2018 National Puppetry Conference

Pre-Conference Intensives June 6-8, 2018

Main Conference June 9-17, 2018

Create and communicate through the visual and kinetic form of the puppet.

Push beyond personal boundaries to develop new work for puppet theater.

Explore the extraordinary range and power of the puppet.



June 6-8, 2018

writing_puppetry-1.JPGText Creation and Interpretation with Ronnie Burkett

This will be an intense shortened version of the work Ronnie has previously done during the main conference. Focus will be on the writing of solo text for puppet theatre, creating the puppet(s) and physical objects necessary, and performing the short piece.

Participants with previous performance experience in puppet theatre are preferred, as well as a those with a desire to explore the writing and performance of text-based work.

We will not be working on existing works-in-progress.

Limited to 8 participants.

National_Puppetry_Conference.jpgAlice Gottschalk - The Language of Material and Objects: Movement and Experimental Puppetry

Participants will have the possibility to discover the movement and stories of different materials and objects. Participants will gain tools to animate persuasively in both direct and indirect ways, serving as a basis for all kinds of puppet animation, manipulation and storytelling. Participants will be asked to bring curiosity, movement clothes, scissors, pencils, black clothes for performance and an object they want to explore.



Jim 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.).


editing-1141505_960_720.jpgTim Lagasse, with Martin P. Robinson - Video Anarchy

Video Anarchy is an extension of Puppet Anarchy, a program started at the O’Neill Puppetry Conference by Martin 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! This is a shortened version of the usual class, so we are looking for advanced puppet students only! Participants are required to submit 3 possible storyboards to be considered and bring their own video camera. NOTE: Video Anarchy will begin on June 4 for participants.

Michael ZiegfeldMichael Paul Ziegfeld  - Your Voice in Comedy Writing: Comedic Structure & Character Development

Puppeteers make the horrible error that having a puppet on your arm is enough to make something a solid piece of comedic entertainment. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Which is why people tend to roll their eyes when they hear the term puppets. This workshop talks about Digging into character development, along with organic joke/bit writing by discovering how to access your own comedy voice!



Funding for the 2018 National Puppetry Conference provided by: 

The Jane Henson Foundation



June 9 - 17, 2018

puppetryconference2016-48.JPGCRAVE with Ronnie Burkett

I’m interested in exploring a new way to be onstage with puppets; a shift in focus where we play with stripping away the steely gaze of the visible puppeteer, allowing both puppet and puppeteer a more authentic shared space, and a true acknowledgement of the audience as integral to the performance.

My intention is to set a new work on a company of a dozen or more puppeteers manipulating two figures and the environment they live in, resulting in a non-verbal finished fifteen minute piece titled Crave (cradle/grave).

Mid-career and established puppeteers are especially of interest to me for this piece, as well as puppeteers with considerable live puppet theatre performing experience. The O’Neill is a perfect sandbox to play outside of our own practice, to take artistic risks that may not be available in our own focus and careers, and to refresh our individual aesthetic and approach to the artform. Plus, it will be fun. Exhausting, physical, and challenging, but fun.


Yael Rasooly and Iliya MagalnykThe puppeteer, the object, and the secret in between - Yael Rasooly in collaboration with Iliya Magalnyk

Our main focus of the workshop will be to actively investigate, explore and develop the various channels of relationship between the performer and object. The workshop will examine the means in which this relationship can lead the drama forward, echo multiple layers of thought and consciousness, and express unique depth of meaning and emotion, and all with minimalistic resources at hand.

What can the object/ puppet allow us to express in a different way an actor does? What does it reveal to us about the character? How does the performer/object relationship becomes an element of intricacy, metaphor, reflection and subversion? We will develop a sensitivity to the weight and meaning of “everyday” objects, Objects that contain memory and objects that are emotionally/socially/ politically/ historically charged.

We will explore the highly personified range of manipulation methods, and how they can become a shaping force in the creation’s essence. We will actively examine themes such as: presence and absence, reality and fiction, the figurative and the abstract, in awareness and dialogue with the audience's suspension of disbelief, at the base of this artform.

Parallel to group exercises and scenes, each participant will be guided through the process of creating a short experimental solo piece.

The exercises will provide an opportunity and the freedom needed to express an inner voice and specific themes, which hold a special personal significance - and to tap into them as point of departure and motivation in the creation process.

A major focus of the workshop will be on the role of music and sound scape in puppetry and object theater. We will have the unique benefit of having the accordeonist player and composer Iliya Magalnyk with us, which will enable us to explore the collaboration of the puppeteer-performer, with a live musician on stage. Such collaborations are extremely relevant for this artform, therefore a central aspect to get acquainted with and dive into.

Vocal work and singing will be part of our everyday training, which we will further combine with the object manipulation work, in Cabaret form.

Participants will be supporting each other’s process, giving constructive feedback, and helping with artistic and technical aspects. Throughout our intensive days together, there will be numerous opportunities to present work in process, as well as a presentation on the last day, of both group scenes and the short solo performances.

Above all, the workshop aims to dive into the process of creation itself, giving tools for either working with others and working alone. Stepping into the inner space of invention and playfulness, passing through artistic blockage, improvising, welcoming the importance of the UNKNOWN in the creative process, working fast, with heightened sensitivity and pleasure.  


452830868_0f1406ba87_b.jpgWriting: Shape & Story - Martin Kettling

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. We will work to construct consistent worlds, just as we might be diligent in leveling a table. It's less mystical and more mechanics. The rules of these worlds are unknowns and must be tested. As both creator and cosmologist of our very own baby universe, 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 are willing to spend the week working in other material. This is not a workshop to make your current project better; rather, it is an effort to sharpen your skills so that your story can continue. That said, there will be opportunity to incorporate your work in each exercise with your longer term goals. 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 into their drama.


tech_puppetry-6.JPGMarionette Manipulation and Construction

If you are working with Phillip Huber and Jim Rose in the Advanced Marionette Manipulation or Design and Constructions strands, you will receive instruction in both construction and manipulation. However you will be asked to choose between the two branches of study as your main focus for the week Participants focused on construction will work primarily with Jim Rose, building a marionette from a kit. Participants focused on manipulation will work primarily with Phillip Huber, modifying a marionette and performing it in a staged routine. All participants will take part in manipulation exercises and construction seminars.

Phillip Huber

This workshop is 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). Daily manipulation exercises will form the foundation upon which Participants develop and refine a brief marionette performance piece using a marionette they bring from home and modify in this workshop.

Jim Rose with Kurt Hunter

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


download_2.jpgMusic Composition - Melissa Dunphy

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.



Emerging Artist - Richard Termine and Derron Wood

This role is for those who have attended the conference previously. The Emerging Artist 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.


puppetrypreconference2016-4.JPGResident Company with Jane Martineau

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.