Author: Wicks, Emily

Call for Papers: Representing Alterity through Puppetry and Performing Objects

Online symposium, April 9-10, 2021

Organized by Matthew Isaac Cohen, Jungmin Song, and John Bell 

Sponsored by the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry and the Puppets Arts Program of the University of Connecticut

In societies around the globe, puppets and other performing objects such as masks and cantastorias are used to represent and stage the Othervarious ethnicities and races considered different from the dominant group. Such dramatizations of alterity routinely involve caricature and exaggeration. The transformative capacities of performing objects—which allow any practitioner to enact anything or anybody—grant them unique capacities to realize exotic fantasies; inscribe and reinforce racial stereotypes and ethnic misrepresentations; but also to transcend received categories and struggle against modes of oppression such as colonialism, often through parody. 
The road to the Holocaust was paved by anti-Semitic puppets, showing, for example, Jews transforming to pigs, inculcating into German children an image of the racist insult Judensau (Blumenthal 2005: 94). America’s most popular living puppeteer, ventriloquist Jeff Dunham, is famed for his demeaning José Jalapeño and Achmed the Dead Terrorist figures and other characters who spout racist remarks. Turkish karagöz is replete with caricatures of the diverse population of cosmopolitan Istanbul, with offensive portraits of haggling Jews, stupid Arabs, and others. Beyond such racist imagery, puppetry and allied forms frequently reflects a particular society’s unstated, subtle, and yet systemic and pervasive racism and bias, which is often not even recognized or acknowledged by the practitioners engaging in it (Populoh 2019). 
Practitioners have also bravely challenged systemic racism. Masks and puppets representing Vietnamese women made repeat appearances in Bread and Puppet Theater’s anti-war political spectacles in the 1960s and 1970s, providing human form to the abstractions of collateral damage. In his solo street show, Puns and Doedie–Puppets against Apartheid (1981-1986), South African puppeteer Gary Friedman satirized the racist Apartheid regime and raised awareness of the social attitudes that underpinned it.  More recently, a “fluorescence” of African-American artists have turned to puppets, masks, crankies, and other performing objects to resist objectification of the black body, counter the grotesque ways that African-Americans have been portrayed, take back their own identities, complexify dominant narratives, and address sensitive issues through humor (Bland et al. 2020). 
This academic symposium coincides with the exhibition The Other: Race, Ethnicity, and Puppetry, curated by Dr. Jungmin Song (Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, March 6-October 3, 2021) and aims to draw together scholars of puppetry, mask performance, cantastoria, and other types of performing objects globally in order to problematize representations of the Other, excavate systemic racism in performing objects, and demonstrate the capacities of puppetry and allied arts to challenge racism and xenophobia in order to fashion just, diverse, and inclusive societies. It follows up on the path-breaking 2018-2019 exhibition Living Objects: African-American Puppetry, co-curated by Paulette Richards and John Bell at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, and the accompanying festival, seminar, and online publications ( 
We invite proposals for 15-minute presentations on topics including:
  • The representation of ethnic and racial Others in global traditions of puppet and mask theatre
  • Exoticism, Orientalism, and Othering through puppetry and performing objects 
  • The relation between racist and xenophobic discourse in society and the representation of alterity with performing objects 
  • Puppets, masks, and performing objects as a means for cross-cultural understanding, generating empathy, and communicating with Others
  • Challenging systemic racism, prejudice, and colonialism through puppets, masks, and performing objects
We intend to publish accepted papers in an online catalogue that will also include images from the The Other: Race, Ethnicity, and Puppetry
Proposals: February 8, 2021
Notification of acceptance: February 15, 2021
Symposium: April 9-10, 2021
Revised presentations due: August 30, 2021
Publication of proceedings: November 2021
Please submit your proposal as an email attachment.
Your proposal should be a Word document of no more than 350 words.
Your proposal should present original, unpublished work.
If your proposal is accepted, you will be invited to submit a first draft of your article by the deadline indicated above.
Your article should follow the “Manuscript Preparation Guidelines” for the Brecht Yearbook.
All proposals, submissions, and general inquiries should be sent directly to,, and
Bland,  Edna (moderator) with panelists Paulette Richards, Schroeder Cherry, and Anwar Floyd-Pruitt. The Renaissance of African American Object Performance. Online Fall Puppet Forum, Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, October 22, 2020.
Blumenthal, Eileen. Puppetry and Puppets: An Illustrated World Survey. London: Thames and Hudson, 2005.
Populoh, Valeska Maria. “Embracing Complexity in Performing the Other.” Living Objects: African American Puppetry Essays. 6 (2019).

