2015 National Puppetry Conference

Puppetry Performances

Puppetry Performances are an extraordinary mix of devised work from throughout the Puppetry Conference, featuring guest artists, artists-in-residence, and a vast array of performance styles.

With rehearsals and workshops in writing, music, "puppet anarchy", and marionettes, this year's conference will also include a workshop by acclaimed puppeteers Teatro Hugo & Ines. World renowned for transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary, the Peruvian duo will offer workshops sharing the elements of dance, mime, and puppetry. Vignettes from this and other workshops will be presented during the performance.

Fri., June 12; 7pm      Sat., June 13; 7pm
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**Please read on for additional information about the various workshops artists participate in during the course of the 2015 Conference. 

Pre-Conference Intensives June 3-5, 2015

Writing | Video Anarchy | Movement | Mechanisms


Main Conference June 6-14, 2015

Jim Kroupa | Ronnie Burkett | Hugo & Ines | Marionettes | Music | Writing | Emerging Artist | Resident Company


Roger Danforth & Stephen Masicotte

Roger and Stephen will act as a go-to sounding board for those working on full length puppet theatre productions. While there will be group sessions focusing on the general aspects of creating new work, the primary focus will be one-on-one mentoring with the individual participants, with insight on dramaturgy for text-based work, translating design into reality, the mysterious language of collaboration, finding performance vocabulary and the role of puppeteer-as-actor through performance interpretation, plus advice and guidance on a lot of nuts and bolts practical issues. Participants will not be expected to produce a performance piece during the Conference. Focus will be on projects already underway and participants will be selected based upon submissions which should include preliminary script drafts, outlines or storyboards, set and character designs, research notes and source material. Limited to 8 participants

Pictured: the Daisy Theatre. Photo courtesy of Ronnie Burkett.

Tim Lagasse and Martin P. Robinson
Video Anarchy
(Note: This strand begins May 31)
Video Anarchy is an extension of Puppet Anarchy, a program started at the O’Neill Puppetry Conference by Marty Robinson. Dedicated to the exploration and creation of new puppet forms using video, Video Anarchy endeavors to break through traditional boundaries and consider exciting new possibilities for the form and function of the puppet in recorded media. Puppetry is an iconic and allegorical art form. It has the ability to do things not possible in the normal physical world. It also has the ability to create its own worlds to explore, even worlds that might exist within our own!
Alice Therese Gottschalk
The Language of material and objects: Movement and experimental puppetry

The Participants will have the possibility to discover the movement and stories of different materials and objects. They will get tools to animate persuasively in a direct or indirect way, serving as a basis for all kinds of puppet animation, manipulation and storytelling
Jim Kroupa and his students, 2011 National Puppetry ConferenceJim Kroupa
Everything you want to know about mechs and then some!
Jim's mechanism class will examine his approach to mechanical heaven! Starting with hands-on examples and discussions that cover materials, designs, execution, and results, each student will design and build a puppet mechanism.
This will be done using Jim's "keep it simple" approach and incorporating minimal effort for maximum effect! Those interested in this intensive should be able to use basic power tools (bandsaw, drill press, hand drills, sander, etc.).
IMAGE:  Jim Kroupa and his students, 2011 National Puppetry Conference.  Photo by Richard Termine.

 MAIN CONFERENCE June 6-14, 2015

jimkroupasmaller.jpgJim Kroupa
The Howdy-Do Show

Participants in Jim Kroupa’s The Howdy-Do Show will create a puppet variety show inspired by 1940’s cowboy music. The focus of the workshop will be on performance and the structure of the piece will allow each participant to take a lead role.

Photo courtesy of The Daisy Theatre
Ronnie Burkett
Text Creation and Interpretation

Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I like to feel something when I go to a performance. I want to be stirred and moved and thrilled by people and puppets who can do that. That is why I feel that training in acting is essential for this funny field.” 

–George Latshaw

Ronnie Burkett will be concentrating on interpretation/acting of solo text created by each of the participants. This year, the focus will be solely on new writing and performance exercises created during the conference. Various writing and performance styles will be explored, using a variety of puppet types. Daily writing based upon assignments will be a large component of the work, although the main goal is always the playing of the text through the puppet.

Participants will need to send a sample of their writing for the puppet stage, although work on current projects-in-progress will not be part of our exploration during this conference.  Instead, we will play and write and strenuously explore the possibilities of text for the puppet actor and how to give it our voice. Limited to 8 participants. Photo courtesy of the Daisy Theatre. 

Hugo & Ines
The Dramatic Body

Hugo & Ines will offer a workshop sharing the elements of dance, mime, and puppetry and how they developed the philosophy of their work, along with showing how to build figures with the hands and other parts of the body. The workshop will include mime exercises, body figures, fine manipulation, visual metaphors, creative method, construction of personage, stories without words, and final training.


