making manual cinema - manual cinema
Led by Manual Cinema Visual Artistic Directors Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, and Julia Miller, participants will use Manual Cinema's on-camera techniques to explore puppetry for a new project in development. Participants will work with shadow puppets as well as illustrated paper cut puppets and sets. This strand also includes working with moving cameras and "Manual Cinema" tricks that simulate camera movement and editing in real-time through puppet choreography!
Manuel Cinema is an Emmy award-winning performance collective, design studio, and film/ video production company founded in 2010 by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, Ben Kauffman, Julia Miller, and Kyle Vegter. Manual Cinema combines handmade shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, and innovative sound and music to create immersive stories for stage and screen. Using vintage overhead projectors, multiple screens, puppets, actors, live feed cameras, multi-channel sound design, and a live music ensemble, Manual Cinema transforms the cinema experience and imbues it with liveness, ingenuity, and theatricality. The company was awarded an Emmy Award in 2017 for “The Forger,” a video created for The New York Times and named Chicago Artists of the Year in 2018 by the Chicago Tribune. Their shadow puppet animations will be featured in the film remake of Candyman, directed by Nia DaCosta and produced by Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions.
string theory - nehprii amenii
Calling on all rhythm makers, musicians, movers, artisans, digital artists, story-tellers, doll-makers, puppeteers—and those who have maybe never seen themselves as so before!
Artists from various disciplines and all levels of experience within puppetry arts are invited to apply to be a part of an experimental ensemble for the making of a new work. As a part of this workshop participants will join in as artistic collaborators and learn the process of taking the various skills, materials, and personal experiences we possess, and using them to create and enact a story.
"String Theory" is about exploring and re-stitching the seeming disconnect between black peoples and this thing called “puppetry.” For this work, I am inspired by the research of Dr. Paulette Richards and her theories that during the enslavement of African peoples – while no longer allowed to own objects—African performance objects and relics had to be absorbed into sound. This workshop will explore that theory while aiming to reattach these missing ancestral puppet strings and expand our current thinkings of the word “puppetry.” I am also inspired by the work of Hanne Tierney and her process of “puppeteering at a distance.” Thus, this virtual workshop will also serve as a means of delving further into the current need and possibilities of puppeteering at a distance.
My work is based in what I call “Creative Anthropology.” The same way an archeological restoration artist uses chemicals and swabs to preserve and care for cultural objects, I use the imagination, puppetry, storytelling, and personal narrative in an attempt to restore what has been damaged in humanity. At this point in time, I am particularly interested in the excavation and reconstruction of African peoples of the diaspora who have gone through a unique process of cultural erasure. As a means of creating a safe and authentic space for this work to take place, this strand is reserved for applicants who identify as being a member of the Black/African-Diaspora.
Nehprii Amenii is a Director, playwright, and visual theatre artist. She’s worked with Penumbra Theatre, The Flea, Pan Asian Repertory, Bushwick Starr, La Mama E.T.C, In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, The Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre, Virginia Stage Company, American Dance Institute, The Holland Festival, The Minnesota Orchestra, Bread and Puppet Theatre, Cirque Du Soleil, NY Philharmonic and The Alvin Ailey American Dance Foundation. She has been awarded the Lipkin Prize for playwriting, invited as US delegate for the Women Playwrights International Conference, is the recipient of the LMCC Creative Engagement award, and The Puffin Foundation award. Nehprii uses puppetry and multimedia storytelling to teach English to recent immigrants. She serves as an advisor for the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, is a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab, and holds an MFA in Theatre Production from Sarah Lawrence College.
marionette construction - kurt hunter teaches the techniques of marionette master jim rose
This workshop is led by Kurt Hunter, a professional marionette builder and performer, and the former student of the National Puppetry Conference’s beloved Marionette Master, Jim Rose. Kurt will offer a thorough examination of marionette design, layout, and construction methods for the creation of a new marionette. Participants will design, build and string a complete marionette from a marionette kit of materials and precut pieces. Each participant will also receive a list of necessary tools and optional additional materials. Demonstrations, guidance, and responses to individual questions will be presented online.