Ballard Institute Closed through January 8, 2021

The Ballard Institute is closed through January 8 and will reopen for reservations on January 9. You can make your reservations to visit in January now!

While you can’t visit us in person, you can visit our Virtual Experiences page to see current and some past exhibitions online! We also have coloring pages and workshops for you to do at home!

Happy holidays from the staff at the Ballard Institute!

UConn Puppet Arts Fall 2020 Final Presentations on 12/18 and 12/19

The UConn Puppet Arts Program and Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry will host the end-of-semester presentation of UConn Puppet Arts undergraduate and graduate class finals on Friday, December 18 and Saturday, December 19 at 7 p.m. ET. These presentations will take place on Ballard Institute Facebook Live ( Talkbacks led by famed puppeteer Paul Zaloom will also take place each night. These performances are recommended for mature audiences. 

On Friday December 18, final presentations, performances, and talkbacks for Directing, Online Shadow Theater, and World Puppet Theater will take place via Facebook Live. Inspired by the radio sculptures of Tom Sachs and the African Sonic theories of puppet scholar Paulette Richards, Students in the Directing class will present their “ReInvention of the Radio Play”– experiments with sound as storytelling and puppet theater. Online Shadow Theater students will present their individual creations for the shadow theater, all performed solo and remotely! Introduction to World Puppet Theater students, who have been studying theories and histories of global puppet and object performance, will present short toy theater productions they created at the end of the semester.

On Saturday, December 19, final presentations, performances, and talkbacks for Object Theater and Paper Sculpture will take place via Facebook Live. Students in the Object Theater class will share a series of object theater performances in which ordinary household objects take on life to portray extraordinary events, confronting mortality, prejudice, phobias, and injustice in their own inimitable manner. Paper Sculpture students will present brief cameos with the characters they have created utilizing Albrecht Roser’s Papier Methode. 

Paul Zaloom, a comedic puppeteer, political satirist, filmmaker, and performance artist, will join us both evenings as a Responder to the students’ work. Paul Zaloom, who lives and works in Los Angeles and tours his productions all over the world, has written, designed and performed 14 full-length solo spectacles, including Fruit of Zaloom, Zaloominations, Sick But True, Velvetville, The Mother of All Enemies and the current spectacle, White Like Me: A Honky Dory Puppet Show.

For more information, please contact Ballard Institute staff at

Online Fall Puppet Forum: “Engineering in Puppetry” with Basil Twist, Ed Weingart, and Jason Lee on 12/3

The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut will present a free online Engineering in Puppetry Puppet Forum on Thursday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. ET via Facebook Live ( The forum will feature world-renowned puppeteer Basil Twist, Interim Department Chair of the UConn Department of Dramatic Arts Ed Weingart, and UConn Department of Mechanical Engineering Professor Jason Lee. This event is co-sponsored by the UConn School of Engineering and the Krenicki Arts and Engineering Institute, a program of UConn’s Schools of Fine Arts and Engineering.

Engineering in Puppetry will examine the nature of engineering principles and practices as they appear in different forms of puppetry, including attention to Basil Twist’s 2015 production of Sisters’ Follies, to which Ed Weingart contributed rigging and flying direction. Puppetry and engineering are both intimately connected with the performance dynamics of materials and objects. How and in what manner does puppetry reflect and perform the principles of engineering? How does engineering reflect the performance interests and possibilities of puppetry? Presentations by Twist and Weingart discuss and examine the nature of engineering in puppetry from the perspectives of a puppeteer and a technical director; Professor Lee will add to the discussion from his perspective as a mechanical engineer. 

