May 29-June 2, 2023
June 2-11, 2023
January 10-31, 2023
Each June, puppeteers gather from across the globe to create works that defy the bounds of contemporary theater and the imagination at the National Puppetry Conference. Participants collaborate with renowned directors, puppet artists, and playwrights to develop innovative productions conceived by guest artists, as well as presentations initiated by the Conference participants. The National Puppetry Conference encourages artists to create and communicate through the visual and kinetic form of the puppet, to push beyond preconceived boundaries, and develop new innovative works of puppet theater.
Every year, the National Puppetry Conference begins with a four-day-long Pre Conference, perfect for artists who are new to the world of puppetry or the O’Neill. The Pre Conference is followed by the full ten-day Main Conference, which culminates in a public sharing of the pieces created and skills learned throughout the week. In both the Pre and Main Conference participants elect to a course, or Strand, based on their interests or areas in which they would like to grow as puppeteers. Each Strand is taught by an incredible roster of world-renowned artists who are experts in their field. For more information on our 2023 Strands and faculty please see below.
Click HERE to apply for the 2023 National Puppetry Conference!
Sign up for our mailing list to be the first to know. In the meantime, please note that the application to the 2023 National Puppetry Conference will request the following materials:
Contact and Demographic Information: Name, email address, phone number, and mailing address, as well as information regarding housing and dietary considerations.
Resume (PDF): This must include your contact information, current occupation, work history, education, and contact information for two references saved as a PDF file.
Headshot (JPG): This must be a recent photo saved as a JPEG file.
Artistic Statement (PDF): You will be asked to provide a response to the following three questions: 1) Are you a practicing puppeteer? 2) How do you plan to contribute to the Conference community? 3) In 500 words or less, what is your mini-manifesto on puppetry?
Additional Materials: Some strands require additional information. Please review the application guides below or refer to the directions in the application.
Scholarship Information: If interested and eligible, you will be asked to rank the scholarships in order of applicability and provide some information regarding your current financial situation. If necessary, we highly encourage all applicants to apply. Most applicants are awarded even a small amount of scholarships. Only Main Conference participants are eligible to apply.
Admin Fee: The administrative fee for the National Puppetry Conference is $25. A limited number of fee waivers on a first-come, first-served basis. If you would like to request a fee wavier, please complete this short request form before you begin your application.
Participants of all O'Neill programs, including 2023 National Puppetry Conference participants, guest artists, and faculty, must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with the latest available booster shot prior to arrival on campus. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our Company Management team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in applying for the 2023 Conference, we welcome you to review our general and strand-specific application guides for preview of the process:
Pre-Conference: $650 per strand, including room and board.
Main Conference: $1,250 per strand, including room and board.
Tuition is waived for the Emerging Artist strand.
Resident Company strand is $750.
Music Composition for Puppetry strand is $500.
Additional $50 Material Fee Required:
Everything You Wanted to Learn About Mechs and then Some! with Jim Kroupa (Pre Conference)
Puppets, Robots, and Hybrid Marionettes with Alice Gottschalk (Pre Conference)
Toy Theatre Workshop with Carlo Adinolfi (Pre Conference)
Marionette Construction with Kurt Hunter (Main Conference)
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, 2023. The O'Neill is unable to offer refunds requested after May 25, 2023.
Please note that only Main Conference participants are eligible for scholarships to help offset the cost of tuition. If you wish to be considered for a scholarship, you will be able to do so through the general application form for the National Puppetry Conference. Please read on for a full description of each scholarship:
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. All Main Conference participants are eligible.
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 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. All Main Conference participants are eligible.
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 email@example.com for more information.
The Art of Ensemble with Maija Garcia
In this three-day workshop, we will harness the power of physicality, the sensuality of sound to activate your artistic practice and strengthen your skills as a creative collaborator. We will engage in rituals that deepen your awareness and presence including movement, writing, improvisation, composition, character development and community interaction.
As an ensemble we will work together to interrogate actions and their qualities through story, song and movement. In our time together we will engage a three-dimensional approach to devising or developing new work as a company. We may experiment with objects, instruments and/or puppetry, so please bring anything from home that could inspire your creative process. Throughout our time together we will play, reflect and respond; using observation, positive affirmation and constructive criticism to develop the art of ensemble. In order to fully participate in this workshop you must be willing to embody a spirit of generosity and show up with a readiness to collaborate.
Everything You Wanted to Learn About Mechs and Then Some! 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!
