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2024 UConn Spring Puppet Slam on 3/22

The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry and the UConn Puppet Arts Program will present the 2024 UConn Spring Puppet Slam on Friday, March 22, 2024 at 8 p.m. in UConn’s von der Mehden Recital Hall, located at 875 Coventry Rd, Storrs, Connecticut 06269. The UConn Spring Puppet Slam will feature new and experimental short works by professional puppeteers and performers from around the Northeast, including UConn Puppet Arts alumna Stoph Scheer and the Stringpullers Puppet Company from Ithaca, New York, as well as new works by UConn Puppet Arts students; music by Derek Waldron, Teresa Bielecki and other musicians from Waldron’s Studios 88; and the coveted BIMPY Awards.

UConn Puppet Arts alumna Stoph Scheer will present Sharing Update, a comedic hand-and-rod puppet monologue in which an aging Long Island father processes his child’s trans identity through his limited vocabulary. The Ithaca, New York based Stringpullers Puppet Company (Linda Wingerter and Evgeni Nudelman) will perform a sock-puppet romantic comedy, Galaxy Laundromat. The UConn Spring Puppet Slam will also feature new works by graduate and undergraduate students from the UConn Puppet Arts Program, as well as the coveted annual BIMPY awards for puppetry excellence. Funding for the UConn Spring Puppet Slam is made possible, in part, by the Puppet Slam Network. These performances are recommended for mature audiences.

The UConn Spring Puppet Slam is free and open to the public; donations are greatly appreciated. Seating is limited and is on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. The event will take place in UConn’s von der Mehden Recital Hall, located at 875 Coventry Rd, Storrs, Conn. For directions to the von der Mehden Recital Hall, visit vdm.uconn.edu. 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 bimp@uconn.edu.

Taking Care: Puppets and Their Collectors Puppet Forum on 3/27

As part of its 2024 Spring Puppet Forum Series, the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry is pleased to host Taking Care: Puppets and Their Collectors, a discussion with UConn Dramatic Arts Professor Dr. Jungmin Song, on Wednesday, March 27, 2024 at 7 p.m. at the Ballard Institute Theater, located at 1 Royce Circle in Downtown Storrs. This forum will also be broadcast via Ballard Institute Facebook Live (facebook.com/BallardInstitute). 

In conjunction with the Ballard Institute’s new exhibit, Dr. Jungmin Song and Dr. John Bell will discuss the various puppet collectors whose donations have built the Ballard Institute’s puppet collections, from 1930s marionettes to Sicilian pupi, overhead projector innovations, and Frank Ballard musicals. This event is co-sponsored by the UConn Humanities Institute. 

Dr. Jungmin Song is Assistant Professor in Residence at the Department of Dramatic Arts, Research Associate at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, and a performance artist. Korean-born, she studied Costume and Textile at Seoul National University and Theatre Design at Central Saint Martins, University Arts London before completing a Ph.D. in performance at the University of Roehampton, London. Her research interests include contemporary theater, performance art, and puppetry. She curated the exhibitions Shakespeare and Puppetry (2020) and Puppetry’s Racial Reckoning (2021) at the Ballard Institute. She has published in Performance Research, Theatre Journal, Contemporary Theatre Review, and Asian Theatre Journal and was the editor of a special issue of Puppet Notebook on Shakespeare and puppetry.

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 bimp@uconn.edu

Translating “Pinocchio” for the 21st Century: Puppets and Modern Culture on 10/25

As part of its 2023 Fall Puppet Forum Series, the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry is pleased to host “Translating Pinocchio for the 21st Century: Puppets and Modern Culture” with Anna Kraczyna, co-author (with John Hooper) of a new, internationally acclaimed annotated translation of Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio, on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023 at 7 p.m. at the Ballard Institute Theater, located at 1 Royce Circle in Downtown Storrs. This forum will also be broadcast via Ballard Institute Facebook Live (facebook.com/BallardInstitute). 

Scholar, biographer, and translator Anna Kraczyna will discuss with Ballard Institute director John Bell the fascinating complexity of Collodi’s classic story—one of the best-known, and best-loved stories in world literature—and how (different from the Disney version’s focus on the problems of lying) the novel is most interested in universal ideas about the importance of education and learning from one’s own experience in order to be a true human being. Pinocchio, as Kraczyna and Hooper put it, “is one of those rare fictional characters in whom an entire people seem to be able to make out their reflection,” which might explain why, after almost 150 years, the story is still an inspiration to film-makers and artists of all kinds. Copies of The Adventures of Pinocchio will be on sale at Barnes and Noble during this event. This forum is co-sponsored by UConn’s Department of English; the Department of Literatures, Cultures & Languages; and the Italian Literary & Cultural Studies program.

