Past Exhibitions

“Exceptional and Uncommon: The Puppetry of Dick Myers” Now on Exhibit

Cinderella and the Prince, from Dick Myers’s “Cinderella”

An eye-opening exhibition of a ground-breaking 20th-century American puppeteer, Dick Myers, is now on display at the Ballard Museum.  “Exceptional and Uncommon: The Puppetry of Dick Myers” is a fascinating in-depth look at a puppeteer’s puppeteer—an innovative and ingenious designer, builder, and performer whose work, while highly respected in the international world of puppetry, never brought him fame.

Curated by Puppet Arts Program graduate student Seth Shaffer, “Exceptional and Uncommon” brings together scores of rod puppets, marionettes, and hand puppets designed and performed by Myers; innovative sound, lighting, and stage equipment he designed; photographs of Myers at work and in performance; and a documentary video filmed and edited by Shaffer in which Myers’s friends and colleagues describe his work and his life.

Dick Myers was one of the leading American puppeteers of the later 20th century.  Although his work is now relatively unknown, in its time his puppet shows were highly respected by puppeteers around the world for the compelling and original design of the puppets, Myers’ skillful manipulation, and the challenging tasks he set out and achieved with his creations.

In the early years of his career Dick Myers worked with many well-known puppeteers including Connecticut’s Rufus and Margo Rose, and Martin and Olga Stevens of Indiana.  He was, however, best known for his unique solo rod puppet shows: Dick Whittington’s Cat (1966), Cinderella (1967), Beauty and the Beast (1969), Simple Simon (1976), and Divertissement (1978).

“Exceptional and Uncommon: The Puppetry of Dick Myers” is a revelatory and thought-provoking window into puppetry of the late 20th century, when American puppeteers combined technological innovations with home-grown humor and popular culture in order to re-define puppetry as an aspect of contemporary American culture.

UConn Puppetry Will Be Featured in “World of Puppetry” Events at Windsor Art Center, March 16-April 27

Giant puppet by Anne Cubberly.

Scores of puppets created by Frank Ballard, UConn Puppet Arts students and teachers, and selections from the Ballard Institute puppet collections will be featured in The World of Puppetry, an exhibition of puppets and accompanying talks, performances, and workshops at the Windsor Art Center in Windsor Connecticut.  Curated by famed Hartford kinetic sculptor and puppeteer Anne Cubberly, The World of Puppetry will feature talks by Puppet Arts Director Bart Roccoberton (April 7), Ballard Institute Director John Bell (April 14), a Puppet Pot Pie Puppet Slam organized by Puppet Arts Technical Supervisor Paul Spirito (April 6), and performances by UConn Puppet Arts alumnus Jim Napolitano (April 18), as well as workshops and presentations by Anne Cubberly herself.

The opening reception for The World of Puppetry is Saturday, March 16.  See below for a full schedule of events.


The World of Puppetry

Opening Reception March 16, 5-7 PM

Members’ Preview 4:30 PM

The exhibition will feature puppets by UConn Puppet Arts founder Frank Ballard.

Please join us at the Windsor Art Center for this exhibition of puppets, talks, performances and workshops to learn more about the World of Puppetry. Curated by kinetic sculptor, Anne Cubberly. A special thank you to the Puppets Arts Program and Bart Roccoberton, and the Ballard Museum and John Bell, University of Connecticut, Storrs, for the loan of puppets for this exhibition.

Thursday, March, 21 • 6:30-7:30 PM. How I Became The Puppet Lady. Anne Cubberly will talk about her adventures in becoming a kinetic sculptor and community artist. FREE.

Saturday, April 6 • 2-4 PM. Puppet Pot Pie. A program bringing together wonderful puppeteers from our region. Fun for the whole family. Suggested donation: $10/adults; $5/kids 6-12; kids 5 and under FREE.

Sunday, April 7 • 1-2 PM. Behind The Puppet Stage. Talk by Bart Roccoberton, Professor of Puppet Arts, University of Connecticut. FREE.