The participants will need access to the following tools and additional materials: saw (bandsaw or coping saw), electric drill (corded or cordless) and bits, a vice, rasps, brown paper, and wood glue for paper-mâché.
The 2021 Marionette Construction Strand and National Puppetry Conference is dedicated to the loving memory of Jim Rose.
Kurt Hunter is a Minneapolis-based puppeteer best known for his innovative solo marionette work. His introduction to marionettes was a performance by Tony Urbano’s company at the Laguna Beach Festival of the Arts in 1975 during a family vacation. While attending Washington University in St. Louis he performed regularly with Bob Kramer’s Marionnettes, including a television special and several performances of Peter and the Wolf with the St. Louis Symphony.
Kurt has designed and built puppets at the Minneapolis Children’s Theatre Company and performed with In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre. As a solo marionette artist, he has performed with the Minneapolis Chamber Symphony and the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra. For Open Eye Figure Theatre, he has constructed marionettes for A Prelude to Faust and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and was a featured performer in three “Toy Theatre After Dark” festivals. Recently he has directed productions by Seth Eberle and Z Puppets Rosenschnoz. He has rigged and performed with marionettes for commercials for the Mall of America, Target and Disney/Pixar. Kurt has studied with marionette masters Phillip Huber and Albrecht Roser. He is a frequent workshop leader in marionette construction and performance. In 2008 he received an UNIMA-USA Citation of Excellence in Puppetry for Sock Puppet Serenade. In 2018 he was awarded a Family Grant from the Jim Henson Foundation for development of his solo production “Penguin in my Pocket.”
the solo show challenge - jean marie keevins & guest mentors
Growing out of its success in 2020, this new strand builds upon the beloved Participant Project process. The Solo Show Challenge has been created to support artists as they devise original solo puppet works. With the support of experienced mentors, participants will work on the development and performance of a pre-existing or brand-new piece of puppet theatre. Projects developed through this intensive process have gone on tobecome nationally-recognized full-length shows, cabaret acts, pitches for television, classroom performances, and everything in-between. Participants are encouraged to Risk. Fail. Risk Again. in this supportive environment.
Please review the participant preplist for this strand prior to starting your application.
Jean Marie is a NYC-based, multi-hyphenate creative and business expert. Known in the arts as an Emmy-nominated supervisor, award-winning producer, writer, puppet artist and designer she is most proud of her role as an all around cheerleader and coach for those who work outside of the box and are on a mission. At Little Shadow Productions, Jean Marie is chief creative visionary, business planner and team coach. Based on the knowledge gained working for companies such as Apple, Sesame Workshop, Disney and the like, coupled with her time moonlighting in hedge funds, Jean Marie understands what it’s like to serve the needs of a large engine. As a serial entrepreneur and someone who frequently serves and consults small businesses, Jean Marie also understands how to build and maintain the business itself. Her hybrid approach to her business and creativity is her secret sauce.
For Jean Marie’s extended bio, please click here.
creating music at home for puppetry projects - melissa & matt dunphy
Over the course of a week, music participants 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 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, explore or refine techniques of producing and recording music quickly and inexpensively in a home studio, 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.
For the virtual conference, it is important that participants have access to a computer with a webcam and a reliable high-speed internet connection. Participants should also have some means of home recording available to them—please note this can be as simple as a cellphone with a decent microphone, although an external microphone, USB microphone, or digital recorder is preferable. Participants should ideally already have experience with either a scoring application that exports MIDI/VST (e.g. Sibelius, Finale, Dorico, or Musescore), or a digital audio workstation (e.g. REAPER, Ableton Live, Logic, FL Studio, etc.) to be able to create audio for projects on their own. Access to a variety of instruments (of any kind) or noisemakers is a plus.