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 bimp@uconn.edu

Indian Shadow Theater Puppet Forum on 10/17 at 7 p.m.

As part of its 2023 Fall Puppet Forum Series and in conjunction with the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry’s current exhibit, Tradition and Revolution in Indian Shadow Puppetry, the Ballard Institute is pleased to host an Indian Shadow Puppetry puppet forum with Tradition and Revolution exhibition curator Rahul Koonathara and Indian puppetry scholar Dr. Claudia Orenstein, on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023 at 7 p.m. at the Ballard Institute Theater, located at 1 Royce Circle in Downtown Storrs. This forum will also be broadcast via Ballard Institute Facebook Live (facebook.com/BallardInstitute). 

Rahul Koonathara is a UConn graduate student in the Department of Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies, and a 12th-generation puppeteer in the Pulavar family of Tholpavakoothu shadow performers in Kerala, India. Dr. Claudia Orenstein is a professor of theater at Hunter College and CUNY Graduate Center whose work focuses on performing object theatre and puppetry forms in India and Japan. Koonathara and Orenstein will discuss the spectacular South Indian shadow puppet traditions of Tolu Bommalatta and Tholpavakoothu, as well as recent innovations reflecting the changing nature of the form, all of which can be seen in the current Ballard Institute exhibit Tradition and Revolution in Indian Shadow Puppetry. The exhibition will be on display through Dec.17, 2023. 

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 bimp@uconn.edu

About the Speakers

Rahul Koonathara is the younger son of legendary shadow puppet master Padmashri Ramachandra Pulavar and puppeteer Rajalakshmi Ramachandra Pulavar. He was born into a family of puppeteers which has preserved Tholpavakoothu shadow theater traditions for twelve generations. Rahul is currently a graduate student in the Department of Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies at the University of Connecticut, under the guidance of Professor Matthew Cohen, and practices traditional shadow puppetry together with contemporary puppet productions, as well as scholarly research in the puppet arts. Rahul has a Bachelor’s degree in Physics, and a Master’s degree in Folklore Studies, as well as a degree in Acting from the National School of Drama in Bangalore. Rahul has performed major roles in traditional and contemporary shadow puppet productions at the Tholpavakoothu and Puppet Centre in Kerala, and at national and international festivals around the world. 

Claudia Orenstein, Theatre 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.

Screening of Uncle Sleazo’s Toxic and Terrifying T.V. Hour on 10/21

Join us for a special free screening of Dead Vision Productions’ Uncle Sleazo’s Toxic and Terrifying T.V. Hour, on Saturday, Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry!

From Director Lucky Cerruti and Dead Vision Productions comes an evening of truly frightening tales of terror with your favorite horror host, Uncle Sleazo. From blood-soaked creature features, to atmospheric frights and everything in between. UConn Puppet Arts Visiting Assistant Professor in Residence Matt Sorensen co-wrote, acted, and designed and built puppets for Uncle Sleazo’s Toxic and Terrifying T.V. Hour. After the film screening, the film creators will share their insights into the conception and production of the film. 

To get into the Halloween spirit, we encourage attendees to come in costume for a costume contest, with Dead Vision Productions merchandise awarded to the winners! There will also be free popcorn, and attendees are invited to bring their own snacks. The screening is free to attend, but a reservation is required. Please make a reservation in advance at bimp.ticketleap.com/sleazo. This film contains explicit content and mature themes, recommended for audiences 18+. 

If you require accommodation to participate, contact the Ballard Institute at bimp@uconn.edu or 860-486-8580. 

Free Tours and Performances for UConn Family Weekend on 10/14 and 10/15!

As part of UConn Family Weekend, join Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry staff for free exhibit tours at noon, 2 p.m., and 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14 and Sunday, Oct. 15. Each day will also feature short performances by UConn Puppet Arts graduate students Carrie Fowler (Saturday) and Tom Tuke (Sunday) at 1 p.m., 3 p.m., and 5 p.m. All events will take place at the Ballard Institute, located at 1 Royce Circle in Downtown Storrs. 

