Past Exhibitions

Shadow Puppets

Shakespeare and PuppetryShakespeare and Puppetry

Curated by Dr. Jungmin Song
On display February 29, 2020-February 7, 2021

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. This exhibition introduces new perspectives about how dramatic characters are fashioned, and how “things” can be cast in dramas. Shakespeare and Puppetry includes work by Bread and Puppet, Forced Entertainment, Tiny Ninja Theatre, Jon Ludwig, Hogarth Puppets, Little Angel Theatre, Fred Curchack, Great Small Works, and Larry Reed.
View virtual exhibition here

Aladdin on horseback Magician Sultan of Bagdad Aladdin Princess Aladdin’s Mother Djinn

Paul Vincent Davis and the Art of Puppet Theater

On display February 29, 2020-February 7, 2021

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. 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. 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 virtual exhibition here.

Army Ants and their Guests: Works Inspired by the Carl and Marian Rettenmeyer Collection

On display October 17, 2019-February 9, 2020

In collaboration with the AntU project through UConn’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History, the Ballard Institute presents Army Ants and their Guests: Works Inspired by the Carl and Marian Rettenmeyer Collection to celebrate the Rettenmeyer army ant collection. Army Ants and their Guests features ant and insect puppets from Rufus and Margo Rose’s Ant and the Grasshopper, and toy theaters created during a two-day community workshop inspired by the AntU project, as well as an array of specially commissioned new works by puppeteers from around the world, including Sirikarn Bunjongtad, Sarah Frechette, Honey Goodenough, Dirk Joseph, Stephen Kaplin, Monica Leo, Tarish Pipkins, Poncili Creacion, and Miss Pussycat. This project was made possible through an award from the National Science Foundation. 

Annie Tools on display

Immaterial Remains: Can You Preserve a Shadow?

Curated by Dr. Annie Katsura Rollins
On display February 29, 2020-February 7, 2021

As the practice of Chinese shadow puppetry navigates survival in situ, the traditional shadow puppets are dying by the thousands: neglected to ruin, strung up, misunderstood or framed in permanent silence in the name of “preservation”. Soon, these static shadow bodies will be the only traces of the living form that remain. Immaterial Remains captures the vision of a ghostly Chinese shadow puppet future with ethnographic documentation, artifact exhibition, video projection, and creative explorations of shadow preservation.
View virtual exhibition here.

It's Always Pandemonium: The Puppets of Bart Roccoberton

It's Always Pandemonium: The Puppets of Bart Roccoberton

Curated by Matt Sorensen
On display April 27-September 29, 2019

It’s Always Pandemonium celebrates the ongoing puppetry career of Bart. P. Roccoberton, Jr., from his touring days performing with his troupe the Pandemonium Puppet Company; to his founding of the Eugene 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 features over 60 puppets, masterfully designed and crafted by Bart Roccoberton, his Pandemonium collaborators, and countless UConn Puppet Arts students under his guidance.
View virtual exhibition here.

Living Objects: African American Puppetry

Curated by Dr. Paulette Richards
On display October 25, 2018-April 7, 2019

Living Objects: African American Puppetry focuses on an often-overlooked aspect of our culture: the work of African American puppeteers. This exhibition brings together puppets, performing objects, masks, and video by over twenty different puppeteers from the late 19th century to the early 2000s, and features work by such artists as Nehprii Amenii, Brad Brewer, Ashley Bryan, Edna Bland, Garland Farwell, Susan Fulcher, Cedwan Hooks, Akbar Imhotep, Dirk Joseph, Tarish Pipkins, Papel Machete, and Yolanda Sampson. "Since their arrival in the Americas,” Dr. Richards writes, “African people have animated objects in a rich variety of forms and contexts to reflect an African-derived worldview and represent their experiences and identity." Living Objects: African American Puppetry will help redefine our sense of American puppet history. 

View virtual exhibition here.

Spiffy Pictures: Adventures in Television Animation

On display July 14-October 7, 2018

Spiffy Pictures: Adventures in Television Animation celebrates the work of UConn School of Fine Arts alumnus David Rudman, his brother Adam Rudman, and Todd Hannert, whose Spiffy Pictures company has created award-winning productions for PBS Kids, Sesame Street, Nickelodeon, Disney, Comedy Central, and other media channels. The exhibition features Nick Jr.’s Jack’s Big Music Show, and Disney’s Emmy-nominated Bunnytown. Including over 50 exquisitely crafted Spiffy puppets and fascinating backstage footage, Spiffy Pictures offers exciting insights into the magic of contemporary puppet production for television. history. 

View virtual exhibition here.

Frank Ballard into the 80s: Babes in Toyland, The Blue Bird, and The Fantasticks

On display July 14-October 7, 2018

Frank Ballard into the 80s: Babes in Toyland, The Blue Bird, and The Fantasticks features three productions by the UConn Puppet Arts Program's founding Director Frank Ballard: the 1903 Victor Herbert operetta Babes in Toyland; Maurice Maeterlinck’s 1908 symbolist classic The Blue Bird; and the 1960s Off-Broadway musical The Fantasticks. Marking a departure from Ballard’s early focus on string marionettes, these late-career shows combine actors with puppets of all sizes and forms, constructed from such novel materials as polyurethane foam.

View virtual exhibition here.

American Puppet Modernism: The Early 20th Century

On display February 22-July 1, 2018

This exhibit celebrates the puppet revival that developed across the United States in 1920s and 30s. Inspired by the European avant-garde; Asian, African, and Latin American performance; the vibrant culture of American cities; and the possibilities of such new technologies as film; puppeteers, artists, and writers decided that puppetry was an ideal medium for representing modern life. From cross-country touring shows to giant inflatable street puppets, avant-garde operas, and other ground-breaking innovations, Americans rediscovered and redefined puppetry in ways that still guide the form today. American Puppet Modernism includes works by Tony Sarg, Margo and Rufus Rose, Ralph Chessé, Marjorie Batchelder, Martin and Olga Stevens, Bil Baird, Frank and Elizabeth Haines, Alexander Calder, the Yale Puppeteers, the Federal Theater Project, and Hazelle Rollins.

View virtual exhibition here.

Sailors, Sea Creatures, and Strings: Maritime Puppets from the Collections of the Ballard Institute 

Curated by Matt Sorensen
On display October 11-December 17, 2017
At the Alexey von Schlippe Gallery at UConn Avery Point

In a special guest exhibition at UConn Avery Point, the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry presents Sailors, Sea Creatures, and Strings, an installation of puppets performed in popular maritime tales. The exhibit features marionettes, rod puppets, and set pieces from late UConn Puppet Arts Program founder Frank Ballard’s productions of Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore (1989) and Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung (1980). The exhibit also highlights marionettes created by famed Waterford, Connecticut puppeteers Rufus and Margo Rose from their celebrated 1937 production of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

View virtual exhibition here.