Saturday, April 13 • 2-4. PM Puppets Alive workshop with Anne Cubberly. Children of all ages make their own puppets. Suggested donation: $5/door.

The exhibition will also include Tolu Bommalatta shadow figures from Andhra Pradesh, from the Jano Fairservis Collection.

Sunday, April 14 • 2 PM. Puppets, Modernism, and Global Culture. Talk by John Bell, Director, Ballard Institute & Museum of Puppetry. FREE.

Thursday April 18 • 6:30-7:30 PM. Puppet theater performance with Jim Napolitano of Nappy’s Puppets to entertain, inspire and educate the audience on the range and scope of puppetry as an art form. Suggested donation: $10/door

Saturday, April 20 • 2-4 PM. Shadow Puppet workshop with Anne Cubberly, Puppeteer. Children and adults. Suggested donation: $5/door.

All events will take place at the Windsor Arts Center, located at the corner of Central Street and Mechanic Street in downtown Windsor, Connecticut, just north of Hartford.  The Arts Center is open Thursday 6 to 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.   See the Windsor Arts Center website for directions.

Ballard Museum Gala Opening Saturday, March 30

Join us Saturday, March 30 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Ballard Museum on UConn’s Depot Campus for our gala opening and celebration of two new exhibitions of extraordinary puppetry:  Exceptional and Uncommon: The Puppetry of Dick Myers, and Strings, Rods, and Robots: Recent Acquisitions.

Rod puppets by Dick Myers. Photo by Sara Nolen.

Exceptional and Uncommon: The Puppetry of Dick Myers is the first-ever exhibition devoted to the unique puppetry of Dick Myers, an unusually skilled—yet now relatively unknown—artist, engineer, and performer whose one-man shows excited audiences around the world in the mid-20th century.  This fascinating exhibition, curated by Puppet Arts MFA student Seth Shaffer, features Myers’ one-of-a-kind designs for Dick Whittington’s Cat (1966), Cinderella (1968), Beauty and the Beast (1972), Simple Simon (1976) and Divertissement (1978), as well as backstage views of Myers’ unique designs.



Marionette by Sally Smart. Photo courtesy of Contemporary Art Galleries.

Strings, Rods, and Robots: Recent Acquisitions showcases the exhilarating diversity of puppets from around the world recently acquired by the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry.  Curated by UConn Art and Art History graduate student Lindsay Simon, the exhibition juxtaposes ancient puppet traditions with Modernist interpretations, with objects ranging from Vietnamese water puppets, Persian ritual rod puppets, and Javanese shadow puppets to 1930s Alabama marionettes, department store automata by Ellen Rixford, a lifesize robotic marionette by French media artist Zaven Paré, traditional Egyptian shadow puppets, a Dada-inspired marionette by Australian artist Sally Smart, and a stunning array of global puppet forms collected by John E. and Marilyn O’Connor Miller.



The Gala Opening Day events will begin with a ribbon cutting ceremony with UConn School of Fine Arts Dean Bríd Grant, followed by guided tours of the exhibitions led by the curators.  At 3 p.m., Seth Shaffer and revered puppeteer Allelu Kurten, a longtime friend of Dick Myers, will discuss Myers’s work in a special UConn Puppet Forum in the Ballard Institute Conference Room.

Refreshments will be served throughout the event.

Following the Gala Opening, the Ballard Museum will be open to the public Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m.  Admission to the museum is free, but donations are greatly appreciated.

For more information about the Gala Opening, email  Make sure to check our facebook page for regular updates on Ballard Institute activities.

For directions and map to the Ballard Institute see this link.


