The community of puppeteers is diverse. Performers, directors, teachers, and artists all bring skills that enrich the Puppeteers of America network. Those interested in expanding their puppetry skills often benefit from workshops, festivals, residencies, classes and hands-on training. Some of the resources are performance based, while others focus on craftsmanship or storytelling, but they all seek to enrich puppetry as an art form. Professional development opportunities increase as theater companies, Universities, and individual artists share their techniques for success.
Below are a list of professional development resources that have made an impact on puppetry in America:
Contact: Janie Geiser
The Cotsen Center for Puppetry and the Arts was established in 1998 to allow CalArts students to explore contemporary puppetry and performing objects. This one-of-a-kind laboratory offers a framework for practical training, artistic innovation, aesthetic inquiry and interdisciplinary investigation. The center strives to combine puppet theater with the use of new technologies and emerging forms and practices that cut across traditional boundaries.
California State University, Sacramento
Contact: Art Gruenberger
Puppetry has been found to be an excellent tool for the teaching of multiculturalism to children. Students will learn basic techniques used in creating live puppet theatre so they can use puppetry to incorporate multiculturalism into the classroom. Students will learn how to construct and manipulate several styles of puppets and then use their puppet creations to perform multicultural/multilingual stories.
Sarah Lawrence University
Contact: Dan Hurlin
Sarah Lawrence University offers several puppetry courses through both it’s Dance and Theater programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. Classes include Puppet Theatre-Bunraku Style, and Toy Theatre and Shadow Puppetry, and Marionette Puppetry.
UC Santa Cruz
Contact: Kathy Foley
The UC Santa Cruz Theater Arts program emcompasses Drama, Dance, and Design. Both undergraduate and graduate level classes are available and include course titles such as Muppet Magic and Monsters.
University of Connecticut
Contact: Bart P. Roccoberton, Jr.
Started in 1964 by Professor Frank W. Ballard, the University of Connecticut has presented more than 500 puppet programs since its creation. The program offers a BFA degree in puppet arts and is the only institution in the country offering masters degrees (both MA and MFA) in the puppetry.
University of Hawaii
The University of Hawaii offers a Theater for Young Audiences (TYA) degree. Included in the course load are several puppet classes including Puppetry for Young Children – Methods of constructing puppets and stages with and for children 3 to 8 years of age. As well as Puppetry – History and scope of puppetry. Construction and presentation of puppets for adult and child audiences.
University of Quebec at Montreal (Canada)
DESS en théâtre de marionnettes contemporains
Contact: Marthe Adam
UQAM is proud to be the only Canadian university to offer creators of puppet theater a program specifically designed to enable them to deepen languages essential to the practice of contemporary puppet theater, and develop critical thinking skills in relation to this booming art. The program is a 2 year certificate, and requires French language skills.
University of West Virginia
Contact: Joann Spencer Siegrist
The BFA course work includes intensive study in children’s theatre; the practice of puppetry as a theatrical art form; and educational and creative dramatic activity as methods of learning and self-development for children. In addition to a broad-based curriculum in theatre studies, students work under the direction of a faculty member to operate a complete puppetry theatre with comprehensive study in a variety of construction, manipulation, historical study, and performance techniques.
The Actors Academy for the Puppetry Arts (Canada)
Contact: Nicholas Lemon
The Actors Academy for the Puppetry Arts (TAAPA) is a training academy that combines the art of acting with the art of puppetry. This allows the public a place to train and participate in puppet acting and puppet character development.
The Banff Puppet Theatre Intensive (Canada)
The New England Puppet Intensive
Contact: Old Trout Puppet Workshop
The Old Trout Puppet Workshop in association with the Calgary Animated Objects Society and The Massachusettes Museum of Contemporary Arts, offers two-week explorations into the creative art of puppet theatre. The 15-day workshops address elements of design (both set and puppet), scripting the silent narrative, collaborative directing, and manipulation of puppets. Participants will create individual puppets, engage in small ensembles, and, in the nature of collective creation, create short experimental projects to be presented publicly.
National Puppetry Conference – Eugene O’Neill Theater Center
The National Puppetry Conference participants collaborate with nationally and internationally renowned puppet artists, and each other, to produce innovative plays and productions that push the boundaries of puppetry’s definitions and dare participants to challenge themselves and their audiences. Experienced puppeteers and relative newcomers to the form explore various performance styles and techniques in rehearsals, workshops, and master classes.