Melissa Dunphy specializes in political, vocal, and theatrical music who first came to national attention in 2009 when her large-scale work the Gonzales Cantata was featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, National Review, Fox News, and on The Rachel Maddow Show. Dunphy is a Barrymore Award-nominated theater composer and sound designer and has been Director of Music Composition for the O'Neill National Puppetry Conference since 2014; theatre companies she has worked with include Interact, People’s Light, Azuka, Simpatico, Theatre Exile, Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, Almanac Dance Circus Theatre, and Pig Iron School. Notable concert works include the song cycle Tesla's Pigeon, which won first place in the NATS Art Song Composition Award, and choral work What do you think I fought for at Omaha Beach? which won the Simon Carrington Chamber Singers Competition and has been performed by ensembles including Chanticleer and Cantus. Dunphy is the recipient of a 2020 Opera America Discovery Grant for Alice Tierney, a new opera commission by Oberlin Conservatory set to premiere in 2023, and is also working on a collaborative opera commission for Experiments in Opera in NYC. She has been composer-in-residence for the Immaculata Symphony Orchestra, Volti, and the St. Louis Chamber Chorus, and recent commissions include works for Voces8, Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra, the Museum of the American Revolution, and the Mendelssohn Chorus. Dunphy has a Ph.D. in composition from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.M. from West Chester University and is on faculty at Rutgers University. More at
Matt Dunphy specializes in creating performance-oriented electronic music, eclectic sound design, and soundscapes, employing analog synthesizers and effects. Since 1996, he has produced his own music under the name Leviathant, and he has also played drums for several punk and indie rock bands. He has a background in both live and studio recording engineering, ranging from classical concerts to rock performances and sound effects work.
Melissa and Matt collaborate together in their band Up Your Cherry, and as co-hosts of the archaeology podcast the Boghouse. They are the owners and developers of the Hannah Callowhill Stage, a new performance venue in Old City Philadelphia that they hope to launch in 2022.
the language of material and objects: movement and experimental puppetry - 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. The workshop will include movement description videos, live chats, and times to work independently on tasks and then share the results via video.
Participants should bring curiosity, the joy of movement, a favorite poem, different materials, objects (a more specific list will follow), and the ability to video recording their discoveries and sharing them with others.
Alice Therese Gottschalk built her first marionette at the age of sixteen. She studied many years with Professor Albrecht Roser, as well as at the acting school Ernst-Busch in Berlin, and the University of Music and Performing Arts in Stuttgart, Germany where she received her Diploma for Puppetry. Alice is teaching at several Universities in Germany and gives workshops worldwide. Her company FAB-Theater works together with other artists from all fields of the performing and fine arts. Alice is traveling with her own shows throughout Germany and the World. She also directs, performs and designs for other companies (i.e. the State Theatre of Stuttgart). Alice is the Vice President of the German chapter of UNIMA and founded the German Puppetry Conference in Northeim alongside Ruth Brockhausen.
character and craft - ken weitzman
What makes us care about a character? What makes us want to follow their journey through a play? These questions will serve as our jumping off point. Through that lens we’ll explore structure, dialogue, and world-building by writing micro-plays that isolate each of these elements of the craft. Our workshop will culminate with your putting all these elements together in a final adaptation exercise in which each participant will create a short one-act play (with puppets or without, up to you).
Applicants are required to submit a writing sample that is no more than 5 pages. Sample could include the draft of a script, an outline, a storyboard, or a synopsis.
Ken Weitzman’s plays include,
Halftime with Don, (National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere, O’Neill’s National Playwrights Conference),
The Catch (The Denver Center Theatre Company),
The As If Body Loop (Humana Festival),
Arrangements (Atlantic Theatre Company),
Fire in the Garden (IRT, The Warehouse Theatre), and
seal boy (Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, upcoming), among others. His devised work includes, Memorabilia (Alliance Theatre), Hominid (Out of Hand Theatre/Theatre Emory/Oerol Festival Netherlands), and Stadium 360 (Out of Hand Theatre). National Awards include The L. Arnold Weissberger Award for Playwriting for Arrangements, TCG Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award for The Catch, the Fratti/Newman Political Play Contest Award for Fire in the Garden, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s Generations competition for
seal boy. Ken’s plays and monologues have been published by Samuel French, Playscripts, Smith and Kraus, Blackbird, and Applause. Ken received his MFA from University of California, San Diego and has taught at UCSD, Emory University, Indiana University (head of MFA in Playwriting) and, currently, at Stony Brook University.
sock puppets gone wild - tim lagasse & martin robinson
We’ve been considering how we can best serve the National Puppetry Conference in these weird times. Some creative processes just demand to be hashed-through face to face. Since we all are in a video space this year, let’s embrace it and play to its strengths!
