national puppetry conference

The National Puppetry Conference provides a meeting and creating ground for master artisans to pass their craft and ingenuity to new artists in the field of puppetry.

Applications Closed


May 31 - June 2, 2022

Main Conference

June 4 - June 12, 2022

The mission of the National Puppetry Conference is to encourage puppet artists to create and communicate through the visual and kinetic form of the puppet, to push beyond their personal boundaries, and develop new works for puppet theater. Each June, participants gather from across the globe to create works that defy the bounds of contemporary theater and the imagination. Participants collaborate with renowned guest directors, puppet artists, and playwrights to develop innovative productions conceived by guest artists, as well as presentations initiated by the Conference participants.


Past conference participants have gone on to work in such venues as HERE Arts Center, Dixon Place, La MaMa, Redmoon, The Puppet Showplace, The Sandglass Theatre, Trouble Puppet, The Center for Puppetry Arts, Zeum, Automata Theater. Their work has also been seen in commercials; in films such as Being John Malkovich, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and The Muppets; and on television, including Sesame Street, Between the Lions, Saturday Night Live, and Bear in the Big Blue House. On the global stage, our puppeteers have gone on to produce and perform in shows in Afghanistan, Iran, Australia, Scotland, India, Uganda, and China.


The O’Neill's National Puppetry Conference was established by key founding members Jane Henson, George Latshaw, Richard Termine, Bobbi Nidzgorski, Bart P. Roccoberton Jr., and Jim and Margo Rose and is dedicated to the legacies of Bill Baird, Jim Henson, Rufus and Margo Rose, Don Sahlin, Martin Stevens, Burr Tillstrom, Brad Williams, Nikki Tilroe, and George Latshaw in the spirit with which they shared their artistry and themselves.

Funding for the National Puppetry Conference is provided by the Jane Henson Foundation.

Pam Arciero, Artistic Director of the National Puppetry Conference

Pam Arciero is a principal puppeteer with Sesame Street, performing numerous characters, most notably Grundgetta Grouch. She has worked on many adult and children's programs including Between the Lions, Blue's Clues Blue's Room, Chappell's Show, Allegra's Window, The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss, TV Funhouse, Oobi, Eureeka's Castle and The Great Space Coaster. She has performed in many commercials and films, including Zappos, Fuze, Angel Soft, Sundance Myths, Sundance Film Festival; Extreme Measures, Little Monsters, and Follow That Bird.


As a stage director, she directed Iftah Ya Simsim-Sesame Street Saudi Arabia, Sesame Live Shows for Sesame Place, Beaches Turks and Caicos, Beaches Jamaica, Port Adventura, Barcelona, Spain; Sea World Orlando; Play with Me Sesame Live, US tours; and Disney's Wahoo Wagon at the El Capitan Theater in Los Angeles. Pam directed the film Whiskey Neat, and she has also directed Between the Lions and Oobi for television.


She has taught for the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, the University of Hawaii, Sesame Street International; South Africa; remotely for Afghanistan and Bangladesh, Taipei National University of the Arts, the University of Connecticut, and California State University, Fresno. Pam holds a BA in Dance and Drama from the University of Hawaii and a MA in Puppetry from the University of Connecticut.

The application for scholarships is included within the application for conference attendance. If necessary, we highly encourage all applicants to apply for a scholarship. Most applicants will receive some form of scholarship assistance.


Jim Rose Memorial Scholarship

This scholarship honors Jim Rose, one of the great marionette masters, beloved Conference mentor, and son of Margo & Rufus Rose. This scholarship is awarded to puppeteers who have a special interest in marionette construction and manipulation.

Allelu Kurten Generous Spirit Scholarship

Please help us honor the memory of the one and only Allelu Kurten with a donation to the "Generous Spirit Scholarship" that has been created in her memory.


Lisa Simon Scholarship

On April 4, 2015, we lost a dear friend in Lisa Simon, longtime producer and director on Sesame Street, on her 64th birthday. Winner of 20 Emmys over a career spanning four decades, Lisa started with a summer job as a file clerk and a caretaker for children who appeared on the show during the early days and rose to supervising producer/director of Sesame Street. She directed shows for Between the Lions, Oobi and many humanitarian outreach projects. The Lisa Simon scholarship is awarded to a female director whose work is currently or is growing in the puppet arts.


Jerry Nelson Scholarship

This scholarship honors one of the great character puppeteers, Jerry Nelson, and is awarded to puppeteers who have a special interest in character and vocal development of puppet performances.