Puppets in Progress
Contact: Dr. Tova Akerman
Puppets in Progress founded in 1980 at Brooklyn College is open to teachers and the community. Recently Puppetry in Practice Museum opened an additional outreach center in the Marine Park section of Brooklyn. Puppets in Progress hosts parent workshops to supplement our school programs and meetings with other puppeteers and performing artists.
Puppet Power: The Fearless Face of Puppetry (Canada)
Contact: w.p. Puppet Theater
These biennial puppet conferences in Calgary, the first of which was in 2001, have included the following themes: “Puppets as a Therapeutic Medium”, “Embracing Multiculturalism”, “Puppets Promote Literacy” and “Puppets as Agents of Social Change”. Puppet Power conferences have attracted participants from all areas of the helping professions, as well as educators, artists, activists and students.
The Puppet School
Contact: Michael Earle
The Puppet school offers students lessons in improvisation, character voices, and TV puppetry techniques and puppet making. Locations in Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, San Francisco, and Chicago.
Toronto School of Puppetry (Canada)
Contact: David Powell
Ann and David Powell, know as the Puppetmongers Powell offer the Puppetry eXporatory Laboratory, a program that brings people together from all-walks-of the-arts to collaborate under their mentorship. The programs begins in January and culminates in the Fresh Ideas in Puppetry performance in May at Robert Gill Theatre, University of Toronto. The Powells also offer a 12 day intensive training program at Humber College.
PUPPET (AND PUPPET-FRIENDLY) FESTIVALS
2015 National Puppetry Festival
The festival will take place August 9 – 16, 2015 in multiple venues across the Storrs, CT campus. Bart P. Roccoberton, Jr. will serve as festival director. Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer for Sesame Street’s Big Bird, will serve as the festival’s honorary Grande Maestro. John Bell will serve as artistic director, Paul Spirito as workshop director, and Margarita Blush as festival liaison. The festival will include performances, workshops, exhibits, scholarly presentations, and numerous community activities. It will also kick off a year of celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the UConn Puppet Arts program.
Calgary Festival of Animated Objects (Canada)
The Calgary Animated Objects Society presents a yearly festival in Alberta which is a “celebration of puppets, masks, and all things animated”. The event features a notable selection of puppet and animated film screenings.
Great Small Works Toy Theater Festival
This is Great Small Works’ annual spring festival of Toy Theater. GSW has produced nine Toy Theater Festivals, which have featured the work of hundreds of local and international theater and visual artists.
Les Trois Jours de Casteliers (Canada)
Contact: Louise Lapointe
Presented in collaboration with the Théâtre Outremont, this festival combines big shows and small forms, traditional techniques and up-to-date technologies.
Nashville International Puppet Festival
Contact: Brian Hull
Hosted by the Nashville Public Library, this festival brings artists from around the world to perform for 15,000 children and adults over the course of three days. The Nashville International Puppet Festival is made possible by generous support from the Nashville Public Library Foundation.
PICA Time-Based Art Festival
Portland Institute for Contemporary Arts’ annual Time-Based Art Festival (TBA) draws artists from across the country and around the globe for a convergence of contemporary performance and visual art in Portland, Oregon. TBA activates the entire community with art and ideas.
Puppets Up (Canada)
Contact: Noreen Young
Noreen Young founded the Puppet Up! Festival in 2005 in Almonte, Ontario. Almonte is a historic town 33 miles southwest of Ottawa Canada. The two-day festival presents puppeteers from all over Canada, and from other countries as well.
The Puppet Happening
This Pittsburgh-based puppet festival and presenting organization, aims to strengthen the Pittsburgh puppeteer community by providing a support structure for puppetry performance. By promoting experimentation through collaborations with visual and performing artists of other disciplines, they aim to grow the audience for puppetry in the Pittsburgh region.
Puppets in the Green Mountains
Contact: Eric Bass
Puppets in the Green Mountains is a bienniel international festival of puppetry and unusual theater held in Southern Vermont. A truly unique festival, Puppets in the Green Mountains brings world-class puppetry to Southern Vermont, often presentaing shows in very non-traditional settings. For the time the puppeteers are at the festival, they stay in the homes of members of the little community of Putney, VT. They’re also given ample opportunity to enjoy each others work and spend time together at group dinners every night, generously hosted by members of the community.