So, sock puppets. We have a very simple yet successful sock puppet construction method to get your project on its feet. (Yes. Sock puppets. No groaning.) However, in this strand, we concentrate on the story first and then design your character to serve your process. After the characters are made, we will have a quick, comprehensive tutorial on the most useful techniques for these puppets on video, then jump into the process of getting your ideas into ones-and-zeros. We included photos of our sock puppet style, so you can tell we are not kidding around!
Oh, yea, the story. For you to apply to this strand, you need to bring us a story…
Here’s the pitch: Think of a compelling story, feeling, or message, from the deeply personal to the universal.
Now, who/what is the character (just one) to present your idea? How can you best create a video to communicate all this? This puppet style tends to talk well, so words are useful, but we will encourage action: the stronger language of puppetry.
Please submit 2 potential short storyboards for consideration. We will then select and discuss the storyboards with the participants ahead of the conference to help focus your intent.
We are very excited to see what you have to say!
Tim Lagasse, who most recently performed “Scatter” on Sesame Workshop’s new AppleTV+ show “Helpsters”, has been entertaining audiences with his unusual skill set for over 29 years. A “Sesame Street” alumnus, Lagasse designs, builds, and performs all forms of puppets. A series of short puppet films he created for the PBS children’s series “Between the Lions” garnered him three Daytime Emmy nominations. Additionally, Tim has designed and fabricated puppets for “Blue’s Room,” and “Chappelle’s Show”, among many others. He may be best known for playing the title role on Nick Jr’s “Oobi”. A graduate of the University of Connecticut with a BFA in Puppet Arts, Lagasse was the first student to receive the Jim Henson Memorial Prize in Puppetry. He also received a Broadcast Design Silver Award and the coveted Union International de la Marionette Citation of Excellence in the Art of Puppetry. Tim also designs and builds puppets for The Jim Henson Company, regularly performs his Cabaret Hand Shadow Act, and is a Magician Member of the Academy of Magical Arts at the Magic Castle. He married the love of his life and lives with her and their cats in Hollywood, CA.
Martin P. Robinson: Broadway:
Little Shop of Horrors (designer/performer);
The Frogs (designer). Off Broadway:
Little Shop of Horrors (Drama Desk, L.A. Drama Critics, Villager Awards);
Night on Bald Mountain,
Carnival of the Animals and
Firebird for the Young People’s Concerts at Carnegie Hall (designer/performer). Film:
Muppets Take Manhattan,
Follow That Bird, Elmo in Grouchland, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Producers. TV: “Sesame Street” – since 1981 playing Mr. Snuffleupagus, Telly Monster, Slimey, etc. (Emmys, Outstanding Children’s Performer nom.); “Allegra’s Window”; “Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss”; “Spitting Image”; “Oobi.” Sesame Street International Senior Muppet Coordinator/Teacher – numerous countries worldwide (Peacebuilder Award); Eugene O’Neill Theater Center National Puppetry Conference – staff. Recently wrote, designed, directed musical, “All Hallows Eve” for a NYC showcase run. Currently performing Mr. Primm in the new Apple+ production, “Helpsters”. www.Martinprobinson.com
all conference events
Movement warm-ups with Alice Gottschalk
Join Alice each morning as she leads you through exercises designed to awaken and prepare your body and mind for an active day of art-making.
Join renowned puppetry artists and master teachers as they highlight their area of expertise in personalized conversations. These five ticketed events are offered for free to all Conference participants.
Tea Time Conversation with Judy Rose
Your optional opportunity to take a break, enjoy a cup of tea and share conversations about anything and everything,
Puppets in the Pub presented by Blue Gene’s Pub hosted by Tyler Bunch and Jonathan Little
End your evenings with
Puppets in the Pub presented by Blue Gene’s Pub. This curated open mic will occur online each night of the Conference.