“Frank Ballard: Roots and Branches” exhibition re-opens with new additions

The popular Frank Ballard: Roots and Branches exhibition at the Ballard Institute has re-opened for the season, with many new additions to this rich review of the wide-ranging puppet forms that influenced the work of the founder of UConn’s puppetry programs.  Roots and Branches features the work of significant American puppeteers of the early, mid-, and late-twentieth century whose work Frank saw while growing up in Illinois: Martin and Olga Stevens, Tony Sarg, Jero Magon, Rufus and Margo Rose, and Romain and Ellen Proctor; as well as contemporary puppeteers from across the country, including Ralph Chessé, the Kungsholm Miniature Grand Opera, Bil Baird, Marjorie Batchelder McPharlin, and the Turnabout Theater; and Ballard’s own contemporaries and colleagues, including Sidney Chrysler, Jim Henson, Dick Myers, Basil Milovsoroff, George Latshaw, and Peter Schumann.

Bust of Jim Henson by Margo Rose

The exhibition also features Asian and European puppet forms that also influenced Ballard’s understanding of puppetry, including Javanese wayang kulit shadow puppets, Chinese shadow theater, Sicilian marionette theater, and Javanese wayang golek rod puppets.

“Red Gate: Pauline Benton and Chinese Shadow Theater” open now!

The Ballard Institute’s new exhibition Red Gate: Pauline Benton and Chinese Shadow Theater in the United States, an exhibition of rare Chinese shadow figures from the collection of Pauline Benton, curated by Stephen Kaplin and Kuang-Yu Fong of New York’s Chinese Theatre Works is now open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 12 to 5 p.m.

Pauline Benton was one of the revolutionary innovators of American puppetry in the early 20th century; but rather than creating her own western-style puppets, Benton brought the performance of Chinese shadow theater to the United States in the 1920s and 30s–one of the earliest cross-cultural presentations of Chinese performing arts for American audiences.  Benton’s Red Gate Shadow Players performed across the country for popular as well as exclusive audiences, bringing Benton’s own particular hybrid version of Chinese shadows to audiences unfamiliar with Chinese culture.


The Red Gate exhibition features classical Chinese shadow figures from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as figures Benton commissioned from Beijing shadow puppet craftsmen in the 1930s, depicting not only traditional characters and scenes, but also contemporary Chinese life and images from popular American children’s books.  The many photographs of Benton and her work document how this unusually gifted woman created modern links to Chinese shadow theater culture, influencing the course of puppetry in the United States to this day.  The exhibition also features video recordings of Benton’s version of the classic White Snake, and hands-on areas where museum visitors can try out traditional and contemporary shadow theater techniques.

Pauline Benton was a noteworthy pioneer in the transmission of global culture in the U.S., and Red Gate: Pauline Benton and Chinese Shadow Theater in the United States marks the first extensive exhibition and overview of her work.  The exhibition will be open until December 16, 2012.

New “Connecticut Yankee” Puppet Exhibit at The Mark Twain House in Hartford, now through March 5, 2012

King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, from the UConn production of “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”

An exhibition featuring puppets from the University of Connecticut’s 1996 production of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is now on view at The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut, and will be on display until March 5, 2012 . The exhibition, presented by the Ballard Institute, UConn’s Puppet Arts Program and the Mark Twain House, also features original illustrations for Twain’s novel by Dan Beard, rare editions of the book, an international collection of posters for the various films based on the 1889 novel, and design sketches for the 1996 puppet production, which was directed by Jerry Krasser and Bart Roccoberton

The Connecticut Yankee exhibition is part of the year-long “World of Puppetry in Hartford” project the Ballard Institute and the Puppet Arts Program have undertaken with the generous assistance of the Edward C. and Ann T. Roberts Foundation and Ballard Institute Advisory Board member Judith Zachs.

Click here to see See Susan Dunne’s review of the exhibition in the Hartford Courant.

Ballard Institute Puppets at The Nathan Hale Inn

 Puppets from the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry are currently on display at the lobby of the Nathan Hale Inn & Conference Center on the UConn Campus in Storrs.  The puppets include a handpuppet Devil used by the Ridiculous Theater’s Charles Ludlam in his Punch and Judy shows, a Czech Kasparek marionette used in family household theaters, a German handpuppet from a 19th-century Kasperl set, and San Francisco puppeteer Lewis Mahlmann’s rod puppet Judith from his 1960s production of Bluebird.