Free museum tours will highlight two exhibitions: The World of Puppetry: From the Collections of the Ballard Institute and Tradition and Revolution in Indian Shadow Puppetry. The World of Puppetry displays the global scope of the artform and the rich variety of the Ballard Institute’s collection. asdTradition and Revolution celebrates the spectacular South Indian shadow puppet traditions of Tolu Bommalatta and Tholpavakoothu, as well as recent innovations reflecting the changing nature of these forms. 

Each day will also include a short performance (approximately 30 minutes) by UConn Puppet Arts graduate students at 1 p.m., 3 p.m., and 5 p.m. On Saturday, Oct. 14, Carrie Fowler will perform Puppets en Pointe, which features ballet-themed pieces in multiple puppetry media. On Sunday, Oct. 15, Tom Tuke will perform Paloma and the Retreat of Death, a tragicomic hand-puppet show.

Reservations are not required. Seating for performances is on a first come, first served basis. For more information, or if you require accommodation to attend this event, please contact Ballard Institute staff at 860.486.8580 or bimp@uconn.edu.

Learn more about UConn Family Weekend here: familyweekend.uconn.edu

Opening events for Tradition and Revolution in Indian Shadow Puppetry, 8/4 and 8/5

The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut will present the grand opening of its new exhibition Tradition and Revolution in Indian Shadow Puppetry on Friday, Aug. 4, 2023, with refreshments served at 4:30 p.m. and an in-person exhibition tour at 5 p.m. by curator Rahul Koonathara and Ballard Institute director Dr. John Bell, which will also be streamed on Ballard Institute’s Facebook Live (facebook.com/BallardInstitute/). The opening events will also include a performance and workshop on Aug. 5 by world-renowned puppeteer Padmashri Ramachandra Pulavar of the Tholpavakoothu and Puppet Centre and his son Rahul Koonathara. All events will take place at the Ballard Institute, located at 1 Royce Circle in Downtown Storrs. 

Tradition and Revolution in Indian Shadow Puppetry, curated by puppeteer and University of Connecticut graduate student in the Department of Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies Rahul Koonathara, celebrates the spectacular South Indian shadow puppet traditions of Tolu Bommalatta and Tholpavakoothu, as well as recent innovations reflecting the changing nature of the form. For over thirteen generations Indian puppeteers have performed myths, customs, and rituals based on two Hindu epics, The Ramayana and The Mahābhārata. In recent years new variations in design, construction, and content have re-shaped traditional performances, which in many cases have shifted from temple performances to secular locales, and included new subjects such as the lives of Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus, and the animal characters of the Panchatantra, as well as contemporary social and political themes. Please note that this exhibition contains nudity. The exhibition will be on display through December 17, 2023. 

The 5 p.m. exhibition tour on August 4 will be followed at 6 p.m. by a free 45-minute long performance of Tholpava Koothu: The Shadow Puppet Play of Kerala by Padmashri Ramachandra Pulavar and his son Rahul Koonathara. This ancient, ritual-based performance is based on selected verses from the epic Kamba Ramayana. Seating is limited; reservations are required: bimp.ticketleap.com/tholpavakoothu.

On Saturday, August 5 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Padmashri Ramachandra Pulavar and Rahul Koonathara will lead a day-long workshop on shadow puppet design, carving, and manipulation, with a lunch break from noon to 1 p.m. (lunch not provided). The workshop fee is $25 per person. Space is limited, so advance registration is required bimp.ticketleap.com/indian-shadow-workshop/. Minors must be accompanied by an adult. 

Please note that the Ballard Institute will be closed July 10-Aug. 3 as we install this new exhibition.

 

About the Curator

Rahul Koonathara is the younger son of legendary shadow puppet master Padmashri Ramachandra Pulavar and puppeteer Rajalakshmi Ramachandra Pulavar. He was born into a family of puppeteers which has preserved Tholpavakoothu shadow theater traditions for twelve generations. Rahul is currently a graduate student in the Department of Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies at the University of Connecticut, under the guidance of Professor Matthew Cohen, and practices traditional shadow puppetry together with contemporary puppet productions, as well as scholarly research in the puppet arts. Rahul has a Bachelor’s degree in Physics, and a Master’s degree in Folklore Studies, as well as a degree in Acting from the National School of Drama in Bangalore. Rahul has performed major roles in traditional and contemporary shadow puppet productions at the Tholpavakoothu and Puppet Centre in Kerala, and at national and international festivals around the world. 

NOW INDOORS: Bugaboo Revue by Talking Hands Theatre on 7/29

With the possibility for rain around showtime, we are moving “Bugaboo Revue” by Talking Hands Theatre at 11AM into the Ballard Institute Theater!

