Current Exhibitions

Grand Opening of “Puppetry’s Racial Reckoning on 5/28 at 5 p.m.!

The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut will present the grand opening of its new exhibition Puppetry’s Racial Reckoning, curated by Dr. Jungmin Song, along with the re-opening of a redesigned World of Puppetry: From the Collections of the Ballard Institute exhibition, on Friday, May 28, 2021, by reservation only at the Ballard Institute, located at 1 Royce Circle in Downtown Storrs. A virtual tour will air on Ballard Institute Facebook Live on Friday, May 28, 2021 at 5 p.m. ET. The exhibition will be on display through Oct. 17, 2021.

Puppetry’s Racial Reckoning aims to foster conversation and understanding about the complexities of race, prejudice, stereotypes, and systemic racism by presenting puppets from around the world. The exhibition examines fantasies of the East and misrepresentations of African Americans used in puppetry in relation to social and cultural constructions of race, and asks how fabricated differences affect the actual lives of people. Historical puppets from the Ballard Institute’s collections are juxtaposed with work by contemporary artists such as Kara Walker, Alva Rogers, Michael Richardson, Kimi Maeda, Akbar Imhotep, and Garland Farwell. Puppets from Asia representing different races and ethnicities offer viewers an understanding of race and racism in wider global contexts. Exhibiting puppets from the past in the here-and-now of Puppetry’s Racial Reckoning provides an opportunity to learn from past misrepresentations, consider the extent to which such negative images remain in circulation, contribute to the fight against systemic racism, and discuss possibilities for a more inclusive future. This exhibition is supported in part by a UConn School of Fine Arts Anti-Racism Grant.

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 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 The 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. 

Due to restrictions and safety precautions related to COVID-19, the museum will reopen on May 28 on Fridays and Saturdays only from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., by reservation. Only one group of up to 6 visitors from a family or quarantine unit will be allowed in the museum at a time during each time slot. Face masks are required at all times when visiting the museum for ages two and up. Hand sanitizer is available throughout the museum and staff clean high-touch surfaces once per hour. Please note that restrooms and water fountains are closed to the public. To learn more about the Ballard Institute’s COVID-19 protocols and to reserve a time slot, visit: bimp.uconn.edu/about/covid-policies/. Visitors may also reserve a time slot by calling 860.486.8580 on Fridays and Saturdays.

ON EXHIBIT: “Paul Vincent Davis and the Art of Puppet Theater” and “Shakespeare and Puppetry”

A vibrant, colorful, and thought-provoking exhibition of work by one of the United States’s most dynamic 20th-century puppeteers, Paul Vincent Davis and the Art of Puppet Theater celebrates the career of the long-time Artist in Residence at Boston’s Puppet Showplace Theater, in celebration of and in homage to Davis’s 85th year. Paul Vincent Davis’s award-winning productions have ranged from the joyous fun of fairy tales, folklore, and clown circus to works by Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, and Samuel Beckett. Focused primarily on the design, construction, and performance of hand puppets, Paul Vincent Davis has always sought to expand America’s sometimes “limited vision of this amazing art form,” as he put it in his book Exploring the Art of Puppet Theater. In every aspect of his work, from his early years with Carol Fijan’s National Theatre of Puppet Arts in New York City, to his creation of the Repertory Puppet Theatre at the Puppet Showplace, Davis has consistently explored what it means to approach puppetry in the same manner that we approach dance, music, or visual art. Paul Vincent Davis and the Art of Puppet Theater will present puppets, props, and stages from such spectacles as Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp, Rumpelstiltskin, Here Come the Clowns, and Bingo the Circus Dog, as well as Richard III, and Shakes versus Shav. View an online version of Paul Vincent Davis and the Art of Puppet Theater here. 

Curated by performance artist, and writer Dr. Jungmin Song, Shakespeare and Puppetry presents exciting and thought-provoking examples of the many ways puppets and objects have been used to interpret the works of the greatest playwright of the English language. Ranging from the giant cardboard cutouts of Bread and Puppet Theater’s Out of Joint Hamlet, to Forced Entertainment’s everyday-object performance of Macbeth, the exhibition introduces new perspectives about how dramatic characters are fashioned, and how “things” can be cast in dramas. Shakespeare and Puppetry also includes work by Tiny Ninja Theatre, Jon Ludwig, Hogarth Puppets, Little Angel Theatre, Fred Curchack, Great Small Works, and Larry Reed. Through its juxtaposition of modern and contemporary puppet and object interpretations of Macbeth, Hamlet, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the exhibition invites viewers to contemplate the materiality of character and the physical embodiment of roles, to question our preconceptions of character, and ask what it means for an object to perform onstage. View an online version of Shakespeare and Puppetry here. 

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 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 The Little Angel Theatre’s co-production of Venus and Adonis (2004).  She has taught in the fields of theatre and fine arts at the University of Roehampton, University of Connecticut, and the University of Kent. 

Grand Opening of “It’s Always Pandemonium: The Puppets of Bart Roccoberton” on 4/27

The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut will present the grand opening of its new exhibition It’s Always Pandemonium: The Puppets of Bart Roccoberton,on Saturday, April 27, 2019, with refreshments at noon followed by a free tour of the new exhibition at 12:30 p.m. All events will take place at the Ballard Institute, located at 1 Royce Circle in Downtown Storrs. The exhibition will be on display through Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019.

It’s Always Pandemonium celebrates the ongoing puppetry career of Bart. P. Roccoberton, Jr., from his touring days performing with his troupe thePandemonium Puppet Company; to his founding of theEugene O’Neill Theater Center’s Institute of Professional Puppetry Arts; and now, to his work building puppets and puppeteers as Director of the UConn Puppet Arts Program. It’s Always Pandemonium, curated by UConn Puppet Arts MFA candidate Matt Sorensen,features over 60 puppets, masterfully designed and crafted by Bart Roccoberton, his Pandemonium collaborators, and countless UConn Puppet Arts students under his guidance.

Bart. P. Roccoberton, Jr. is Director of the University of Connecticut’s unique Puppet Arts Program—the only one of its kind in the U.S.—which offers BFA, MA, and MFA degrees in puppetry. His professional projects include work in film, television and the stage, including Broadway. He serves the National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center as Director of Production, and is recognized internationally as an advocate for the Puppet Arts in the United States.

In addition to the exhibition opening, and as part of our Spring Puppet Performances Series,Stevens Puppets will perform Goldilocks and the Three Bearsat the Ballard Institute Theater at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. For more information about this performance and to buy tickets, visit bimp.ticketleap.com.

If you require an accommodation to attend an event, please contact Ballard Institute staff at 860-486-8580 or bimp@uconn.edu at least five days in advance.

“The World of Puppetry: From the Collections of the Ballard Institute”

The World of Puppetry: From the Collections of the Ballard Institute showcases an array of different puppets carefully selected from over 2,600 puppets in the Ballard Institute collections to reflect the amazing richness of global puppet traditions and contemporary innovations in puppetry.  The exhibition’s array of handpuppets, marionettes, rod puppets, toy theaters, and shadow figures from around the world will include work by Rufus and Margo Rose, Charles Ludlam, Janie Geiser, Marjorie Batchelder McPharlin, Tony Sarg, Bil Baird, Frank Ballard, and puppets from Indonesia, Africa, Iran, Germany, England, Latin America, and France.