Basil Twist is a third-generation puppeteer and native of San Francisco. The sole American to graduate from the École Supérieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionnette in Charleville-Mezieres, France, Basil’s showmanship was spotlighted in New York by The Jim Henson International Festival of Puppetry with his award-winning The Araneidae Show. This recognition, coupled with the ground-breaking and multiple award-winning Symphonie Fantastique, revealed Twist as a singular artist of unlimited imagination. He has conceived and directed two successful operas, Ottorini Respighi’s La Bella Dormente Nel Bosco and Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, for the Houston Grand Opera. Broadway credits include puppetry design for Charlie and The Chocolate Factory; Oh, Hello!; The Addams Family; and puppetry direction for the beloved Pee-Wee Herman Show. Twist is a frequent collaborator with Lee Breuer/Mabou Mines. His work has received an Obie, Drama Desk Awards, UNIMA Awards, Bessie Awards, a New York Innovative Theatre Award, and a Henry Hewes Award. He has been honored with a MacArthur, Guggenheim and USA Artists Fellowships, as well as a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award. 

Edward Weingart is an Associate Professor of Technical Direction at the University of Connecticut where he is currently serving as the Interim Department Head for the Department of Dramatic Arts. He also works as the Director of Special Projects for Creative Conners and works in the US and abroad as a Flying Director for the performer flying company Vertigo. He is an ETCP certified Rigger (Theater) and a CM certified hoist technician. New York credits include flying direction for Basil Twist’s Sister’s Follies and automation system design for Jorden Wolfson’s Colored Sculpture which premiered at the David Zwirner Gallery and has since toured to France, the Netherlands, and London. He has also worked as the head rigger and automation supervisor for the Calgary Stampede Grandstand Show in Calgary, Alberta Canada. In addition to specific shows he has also designed several stock automation products at Creative Conners which are used in theaters across the country and abroad. Ed holds a BFA in Design/Technical Theater and an MFA in Technical Direction from UConn.

Jason Lee is an Assistant Professor-in-Residence at UConn’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, where he teaches a variety of mechanical engineering courses. Two of the courses he focuses on are First Year and Senior Design project-based courses. In these courses he teaches basic prototype design, project management, and design testing principles which are crucial in any application. His past research projects focused on materials and heat transfer for manufacturing and aerospace applications. He is also interested in the application of engineering in sports performance, whose design principles mirror those of puppetry.   

The Engineering in Puppetry forum will be streamed live on the Ballard Institute’s Facebook page  ( on Thursday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. ET and will be available afterwards on both the Ballard Institute’s Facebook page and YouTube channel ( 

Online Fall Puppet Forum: “Things That Act Shakespeare” with Dr. Jungmin Song on 11/12

As part of the online 2020 Fall Puppet Forum Series, the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry will host “Things That Act Shakespeare” with Dr. Jungmin Song on Thursday, November 12 at 7 p.m. ET. This forum will take place on Facebook Live ( and will be available afterwards on Facebook and the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry YouTube channel (

Professor Song will discuss the ideas behind her current Ballard Institute exhibition Shakespeare and Puppetry, which questions our preconceptions of character and asks what it means for objects to have stage presence. Dr. Song 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. 

Dr. Jungmin Song completed a practice-as-research PhD titled Animating Everyday Objects in Performance at the University of Roehampton in 2014. Her writings have appeared in Performance Research, Artpress 2, Asian Theatre Journal, and Contemporary Theatre Review. In 2017 she edited a special issue of the British journal Puppet Notebook on Shakespeare and puppets, and was a researcher in residence at the Institut International de la Marionnette (IIM) in Charleville-Mézières, France to lay the ground for a book on Shakespeare and puppetry. As a puppet maker she has participated in numerous projects, including the Royal Shakespeare Company and Little Angel Theatre’s co-production of Venus and Adonis (2004).  She has taught in the fields of theater and fine arts at the University of Roehampton, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Kent. 

