Month: September 2023

Free Community Puppet-Building Workshops for Celebrate Mansfield on 9/23 and 9/24

The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut will once again offer fall community puppet-building workshops to design and build life-size and over-life-size puppets for a new Reading the Book of Mansfield pageant to be performed at the Celebrate Mansfield Festival in Downtown Storrs. These free workshops will be led by internationally acclaimed puppeteer and pageant director Sara Peattie of Boston’s Puppeteers Cooperative, and will take place Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 23 and 24, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day at the Ballard Institute, located at 1 Royce Circle in Downtown Storrs. 

Reading the Book of Mansfield will explore places, people, and things that make Mansfield unique! Workshop participants will collaborate to create puppets and masks representing what they love most about Mansfield, and will be invited to perform their creations in the community pageant as part of the 20th-annual Celebrate Mansfield Festival on the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 30.

No experience is necessary to participate in these free community puppet-building workshops. Space is limited, so advance registration is strongly encouraged. Participants can come for one or both days but should register for the 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. or/and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. time slot(s). Minors must be accompanied by an adult. To register for the workshop, visit If you require accommodation to participate, contact the Ballard Institute at or 860-486-8580. 

This community puppet project is sponsored by the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry and the Mansfield Downtown Partnership, Inc. For more information about the 20th-annual Celebrate Mansfield Festival, visit


“Shadow Puppetry and Digital Animation” Puppet Forum with Hamid Rahmanian on 9/18

Photograph: © 2021 RICHARD TERMINE

To kick off its 2023 Fall Puppet Forum Series, the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry is pleased to host Shadow Puppetry and Digital Animation on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023 at 7 p.m. in the Ballard Institute Theater, located at 1 Royce Circle in Downtown Storrs. The forum features Song of the North director Hamid Rahmanian and UConn alumni now performing as puppeteers in the production. It will also be broadcast via Ballard Institute Facebook Live ( 

In conjunction with the performance of his latest production, Song of the North, at UConn’s Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, designer and director Hamid Rahmanian will join puppeteer cast members Esme Roszel, Ray Dondero, and Harrison Greene (all UConn alumni) and Ballard Institute director John Bell in a discussion about the innovative combinations of live and digital puppetry which Rahmanian and his colleagues have developed. Rahmanian’s initial interests in illustration and graphic arts shifted to theater, and his ground-breaking work with shadows and digital media to create numerous theater productions, including the UNIMA-USA award-winning Feathers of Fire (2016). Together with company members he will discuss how the design, construction, and performance of Song of the North came about. Song of the North will be performed on Thursday, Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m. at Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are now on sale. This forum is co-sponsored by Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts. To learn more about this forum, visit

Admission to this event is free (donations greatly appreciated!), and refreshments will be served. For more information or if you require accommodation to attend a forum, please contact Ballard Institute staff at 860.486.8580 or

“The Sleeping Beauty” by Stevens Puppets on 9/16

To kick off its 2023 Fall Puppet Performance Series, the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut is pleased to bring back the popular Stevens Puppets, directed by Dan and Zan Raynor, to perform their marionette production The Sleeping Beauty on 9/16 at 11 a.m. in the Ballard Institute Theater, located at 1 Royce Circle in Downtown Storrs.

The famed Stevens Puppets company, founded in 1934, brings to life this classic tale with hand-carved, beautifully costumed marionettes, sets, and scenery, creating a spellbinding spectacle with magical effect.  Accompanied by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s celebrated 1890 ballet score, the production features a compelling script by Martin Stevens (the acclaimed founder of the company), and spectacular costumes by Marge Stevens. Recommended for all ages. The show runtime is approximately 40 minutes, with a demonstration after the show.

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


About the Company

Stevens Puppets was founded in 1933 by the Peabody Award winning Martin Stevens, preeminent American puppeteer and founder of the Puppeteers of America.  With his wife, Margi, Martin Stevens created ground-breaking touring marionette shows which are featured in books, in museums, and on tour. Stevens’ marionettes and stage design have influenced generations of puppeteers in America and abroad, often cited as artistic benchmarks and industry standards. Dan and Zan Raynor, the owners, have been with Stevens Puppets for over 20 years, each coming from live theatre backgrounds of acting and directing professionally. Dan holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre and Zan holds a Master of Theology with a doctorate in Canon Law. Dan has taught theatre at the Northwest Arkansas Academy of Fine Arts and directed professionally for theatres in several states, including televised events in California. He has performed with and directed many professional musicians like Neil Young and Huey Lewis, as well as acting professionally with many theatre companies in California. In addition to performing on stage as an actor and dancer, Zan has directed high school and college theatre programs, as well as designing lights, costumes, and choreography for numerous theatre companies in the Midwest and Northeast.  Zan has taught every level of school, from Montessori preschool through University classes. She has been a high school principal as well as theatre and Latin teacher. They divide their time between studio artwork, both original and restoration, training other performing artists, managing complex tours, and performing themselves all around the country at schools, libraries, festivals, and fairs.

Mindful that they are stewards of this important legacy, Dan and Zan Raynor lovingly restore the original Stevens’ productions, ensuring that future generations continue to enjoy these historic treasures. They also create new productions of classic stories with hand-carved casts of characters in the tradition of the master and manage tours throughout the country performed by puppeteers they have personally chosen and apprenticed. Dan and Zan have recently completed the restorations of “The Sleeping Beauty”, Rumplestiltskin”, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, “Aladdin”, and “The Wizard of Oz”. These marionette plays feature Martin and Margi Stevens’ original puppets, Margi’s period costumes, the Stevens’ hand painted scenery, all lovingly and authentically restored or re-created by Zan and Dan Raynor. Fun fact. The “fly-apart” marionette of Rumplestiltskin was the first of its kind, an original innovation of Martin Stevens and a keystone of his company’s patrimony. In February 2018, Zan began writing the script for the first new marionette show since 1999, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”. In February 2019 she completed the artwork for the show and it happily joined the lineup of touring shows.