Alumni Grants

Alumni Grants are awarded to returning participants who display a desire to retool their thinking about their work in the art of puppetry. These artists display a strong desire to learn new skills or challenge themselves in unconventional ways thus bringing a newly invigorated desire for growth to the conference and to themselves. The Alumni Grants began through the efforts of alumna Honey Goodenough, the Conference indebted to this ardent artist and all who helped her to support this grassroots effort.


Connecticut Guild of Puppetry Scholarship in honor of Margo Rose

Given by the Connecticut Guild of Puppetry. Margo Rose was one of American Puppetry's pioneers, with over 60 years of contributions to the field. In 1931, Margo, with her husband Rufus, started the Rufus Rose Marionettes. They were founding members of the Puppeteers of America and organized the first festival in 1937. Rufus and Margo are perhaps best known for giving life to the marionettes of the popular television program Howdy Doody. The couple went on to win a Peabody Award for the best children's program for their series The Blue Fairy. In addition, Margo was a founding member of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in 1964 and one of the founders of the National Puppetry Conference at the O'Neill in 1991.

Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship

The Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship is intended to build and promote the community of historically marginalized puppeteers in this country. Past recipients have gone on to join the casts of many well known television and Broadway shows, as well as create and perform their own small works of puppet theater. All are encouraged to apply with passion.

O'Neill Puppetry Conference Grant, courtesy of National Capital Puppetry Guild

​The O'Neill Conference Grant is offered to guild members under the age of thirty who are accepted by the conference for first-time attendance. It is a need-based, partial scholarship designed to offset a participant's expenses while there. Application is open to all members in good standing of the NCPG. Applicants must apply directly to National Capital Puppetry Guild for consideration.

All gifts toward puppetry scholarships are appreciated and go directly to support the next generation of puppetry artists. Click here to make a donation, or contact development@theoneill.org for more information.

We assembled a list of frequently asked questions for your convenience, but should you prefer to ask your questions directly to a member of our staff, you may contact puppetry@theoneill.org.


If I’ve been to the National Puppetry Conference before, do I have to apply again?

Yes! A completed online universal application is always required.

Can I apply for both pre-Conference and Main Conference strands?



What is the application fee to apply for the conference?

$30.00 USD


How do I pay the application fee?

If you are using our online form to submit your application, you will be guided through the payment process step-by-step as you finalize your application. We are glad to accept both debit and credit cards. There are a limited number of fee waivers on a first-come, first-served basis. If you would like to request a fee wavier, please reach out directly to us at puppetry@theoneill.org before you begin your online application.

If I'm selected to attend the conference, will the O'Neill provide housing?

Yes. Conference participants will be provided with dormitory-style housing in double or single rooms. All rooms include beds, desks, dressers, and closets. Community bathrooms, private bathrooms, and shower rooms are available. 


Are meals provided? And can dietary restrictions be accommodated? 

Yes. Three meals a day are served on-site by our resident chefs. Special consideration is given to accommodate dietary restrictions, and all applicants are asked to provide their dietary restrictions in our application form. The O'Neill cafeteria offers continual access to snacks and beverages throughout the day and into the evening. 


Does the O'Neill cover travel or provide transportation to the National Puppetry Conference? 

The O'Neill is unable to cover the cost of your travel to the National Puppetry Conference. 


Where are the nearest airports to the O'Neill? 

The O'Neill campus is located in Waterford, CT. If you are flying into the area, the nearest airports are Providence International Airport (PVD) and Hartford-Bradley Airport (BDL). We are able to arrange transportation from the airport to the O'Neill. Please reach out to the Company Management team at companymanager@theoneill.org to schedule a pickup. 


If I'm selected to attend, could I drive to the O'Neill campus? Is parking available on-site? 

Yes. Please reach out to our Company Management team at companymanager@theoneill.org. They provide you with a parking pass upon arrival.

We are pleased to announce we will be back on campus for the 2022 National Puppetry Conference! Applications for the 2022 Conference have closed.

2022 Tuition - Includes Room & Board

  • Pre-Conference: $650 per strand

  • Main Conference: $1,250 per strand (excluding Emerging Artist)

Additional Fees

  • $50 Materials Fee for participants of Mechanism Workshop with Jim Kroupa (pre-Conference)

  • $50 Materials Fee for participants of Woodcarving with Carlo Adinolfi (pre-Conference)

2022 Refund Policy 

Should you not be able to attend the Conference, the O'Neill will refund half of your total paid cost, minus any non-refundable deposits if the request is made prior to May 24, 2022. The O'Neill is unable to offer refunds requested after May 25, 2022.