Puppets, Robots, and Hybrid Marionettes with Alice Gottschalk
This workshop will explore simple robots with DC motors, servo motors, 3D Printing, and Arduino Programming in reference to puppetry. Participants will work with the principles of what brings life to a puppet— breathing, intention, direction, material, and object animation—and then apply those principles to simple robots. We will explore questions like, How can I program a servo motor so that its movement initiates convincing breathing? and beyond.
Toy Theatre Workshop with Carlo Adinolfi
Toy theatre has had a long and meandering history, from Victorian paper cutouts to Bread and Puppet’s agitprop to William Kentridge’s intricate art installations. It is a magical and wonderous art form, as one is able to enjoy all the magic of stagecraft without the financial stress. Toy Theatre Workshop participants will write, storyboard, design, create, and perform their own production, fitting it all inside a toy theatre. For the workshop, the toy theatre will be a black box (80” x 80” x 36”), with tracks for the puppets to move along and a grid for hanging scenery. Participants will delve into all the potential stagecraft inherent to toy theatre, trying many different construction materials, exploring how to animate their puppets, learning how to light toy theatre, and incorporating projections.
Writing for Puppets: A Workshop in Three Acts with Liz Hara
We’re going to run this workshop like a television writers room! Using three act structure, we will develop your ideas from concept to outline. We’ll learn story structure, character development, and why there’s no such thing as a good idea. We’ll also discuss the challenges and opportunities in writing for different styles of puppetry. Come prepared to write, collaborate, and eat snacks (the best part of any writers room).
Hand Job with Ronnie Burkett
In Hand Job, we are going to explore the hand ballet; storytelling through bare hands, gloved hands, hands with puppet heads. This is not about idle exercises in form. I’m not going to teach you to be a puppeteer, I expect you to be one already. We will be creating a new theatrical piece, for, with, and about the audience. Characters will interact in a constantly moving series of stories and vignettes with the spectators. We will extend our hands to the audience in silliness, eroticism, intimacy, kindness, sadness, and joy. I am looking for a band of individuals who are already committed to a career and a life in puppetry, with a focus on performers ready to expand their practice, enter the room with unabashed generosity and muscular play, and work as a company in the creation of a new work. We will work all day and night, side hustles are not encouraged in this strand. Tell me about your love of puppetry, your strengths as a performer, and why you need to come join hands with me.
Into the Shadow: Introduction to the Shadow and Shadow Theatre with Fabrizio Montecchi
“In the last thirty years, the shadow theatre has undergone a remarkable revolution in technique and in language. Some characteristics of this change were the use of pinpoint lamps, the manipulation of the light, the special handling of the screen, the different kinds of shadow puppets, and the projection behind and in front of the screens. For that, the traditional limited space of the shadows, which we can look upon as a system of closed techniques and relationships, has been replaced by an open space, rich and dynamic in possibilities and powers of articulation. In our opinion this new space for the shadows is at the heart of the contemporary shadow theatre.” Fabrizio Montecchi (Italy) offers a practical and theoretical journey in three parts to discover techniques and languages of the contemporary shadow theatre, a language deeply theatrical nature, intangible art with enormous expressive and communicative possibilities.
The first part stimulates a personal approach to the shadow. Essential to our perceptual dimension, omnipresent in our sensory experience, the shadow participates and accompanies us in our journey of discovery of the world. You cannot practice the shadow theatre if the shadow is not known.
The second part offers as complete a vision as possible of the various techniques codified in the shadow theatre. From the characteristics of the projective device, analyze the elements that compose it: light, screen, and body-object. The forms of construction and animation of the silhouettes are also proposed, with traditional and experimental techniques.
The third part will be divided into practical sessions. It will be dedicated to the creation, personal or collective, of small staging studios. That represents the first moment of search/research and exploration of shadow techniques, and, at the same time, the first occasion to face issues related to the planning and writing of a shadow show.
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 using wood, rigid foam, and paper mache. 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.
Miniature and Grandiose, Transient and Eternal: a visual adventure combining puppetry and architecture with Les Sages Fous
A note from South Miller: Welcome to the world of Les Sages Fous, a company that tames wild puppets and rehabilitates objects of bad life. Les Sages Fous proposes a visual theater where the gesture prevails over the word. South Miller and members of the company will present their singular vision of working with puppets; how to have a full body engagement as a puppeteer and interact in a world where puppets and humans co-exist. The Sages Fous will also share their secrets of fabrication: patents and wild models and the pleasure of unbridled creation. They will reveal the secrets of the trade: dramaturgy for unconventional spaces, transformation of the space, logistics of a show in the public space and more. In and around the teaching of puppet taming and puppet making, the company will also be experimenting with ideas around an exciting new in situ theatre piece. Participants will be able to participate in the experiments, and- or create their own work around the ideas being developed, guided by the members of the company.