“World of Puppetry” Exhibition at Bradley International Airport extended through January 2012!

A compelling exhibition of over 70 Ballard Institute puppets from around the world at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut (just north of Hartford) has been extended through January, 2012.  Originally scheduled to close in November, this popular display of world puppetry traditions will now be on display for holiday travelers.

The exhibition, titled The World of Puppetry, was curated by Nicole Hartigan, a graduate student in UConn’s famed Puppet Arts Program, and the graduate assistant to the Ballard Institute.  The exhibition fills four cases adjacent to Bradley Airport’s departure gates, and includes rod puppets, hand puppets, shadow puppets, oversized masks, and marionettes.

Click here to read more about the exhibition.

World of Puppetry exhibition at Bradley International Airport

An Awaji Samurai and Javanese Wayang Golek puppets at Bradley International Airport

An exciting exhibition of over 70 Ballard Institute puppets from around the world is currently on display at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut (just north of Hartford) and will be on view for airport travelers from now until November.

The exhibition, titled The World of Puppetry, was curated by Nicole Hartigan, a graduate student in UConn’s famed Puppet Arts Program, and the graduate assistant to the Ballard Institute.  The exhibition fills four cases adjacent to Bradley Airport’s departure gates, and includes rod puppets, hand puppets, shadow puppets, oversized masks, and marionettes.

Ganesha marionette from India
Ganesha marionette from India

The first case features shadow puppets, and includes dramatic figures from the Tolu Bommalata tradition of Andhra Pradesh, as well as Javanese and Balinese wayang kulit figures, and puppets from similar traditions in Thailand and Malaysia.  This section also features colorful marionettes from Burma and China, and a four-armed, elephant-headed Ganesha marionette from Nepal, as well as masks from Bali, Java, and Mexico.

Handpuppets are featured in the exhibition’s second case, including Connecticut puppeteer Ray Mount’s colorful figures from Old Wive’s Tale, three vivid handpuppets from Haiti, a rare handpuppet from Poland’s Arlekin Theater of Lodz, a Chinese handpuppet, and one-of-a-kind figures by Cincinnati puppeteer Larry Smith for The Uncle Al Show, the longest-running American television series of the last century.

Rufus Rose caricatures of 1960s Connecticut politicians

A case devoted to the Punch and Judy traditions of European and American puppetry includes rare 19th-century Punch puppets, an extensive array of puppets built and used by the Ridiculous Theater’s Charles Ludlam, a set of early 20th-century Guignol puppets, and a set of political caricature handpuppets of 1960s Connecticut politicians used by puppeteer Rufus Rose in the Connecticut Statehouse when he was a state legislator from Waterford.

Rod Puppets from Frank Ballard’s “Ring of the Nibelungen”

Rod puppets are featured in the last case of the exhibition, including three striking figures from Frank Ballard’s 1980 production of The Ring of the Nibelungen, a Samurai puppet from the Japanese inland island of Awaji, a clown and nobleman from Java’s wayang golek traditions, two modernist rod puppets by famed puppeteer George Latshaw, an African puppet from Mali, a Russian rod puppet, and three over-life-sized masks by Frank Ballard.

“Epic Shadows” Exhibition at UConn Health Center in Farmington


The University of Connecticut Health Center is hosting a selection of shadow figures from the Ballard Institute’s Epic Shadows: Tolu Bommalata Puppets from Andhra Pradesh exhibition, from now until July 27 at the Health Center Hospital Lobby in Farmington.

Examples of the rich traditions of South Indian shadow puppetry are on display in exhibition cases in the hospital’s lobby and mezzanine.  The exhibition is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

The UConn Health Center is located at 263 Farmington Avenue in Farmington, Connecticut  06030.  For directions to the Health Center call 860 679 2000.

This exhibition is part of the World of Puppetry in Hartford series of exhibitions, workshops, and performances sponsored by the Edward C. & Ann T. Roberts Foundation.