Some people think creepy crawlies are just gross. But if you look closely, each bug has a song to sing about the special job it does to help plants grow. Learn more about insects and why it’s important to keep them alive. This show is crafted with multiple learning styles in mind to keep children engaged as they learn, with opportunities for the audience to sing, dance, and act out the life cycle of a butterfly! Moving mouth puppets and catchy original songs in exciting styles, from funk to Latin, round out this fun-filled, highly interactive show. Recommended for ages 2-8. 

Talking Hands Theatre was founded in 2004 by artist Anna Sobel, who has been a professional puppeteer since 1998. In 2003 she was the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship to study puppetry in India as a tool for social change and education. She spent nine months in India and founded Talking Hands Theatre on her return to New York in 2004. She is now based in Western Massachusetts and tours all over New England to perform. In addition to performing, Anna is an experienced teaching artist in puppetry and theater, specializing in arts integration with literacy and social studies. Learn more about Talking Hands Theatre: talkinghandstheatre.com

Due to generous support during our 2023 UConn Gives campaign, admission is free, but donations are encouraged. Reservations are not required.  This performance is co-sponsored by the Mansfield Downtown Partnership. 

For more information, or if you require accommodation to attend this event, please contact Ballard Institute staff at 860.486.8580 or bimp@uconn.edu.

Cardboard Explosion! by Paper Heart Puppets on 7/22

As part of its 2023 Spring Puppet Performance Series, the Ballard Institute is pleased to present Cardboard Explosion! by Brad Shur of Paper Heart Puppets on July 22, 2023 at 11 a.m. in Betsy Paterson Square in Downtown Storrs. 

Cardboard Explosion! brings four original stories to life using nothing but cardboard and the power of your imagination. With help from the audience, puppeteer Brad Shur transforms simple cardboard shapes into elaborate puppet characters, then brings them to life right before your eyes.

Founded in 2017 by Brad Shur, Paper Heart Puppets is dedicated to sharing and expanding the art of puppetry. Headquartered in Poughkeepsie, New York, the company offers touring shows, workshops, and custom puppet building. Puppeteer, puppet builder, and arts educator Brad Shur began performing as a student at Rhode Island School of Design. In 2009, he became the Resident Artist at Puppet Showplace Theater in Brookline, Mass. where he was lead teaching artist and touring puppeteer for eight years. During that time, Brad developed six original shows and revived several classic shows created by Paul Vincent Davis.

Due to generous support during our 2023 UConn Gives campaign, admission is free, but donations are encouraged. Reservations are not required. Chairs will not be provided, and audience members are encouraged to bring their own blankets and seating. Seating space will be first come, first served. In the event of inclement weather the show will be rescheduled for Sunday, July 23 at 11 a.m. ET. This performance is co-sponsored by the Mansfield Downtown Partnership. 

For more information, or if you require accommodation to attend this event, please contact Ballard Institute staff at 860.486.8580 or bimp@uconn.edu.

NOW IN THE BALLARD INSTITUTE THEATER! Oma by Sandglass Theater on 7/15

Because of the chance of rain and some soggy grass, we will host Oma by Sandglass Theater in the Ballard Institute Theater today at 11AM! Seating will be provided, so get out of the rain and join us for a puppet show!

This new family show by Shoshana Bass and Jana Zeller is an intergenerational tale revolving around Grandma or “Oma.” It is her birthday and all are preparing for the celebration. While the grown-ups manage phone calls, playdate logistics, and other such tasks, the children get into mischief with party decorating, present wrapping, and cake baking. Finally they all gather around for one of Oma’s stories, told with yarn. One character emerges from the tangle of wool and nearly ruins the party. But not to worry, all ends well at Oma’s house. 

Sandglass Theater is a renowned company which combines puppets with music, actors, and visual imagery. Since 1982, the company’s productions have toured internationally in over 30 countries, performing in theaters, festivals, and cultural institutions, winning many international awards. Sandglass is dedicated to the arts of theater and puppetry as means of exploring contemporary issues, inspiring dialogue, and sparking wonder. Learn more about Sandglass Theater: sandglasstheater.org.

Due to generous support during our 2023 UConn Gives campaign, admission is free, but donations are encouraged. Reservations are not required. 

For more information, or if you require accommodation to attend this event, please contact Ballard Institute staff at 860.486.8580 or bimp@uconn.edu.