Under the Radar
Presented at The Public Theater in New York City, Under the Radar (UTR) is an annual theater festival that spotlights international artists ranging from emerging talents to masters in the field. The festival is a wild mix of works by ensembles, solo artists, writers, and creators. The ultimate goal of UTR is to offer a crash course in theater that is exciting, independent, and experimental, created by some of the most dynamic artists working today.
Art Farm in Marquette, Nebraska, offers an artist residency program for professionals, emerging or established, in all areas of the arts and offering accommodations and studio space to pursue their art in exchange for a contribution of labor of 12 hours per week to help renovate and maintain Art Farm’s buildings and grounds as well as other projects, suited to skills and temperament. Spaces are open from June-November, with accommodations available for up to nine residents at one time. When applying, consider that it might take a little time to adjust to the environment, particularly if you are new to Nebraska; and if you are planning a large outdoor project, the weather might not always be your cooperative companion.
Banff Centre for the Arts (Canada)
Contact: Casey Prescott
Throughout the year, The Theatre Arts Department at The Banff Centre invites project proposals from artists, artistic collectives, and companies to develop new work in the Theatre Arts department’s studios, theatre facilities, and production shops. There is a Creation Residency to develop a new work in its initial creation phase in the studios at The Banff Centre, and a Production Residency to develop a new work in its production phase in the theatres at The Banff Centre.
Caldera Arts Center
Contact: Elizabeth Quinn
Every winter artists from all over the world are invited to Caldera Arts Center near Sisters, Oregon, for month long residences. Artists are provided private A-frame cabins and share access to wet and dry studios, a darkroom, a kiln, editing facilities and rehearsal and performance space. Residencies are open to artists from any field, as well as scientists, engineers and environmentalists.
Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center
Contact: Ash Bulayev
This residency is provided by EMPAC at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. Theater artists are invited to apply for a residency to rehearse, workshop or finalize a production. The residency offers a group of up to six individuals a two-week rehearsal period. The group will have 24-hour access and use of Studio 1 – Goodman, a 3,300 square foot flexible space with a resilient stage floor. The residency will be supported by technical staff and may include travel and housing, but will not offer offset stipends.
Minneapolis Art on Wheels
Minneapolis Art on Wheels, based in Minnesota, is a vehicle for activating public spaces with large-scale projections of sound and video. MAW develops software, hardware and methodologies for participatory urban projection, and helps artists and community organizations utilize these instruments to creatively claim and transform public spaces. MAW disseminates these instruments and works with artists interested in technology to promote mobile public projection.
St. Ann’s Puppet Lab
Contact: Matt Acheson
St. Ann’s Warehouse Puppet Lab is an experimental haven for artists developing interdisciplinary projects for puppet and object theater. Participating artists and their collaborators meet weekly over a period of nine months to develop projects, share puppetry elements and other design and technical ideas, discuss plot structure and character development, and work on narrative. Moderated critical discussion follows each presentation.
Wexner Center for the Arts
Contact: Charles Helm
Based at the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University, the Artist Residency Award program offers considerable financial resources, along with technical, intellectual, professional, and moral support to develop new work. Artist projects are commissioned by the center. A total of $200,000 annually is earmarked for distribution across the center’s disciplines—visual arts, performing arts, film, and, soon, education. Each residency is specifically tailored to the particular needs and rhythms of the artist. The program brings the full resources of the Wexner Center and Ohio State to their pursuits, often brokering collaborations across campus—not only with faculty, staff, and students in the arts and humanities, but with those in the sciences, as well as in business, law, and medicine—and in the broader local community.
Puppeteers of America
Puppeteers of America, a national nonprofit organization, founded in 1937, provides information, encourages performances and builds a community of people who love puppet theater. Puppeteers of America has existed for over 75 years, sponsoring yearly festivals, producing a quarterly journal and providing many other services, all through the goodwill of our volunteer members.
UNIMA-USA, founded in 1966, is the North American Center of Union Internationale de la Marionnette, the oldest international theatre organization in the world, founded in 1929. The organization’s mission is to promote international understanding and friendship through the art of puppetry.
The Puppet Slam Network
Contact: Marsian DeLellis
Spearheaded by IBEX Puppetry, The Puppet Slam Network aims to catalogue, connect, support, and raise awareness for the Puppet Slam Nation. The Puppet Slam Network fosters connections in the growing field of independently produced puppet slams, cabarets, and showcases so that puppet artists know where they can perform, venues can find puppet artists, and audiences can enjoy this intimate, tactile, and compelling form of entertainment.