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

Online Fall Puppet Forum: “The Renaissance of African American Object Performance” on 10/22

For its second online installment of the 2020 Fall Puppet Forum Series, the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry will host “The Renaissance of African American Object Performance” with noted puppeteers, artists, scholars Edna Bland, Paulette Richards, Schroeder Cherry, and Anwar Floyd-Pruitt on Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. ET. This forum will take place on Facebook Live ( and will be available afterwards on Facebook and the Ballard Institute YouTube Channel (
African American puppetry and object performance is in a state of rapid and profound change. As the organizers of this Puppet Forum describe it, African American puppeteers are “part of a movement rediscovering the art of puppetry,” while at the same time the world of puppetry is discovering African American puppeteers. The Ballard Institute’s “Renaissance of African American Object Performance” Puppet Forum will bring together four prominent figures of the African American puppet revival to discuss how they are working to change the nature of puppetry in the U.S., and how American puppetry is beginning to recognize the work of Black puppeteers. The forum will also mark the release of the Ballard Institute’s Living Objects: African American Puppetry online catalogue of images, artist biographies, video documentation, and over twenty new essays, scripts, and interviews about African American puppetry, based on the Ballard Institute’s 2018-2019 exhibition, symposium, and festival of the same name. Moderated by educator, teaching artist and puppeteer Edna Bland, this forum is co-sponsored by the UConn Department of Art and Art History (
Moderator Edna Bland is an educator, teaching artist, puppeteer and arts integration specialist who honed her knowledge and skills at such prestigious institutions as The Kennedy Center’s VSA and CETA programs, Lincoln Center Education’s Teaching Artist program at the Juilliard School, and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. Prior to becoming an educator, Edna worked in the entertainment industry at such organizations as the New York Emmy Awards and Sony Music Entertainment. As a puppeteer, she was mentored by the late Caroll Spinney (“Big Bird”) and Dr. Loretta Long (“Susan”) from Sesame Street, and was a touring puppeteer in Jane Henson’s Nativity. Her work has been exhibited at the Ballard Institute as part of the Living Objects: African American Puppetry exhibition, and as part of the South Florida Puppetry Guild exhibit at the Miramar Arts and Cultural Center. She has an M.F.A degree in Entertainment Creative Writing, and an M.S. degree in Entertainment Business from Full Sail University; a B.S. degree in Organizational Management from Nyack University, and an A.A.S. degree in Music Business from Five Towns College. 
Dr. Paulette Richards is an independent researcher and teaching artist who uses animatronic puppetry to introduce K-12 students to basic robotics concepts.  She has taught animatronic puppetry workshops at Decatur Makers, the Dekalb County Public Library, the Center for Puppetry Arts, and the Puppeteers of America 2017 National Festival.  She served as co-curator with Dr. John Bell of the Ballard Institute and Museum’s Living Objects: African American Puppetry exhibit and was recently elected to the board of UNIMA-USA, the U.S. chapter of the Union International de la Marionnette. “The Black Lives Matter movement,” she writes, “has made my research feel urgent and relevant for the first time in my life because I see puppet theater and object performance as a powerful mode of resistance to the objectification of Black bodies.” Richards is completing two essays, about blackface material characters and the ritual functions of white supremacy; and a community of African American doll collectors. She is currently planning an exhibition of African American puppetry that should open at the Center for Puppetry Arts in the fall of 2021, and researching a book on object performance in the Black Atlantic.
Dr. Schroeder Cherry began making art and playing with puppets as a child in Washington, D.C. Over time he incorporated his childhood pastime into his thirty years of professional museum work. Dr. Cherry has held positions at museums across the U.S., including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Smithsonian Institution’s Anacostia Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the J. Paul Getty Museum in California, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and Maryland Historical Society. At The Lila Wallace Funds in New York he was a program officer for museums and arts organizations, and between 2002 and 2010 he served on staff at the Institute of Museum and Library Services in Washington, D.C., first as Deputy Director for Museums and later as Counselor to the Director. Cherry earned a bachelor of arts in painting and puppetry from the University of Michigan; a masters degree in Museum Education from The George Washington University; and a doctorate in museum education from Columbia University. He has travelled nationally and internationally to speak on learning in museums. Cherry currently resides in Baltimore, Maryland.
Anwar Floyd-Pruitt is an interdisciplinary artist from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, focusing on puppetry, self-portraiture, and community art. A 2020 MFA graduate of UW-Madison, Floyd-Pruitt also earned a BA in psychology from Harvard University and a BFA in sculpture from UW-Milwaukee. In addition to teaching puppetry workshops, Floyd-Pruitt produces and performs a family-friendly, hip-hop singalong called Hip Hop Puppet Party, which was awarded a Madison Arts Commission Blink Grant. Last winter, he was invited to participate in Roots of the Spirit-Imagine Puppets at ArtServe in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where he displayed a collection of puppets made with youth from the Dane County Juvenile Detention Center. Anwar is the winner of the 2020 Russell and Paula Panczenko MFA Prize at the Chazen Museum of Art, where his first solo exhibition, Supernova: Charlotte & Gene’s Radical Imagination Station, opens this fall. Most recently, Floyd-Pruitt installed an abstract sculptural wildflower garden outdoors, as part of Wormfarm Institute’s Fermentation Fest.
For more information and to learn about other online programming, visit or email