Click here to read our COVID-19 policy.


If you are interested in applying for 2022, please review the preplist that corresponds to strands of your interest for a general idea of the application process. Please note that only complete applications will be considered for acceptance.

2022 National Puppetry Conference

Applications Closed

May 31 - June 12

  • Pam Arciero, Artistic Director

  • Jean Marie Keevins, Associate Artistic Director

  • Calvin Tamura, Artistic Associate, Participant Project Mentor

  • Carlo Adinolfi, Guest Artist, Wood Carving

  • Tyler Bunch, Resident Company/Emerging Artist Mentor, Participant Project Mentor, & Pub Host

  • Dr. Melissa Dunphy, Guest Artist, Director of Musical Composition

  • Matt Dunphy, Guest Artist, Music Assistant

  • Alice Gottschalk, Guest Artist, Materials Movement, Marionette Performance

  • Kurt Hunter, Guest Artist, Marionette Building

  • Ulysses Jones, Shop Supervisor

  • Seth Koprowski, Production Assistant, Mr. Lee

  • Jim Kroupa, Guest Artist, The Howdy Doo Show, Part Duh

  • Tim Lagasse, Guest Artist, Video Anarchy

  • Claude Lapointe, Counselor

  • Tom Lee, Guest Artist, Puppetry Manipulations

  • Jon Little, Assistant to Mr. Kroupa

  • Jane Martineau, Director of Resident Company and Participant Project Mentor

  • Bobbi Nidzgorski, Resident Company Mentor, Participant Project Mentor, Conference Co-Founder

  • Helena Pennington, O'Neill Resident Dramaturg

  • David Regan, Production Associate

  • Martin P. Robinson, Guest Artist, Video Anarchy

  • Bart Roccoberton, Director of Production, Conference Co-Founder

  • Rachel Roccoberton Griffin, Production Assistant, Mr. Kroupa

  • Luis Santeiro, Guest Artist, Writing

  • Richard Termine, Director of Emerging Artists, Participant Project Mentor

Mechanism Workshop with Jim Kroupa:

Mechanism class participants will learn all of Jim's secrets. (Both of them!) From hands-on examples of various mechanisms to materials and where to get them, all participants will experience the road to mechanical bliss, using Jim’s “keep it simple” approach. Minimal effort for maximum results! All attending participants should have basic small tool experience. BONUS! Everyone goes home with a working mechanism they built themselves!  And stories…lots and lots of stories! And of course, Jon Little keeping Jim on track!


The Language of Material and Objects: Movement and Experimental Puppetry with Alice Gottschalk:

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 should bring curiosity, the joy of movement, a favorite poem, different materials, objects (a more specific list will follow).

Character and Craft - Writing with Luis Santeiro:

In this workshop we will cover all the elements necessary in writing for puppets. We will also focus on the importance of developing strong, clear-cut characters. But the main emphasis of these sessions, will be on how to write a good script, a basic need no matter who you are writing for. We will explore character development, elements of comedy writing, and the importance of conflict, whether humorous or not. Specific assignments will be given, which will help to sharpen these skills, and to explore what makes a strong story arc with a satisfying pay-off. Participants may also bring projects that they have already been working on, and we will concentrate on taking those to the next level. However, this is not a requirement. The one requirement that I do have, is that you come with an open mind to create, explore, and have fun along the way.

Video Anarchy with Martin P. Robinson and Tim Lagasse:

Video Anarchy is a workshop dedicated to the exploration and creation of new puppet forms using, well, 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, at the largest and tiniest of scales, even worlds that might exist within our own! We are looking for advanced puppet students interested in exploring puppet forms beyond the popular and conventional. Also your application must include 3 different storyboards for 3 different film ideas to be considered. Strand will run *May 29-June 2, 2022.

Woodcarving with Carlo Adinolfi:

This workshop introduces students to the skills needed to carve puppets out of wood. It begins by establishing an understanding, for each participant, of how to use the essential carving chisels. Students learn how to select the best chisels for their intended carving project, and how to sharpen and maintain their chisels. Participants will then learn about different woods and their qualities. What makes some woods easy to carve? Why are some strong and others light? Which woods bend and which woods are visually appealing? Most importantly, participants will learn to read the grain of the wood and how best to work with a wood's grain. After the introduction to chisels and woods, participants will learn more advanced carving skills, introducing them to other hand tools and small power tools that are useful, and often essential, in woodcarving, these include: saws, planes, spoke-shaves, drills and Dremel tools. Participants will learn how to design and build the joints for a wooden puppet, as well as how to lay out a block of wood in preparation for carving and how to plan ahead so as to be able to clamp the work and carve it from all sides. Each participant will design and build a puppet from scratch.