Phillip Huber & Jim Rose
Marionette Manipulation 

All participants in the marionette class will receive instruction in both construction and manipulation. However because of time constraints, each participant must choose to concentrate on only one field of study.Those concentrating on manipulation will spend most of their time with Phillip Huber, modifying their marionette (that the participant brought from home) then staging and rehearsing a short performance piece. Those participants choosing to concentrate on marionette construction will spend most of their time with Jim Rose, designing, building and stringing one new marionette.

Phillip_Huber__China_Girl_-_Forest.jpgPhillip Huber
Advanced Marionette Manipulation
GOAL: To de-mystify the process of marionette manipulation and performance.

These stringed figures are rightfully regarded as one of the most complex and difficult of puppetry forms. However, when they are approached with patience and an eye for the most simple and direct path of expression, they become graceful, poetic actors and entertainers… highly amplified extensions of their human manipulators.

DESCRIPTION: Using a series of carefully crafted exercises, Phillip Huber will instruct and guide participants through an intensive and advanced study of marionette manipulation, revealing the influencing factors of stringing, control, and marionette design. Special emphasis will be placed on “Cabaret Style” performance (short-strung marionettes). Participants will be taken through the process of developing and refining a brief marionette performance piece.

PARTICIPANT PREPARATION: Each participant MUST bring a marionette that they do not mind modifying (joints, stringing, controller) for the purpose of developing specific movements and character attitude. Bring 2 or 3 pieces of music (each 2.5 minutes or less) to use as background for the marionette performance. This music can be on CD or computer. It would be helpful to bring headphones and an iPod-type player for rehearsals. Please bring one black outfit for performance.
 IMAGE: OZ, The Great and Powerful, Disney Enterprise Inc. - Troy Saliba

Instructor Jim RoseJim Rose
Marionette Design & Construction

Jim Rose offers a thorough examination of marionette design, layout, and construction methods for the creation of a new marionette. Participants will have the opportunity to build a complete marionette from a precut kit.

Total Maximum Marionette Enrollment - 10 students
IMAGE: Jim Rose, Instructor. Photo courtesy of Richard Termine

Melissa Dunphy
Music for Puppet Theater 

A Music Participant is given the unique opportunity to collaborate with puppetry artists as they create new works for the stage.  As a music participant you will work with the artists and directors to help tell their story with music.  You will be challenged with evoking the mood of scenes and characters from multiple pieces, ranging from playful to dark and haunted themes.  Ideal candidates are composers with a strong performance and improvisation background and familiarity or willingness to experiment with different styles and genres of music. See Submission Info for more details.

Writing for Puppet TheatreMartin Kettling

Playwriting, especially where puppets are involved, is not an easy task. Nor should it be.  A play is a delicately constructed world, newly born. Each day, we will create worlds using exercises designed to take away the need for divine inspiration, and replace it with concentrated effort.

The rules of these worlds are unknowns and must be tested. As both creator and cosmologists of your own baby universe, you will delve deeply into terra incognita and explore. We will attempt to understand what it is that makes drama effective and affecting.  We will attempt to apply this new knowledge into the creation of live performance with puppets. 

This class is appropriate for those who are looking to develop existing stories, ONLY if they willing to abandon all the work they have done on the story to date. This is not a workshop to make your current project better; rather, it is an effort to give you the skills that will help your story in the future. That said, there will be ample writing time and assignments that a writer with an existing project may find it a proper development opportunity. That is, if they have the guts.

Those puppeteers looking to investigate playwriting for the first time will find this a welcoming and productive introduction, as will those playwrights looking to incorporate the use of puppets in their drama. Pictured: Writing at the 2010 Conference.  Photo by Richard Termine.

EMERGING_ARTISTRichard Termine with Derron Wood & Roger Danforth
Emerging Artist 

The Emerging Artists Strand identifies participants during each conference who appear to be at a critical juncture in their careers as puppet artists; a place in their lives where working intensely on a particular project or aspect of their work could lead to important breakthroughs. Those artists may apply to the program, describing in detail what their work during the conference is likely to be and how they will work with mentors in writing and directing, as well as other artists from the Conference staff as needed, to achieve their project goals. The Emerging Artists are given the option of showing the results of their work during the public performances that conclude the conference. Pictured: '100 Sandwiches' by Elizabeth Hara (2011 Emerging Artist).  Photo by Richard Termine.

Alice Therese Gottschalk
Resident Company 

This role is for those who have attended the conference previously. Your focus for the main conference will be supporting the work of the Emerging Artists and the Artist in Residence to develop their projects by working under their direction for the majority of the Conference day. Resident Company Members will also be allowed create Participant Projects in the evening. While this role takes place during the main conference, you may also attend the pre-conference.  

More to come soon – stay tuned!


Funding for the 2015 National Playwrights Conference provided by: 

Walt Disney Parks & Resorts (Creative Entertainment)  |  The Jane Henson Foundation