Online Halloween Shadow Stories Workshop on 10/23 from 6-9 p.m. ET

The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut will offer a free online Halloween Shadow Stories Workshop on Friday, Oct. 23 from 6 to 9 p.m. ET via Zoom led by UConn Puppet Arts students Elise Vanase and Felicia Cooper.
Worried about how you are going to get into the Halloween spirit this year without parties and trick-or-treating? We are too, which is why we are hosting the Halloween Shadow Stories Workshop! Use this opportunity to learn how to make a simple shadow puppet show that effectively tells the ghoulish story of your choice. Shadow puppets are the perfect medium for this subject–not only are they accessible, as shadows can be cast on any surface, but their aesthetic allows for great eerie story telling. We will show participants how to build a simple shadow screen and puppets, but we encourage participants to experiment with other methods of shadow puppetry if they so choose! Everyone is invited to come in a Halloween costume (but it is not required).
Participants will be encouraged to record a performance of their shadow stories after the workshop, to be shared on Ballard Institute social media on Halloween.
No experience is necessary to participate in this workshop and all ages may participate (adult supervision and assistance is required for children). There is no fee to participate (although donations are greatly appreciated!). Registration will be required by Thursday, Oct. 22. Once a participant is registered, Ballard Institute staff will help them pick a Halloween-inspired story for their piece. Story ideas can be ones you come up with on your own, those inspired by legends, folklore, ghost stories, horror films, or gothic tales, or your own take on a popular Halloween movie or show. To register for the workshop, please fill out the registration form below or found here: Workshop registration will be limited.

Online Women’s Suffrage Puppet Pageant for Celebrate Mansfield on 9/26 at 4 p.m. ET

The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut will present a free online Women’s Suffrage Puppet Pageant on Facebook Live as part of the reimagined 17th annual Celebrate Mansfield Festival on Saturday, Sept. 26 at 4 p.m. ET on Facebook Live ( The pageant will feature toy theater works created by amateur and professional puppeteers from around the world. 

The theme for this year’s Ballard Institute community pageant for the Celebrate Mansfield Festival is a celebration of the women’s suffrage movement. The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment in the United States, which guarantees and protects women’s constitutional right to vote. The Ballard Institute will use this anniversary to acknowledge the complex history of the women’s suffrage movement, and the leadership of women of color, Native women, working-class women, and immigrant women in the struggle for suffrage; as well as the movement’s intersections with abolitionism and other movements. To honor this milestone we will celebrate women’s suffrage heroes from around the world, including Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, Jovita Idár, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Mai Ziadeh, and Luisa Capetillo, among others, noting the successes of the movement, and also its challenges in the face of racism and forces opposed to suffrage.  

All workshop participants will perform their short works (three to five minutes long) as part of the pageant, which will be streamed live on the Ballard Institute’s Facebook page  ( on Saturday, Sept. 26 at 4 p.m. ET and will be available afterwards on both the Ballard Institute’s Facebook page and YouTube channel ( 

This community puppet project is sponsored by the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut and the Mansfield Downtown Partnership, Inc. For more information about the 17th Annual Celebrate Mansfield Festival, visit

The Mansfield Downtown Partnership is an independent, non-profit organization comprised of the Town of Mansfield, the University of Connecticut, and individual business members and residents. The Partnership seeks to foster the continued development, management, and promotion of Downtown Storrs. For more information about the Partnership, visit