Marionette Construction with Kurt Hunter:

The workshop offers a thorough examination of marionette design, layout, and construction methods for the creation of a new marionette. Participants will have the opportunity to design, build and string a complete marionette working from supplied patterns and materials. The patterns will be modified as necessary for each participant’s design. Basic marionette manipulation will also be covered and additional construction and stringing methods will be demonstrated. Participants should bring black performance clothes. Materials and tools will be supplied, but a list of optional tools to bring will be sent out prior to the conference.

Marionette Performance with Alice Gottschalk:

This workshop is an intensive and advanced study of marionette manipulation, revealing the influencing factors of stringing, control, and marionette design. 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.


Howdy Do Show, Part Duh! with Jim Kroupa:

This is a country western variety show based on wonderful cowboy songs. Written and directed by Jim Kroupa, participants will play a variety of roles, performing all types of puppets - hand, rod, shadow, full-size body puppets, etcetera. They will also participate in set building, have input tweaking the script, and everyone will get a chance to make Jim smile. SPECIAL BONUS FEATURE!! Jim “Nappy” Napolitano will create and direct all shadow pieces used in the show! Our goal is to make people laugh their ASSES (Ding!) off!! This will make more sense when you read the script! Hate Country Music? This show will change your misconceptions, partner! DUHHH!! Special Information or Supporting Materials Required of Applicants: Participants need solid puppetry skills, including proficiencies in Manipulation, Voice, Lip-sync. Things to bring: All participants need Black pants, and a long sleeve Black t-shirt.


Manipulation and Storytelling with Tom Lee:

Puppet Artist Tom Lee (War Horse, Madama Butterfly, Shank's Mare) will lead a developmental workshop in storytelling and manipulation for large scale puppets, multiple operator puppets and shadow projections. The workshop material will be inspired by the works of Maurice Sendak. Workshop sessions will begin with puppeteer strengthening work and physical exercises in ensemble building, followed by rehearsals where narrative, movement and music will be explored with puppet prototypes created by the Chicago Puppet Studio. Puppeteers from all backgrounds, especially those with dance, movement and physical theater backgrounds, are encouraged to take part in this highly physical workshop. Those selected should bring loose fitting black clothing that they can move in. This workshop is for the experience/training of the participants of the O'Neill as much as for the development of this specific project so, even with the physical demands of the work, there is a focus on accessibility in all facets of the workshop’s environment.

Creating Music for Puppetry with Melissa Dunphy and Matt Dunphy:

Over the course of a week, music participants at the conference will dive headfirst into collaborating with individual puppetry artists, supporting their storytelling with music in the creation of brand-new performances. You will be challenged to produce soundtracks, scores, or musical accents - either live or recorded - for multiple original short works as they are developed during the conference. Ideal candidates are composers interested in writing for theater or film, with a strong performance and improvisation background and familiarity with or openness to diverse styles and genres of music. Composers will have opportunities to learn about the process of collaboration with theater artists, try new ways of performing or improvising music live on stage, explore and refine techniques of producing and recording, and network with performers from an international community of puppetry artists and other theater professionals. Music participants will be mentored by composer/performer Melissa Dunphy and electronic musician/audio engineer Matt Dunphy.


Composers are asked to write a short statement of interest (or experience, if applicable) in writing for puppetry or theatre, provide a bio and/or CV detailing skills they have already developed as musicians, and up to three examples of their work. Selected participants should bring concert blacks (including black shoes and socks), and a laptop/notebook (most participants have found it helpful to use scoring software such as Sibelius and/or a DAW such as Reaper). Participants are also invited to bring any instruments or noise-makers they would like to play during the conference - the only instrument guaranteed to be on campus is a piano.

The Emerging Artist Strand supports artists who have attended the conference previously and are now 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 who have NOT attended the conference previously, need not apply this conference year.


Resident Company members will be supporting the work of the Emerging Artists to develop their projects by working under their direction for the majority of the main conference day. Resident Company Members will also be allowed to create Participant Projects in the evening. While this role takes place during the main conference, you may also attend the pre-conference as a participant.

30 years of puppetry

Timeline Photo Credits: Richard Termine, Jean Marie Keevins, Isaak Berliner, A. Vincent Scarano.

Participant Presentations
Puppeteer in Workshop
Puppet Manipulation
Puppet Eyepieces
Object Manipulation
Crave by Ronnie Burkett