Hunter College CUNY. She has a Bachelors in Fashion Design from India, her MFA from Florida State University, and is now pursuing her PhD from CUNY Graduate Center. Her costume designs received the Best Costume Design award at United Solo 2014 and 2017. Her designs have been seen at various New York venues, and she has worked in many regional theaters. She has published about costumes of Indian film and dance and has presented at USITT, Costume Society of America and the Rubin Museum of Art. She serves as Dance Director for Indo-American Arts Council’s Erasing Borders Dance Festival.

For more information and to learn about other online programming, email 

“Milo the Magnificent” by Alex & Olmsted on 3/27 at 4 p.m. ET

As part of its 2021 Spring virtual programming, the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut is pleased to present Milo the Magnificent by the Maryland-based company Alex & Olmsted on March 27, 2021 at 4 p.m. ET via Zoom.

Milo the Magnificent is a highly engaging puppet show about an aspiring magician. This wordless comedy, the winner of a Jim Henson Foundation Grant, is inspired by turn of the century vaudeville entertainers, is as highly physical as it is charming. Using stunningly innovative puppetry, Milo presents a variety of magic tricks which don’t always go as planned. Great for all ages! This performance lasts approximately 40 minutes and will include time for questions and answers with Alex & Olmsted after the show. 

In a review for the New York Times, Laurel Graeber wrote, “Milo is a bit of a cardboard character, but you can’t blame him for that. He’s a puppet: specifically, a huge cutout fellow, whose arms, hands and feet belong to one of his creators, and whose changing facial expressions are recorded on flippable circular cards. The duo Alex & Olmsted—Alex Vernon and Sarah Olmsted Thomas—invented his world, which includes other puppets made of cleverly repurposed materials. Milo […] aspires to be an illusionist, and while his tricks and experiments rarely work out as planned, children will still find them magical.” 

Alex and Olmsted (Alex Vernon and Sarah Olmsted Thomas) is an internationally acclaimed puppet theater company. In recent years, they have toured abroad at the Festival of Wonder in Denmark, the Puppet Festival Chuncheon in South Korea, the Festival de Casteliers in Montréal, and The Festival of Animated Objects in Calgary. In the United States, they have played Symphony Space in New York City, the Detroit Institute of Arts in Michigan, the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, and Black Cherry Puppet Theater in Baltimore, among others. Alex and Olmsted was recently awarded the 2020 State Independent Artist Award for Performing Arts from the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC), the highest honor for performing artists in the State of Maryland and an award that is only given once in the lifetime of an artist or group. Their puppet show, Milo the Magnificent, was awarded a 2017 Jim Henson Foundation Grant, a Greenbelt Community Foundation Grant, and received an excellent mention in the New York Times. They were awarded a second Jim Henson Foundation Grant to further develop their outer space show, Marooned! A Space Comedy. Alex & Olmsted is a resident company at Baltimore Theatre Project. Vernon and Thomas are also proud company members of Happenstance Theater with whom they have created 10 productions since 2012.

Ticket price: $10/household. Tickets can be purchased online at A surcharge will be added to online purchases. Attendees should purchase one ticket per household. While we ask for a minimum payment of $10/household, we greatly appreciate any additional support! A Zoom link will be emailed to households one hour before the performance. 

For more information about these performances or if you require an accommodation to attend this event, please contact Ballard Institute staff at 860-486-8580 or

“ISH” by Felicia Cooper, March 19-21

The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry and the UConn Puppet Arts Program present ISH, an MFA performance by UConn Puppet Arts graduate student Felicia Cooper, co-sponsored by the Mansfield Downtown Partnership. This 45-minute, family-friendly puppet show will be performed outdoors on March 19, 20, and 21 at 7 p.m. in Betsy Paterson Square in Downtown Storrs. These outdoors shows will be socially distanced and follow State of Connecticut COVID-19 safety protocols. The performance will also be streamed on March 21 at 7 p.m. on Ballard Institute’s Facebook Live ( in celebration of World Puppetry Day.
This show is a whale of a time and a (very) loose homage to New England’s own Moby-Dick, if Ishmael was a hyper-curious eleven-year-old girl and the whale was a little friendlier! With the help of her stuck submarine, Ish explores her perspective in isolated circumstances, a maker’s approach, and our relationship to the ocean. Join us underwater for shadow puppets, object performance, and three-dimensional cantastoria as we search for a whale from right where we are.
Suitable for kids 6-11, ISH uses shadow puppets from an overhead projector, object performance in a suitcase, and original music from Juliana Carr. Calling on traditional performance techniques updated with new technology, this kick in the pants to Melville will spark curiosity in kids and parents alike. ISH uses technology as performance and performance as technology. This story is filled with creative problem solving and shifting perspectives. We want to encourage kids to use their imagination, take a step back, and try on new ideas! This show is supported by the Marks Family Endowment in Fine Arts, Connecticut Sea Grant, and the UConn Women’s League. 
Felicia Cooper is a third-year MFA candidate studying Puppet Arts at the University of Connecticut, with a BA in Theater from Point Park University. At UConn she moderated the Ballard Institute’s forum on Women in Puppetry, organized the inaugural Women in Making Forum with the Learning Community Innovation Zone, and presented research at the 2019 National Puppetry Festival. She has performed with Bread and Puppet Theater, Puppet Bucket Productions, and at the Eugene O’Neill National Puppetry Conference. She has held artistic residencies with the New Hazlett Theater, PearlArts, folkLAB, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Creative ReUse, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, and Propel Schools. She loves giving tours and workshops and sharing her exuberance for puppetry in all its forms.
Admission is free, but due to COVID-19 safety precautions, seating reservations must be made in advance by visiting This event is being offered in accordance with State of Connecticut reopening guidelines, including the Phase III sector rules for outdoor events. For safety, six feet of space will be required between seated family groups and masks are required for all attendees, staff, and volunteers ages two and up. There will be limited, socially-distanced seating available based on family or quarantine units. Chairs will be made available, but groups are encouraged to bring blankets. Hand sanitizer will be available at the entrance and exit of the seating area. Please note that public restrooms are not available. To learn more about the Ballard Institute’s COVID-19 protocols and to reserve seats visit:
For more information, or if you require an accommodation to attend this event, please contact Ballard Institute staff at 860.486.8580 or