The experimental project: Miniature and grandiose, Transient and Eternal:
Waking up the soul of an 18th century chapel and monastery on the St Laurence River through puppetry.
a visual adventure combining puppetry and architecture
This is a preparatory and experimental workshop for the opening performance of the soon to be” Fabrique de Théâtre Insolite” in June 2024. An exciting new venue dedicated to the creative process in puppetry curated by Les Sages Fous.
Les Sages Fous will be experimenting with:
The miniature and grandiose - ghosts and angels – light and shadows- monsters and marvels – music and silence
Experimenting in zones both somber and celebratory.
Using a magnificent miniature cardboard maquette of the building, as well as available windows and architectural elements on campus, the project is to play and experiment in miniature and grandiose: constructing objects as needed, found objects, simplicity, flashlights, cardboard and music. Trying to find that resonating point where one can make visual poetry with a building in order to hear the stones whispering in the wind.
Music Composition for Puppetry with Dr. 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.
Movement, Exploration, and Weather Systems with Ty Defoe
Together we will work to explore puppet narrative scenes connected to weather systems and how they create concert and chaos impacting the lives of creatures and plant species. Working with the ideas of two-legged, four-legged, wing’d, rooted, and finned; we will experiment and explore with what inspires us. We will use found objects and create ones developing micro-worlds as we work with each other in collaboration with the environment around us. Participants will asked to do movement. Please bring notebook, and fishing materials (line, D-rings, wood, sinew, a knife). Accessible to all ages and access needs.
Emerging Artist Strand with Nehprii Amenii and Richard Termine
The Emerging Artist strand identifies participants who are at a critical juncture in their careers as puppet artists; who are at 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. Emerging Artists are given the option of showing the results of their work during the public performances that conclude the Conference. Please note that only alumni of the National Puppetry Conference are eligible to apply.
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
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.
Pam Arciero, Artistic Director
Jean Marie Keevins, Associate Artistic Director
Carlo Adinolfi, Pre Conference Guest Artist
Nehprii Amenii, Associate Director of Emerging Artists/Participant Project Mentor
Jacob Brindamour, Main Conference Guest Artist
Tyler Bunch, Resident Company, Emerging Artist, and Participant Project Mentor
Ronnie Burkett, Main Conference Guest Artist
Ty Defoe, Main Conference Guest Artist
Marsian De Lellis, Advisor
Matt Dunphy, Music Assistant
Dr. Melissa Dunphy, Director of Musical Composition
Maija Garcia, Pre Conference Guest Artist
Alice Gottschalk, Pre Conference Guest Artist/Main Conference Movement Advisor
Liz Hara, Pre Conference Guest Artist
Kurt Hunter, Main Conference Guest Artist
Ulysses Jones, Shop Supervisor
Jim Kroupa, Pre Conference Guest Artist
Claude Lapointe, Counselor
South Miller, Main Conference Guest Artist
Fabrizio Montecchi, Main Conference Guest Artist
Bobbi Nidzgorski, Resident Company and Participant Project Mentor/Conference Co-Founder
Bart Roccoberton, Director of Production/Conference Co-Founder
Judy Rose, Tea Mistress
Madeline Sayet, Advisor
Jon Lachlan Stewart, Artist in Residence
Richard Termine, Director of Emerging Artists/Participant Project Mentor/Conference Co-Founder
Helena Tiren, Assistant to Mr. Montecchi
We’ve provided a list of frequently asked questions for your convenience. If your question isn’t answered here, please reach out to the literary office us at firstname.lastname@example.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?
If I've previously participated in a strand, am I eligible to apply for it again this year? (Or: Can I take "Mechs with Jim Kroupa" again?)
Absolutely. We're happy to confirm that there is no limit on the number of times you can participate in a strand. Please note, however, that you must reapply with a complete application each year.
Is there a fee to apply for the conference?
Yes. The administrative fee for the 2023 National Puppetry Conference is $25.00 USD.
You will be guided through the payment process step-by-step as you finalize your online application. We are glad to accept both debit and credit cards, but we are no longer able to accept checks by mail.
A limited number of fee waivers on a first-come, first-served basis. If you would like to request a fee wavier, please complete this short request form before you begin your application.
How do I apply for scholarships?
Scholarship application details are included on the general application form for the National Puppetry Conferece. Please note that only MAIN CONFERENCE participants are eligible for scholarships. If you are only attending the Pre Conference, you are ineligible for scholarships.
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. They will provide you with a parking pass upon arrival.
What have previous Conference participants gone on to achieve in the field?
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.
Puppetry has been woven into the very fabric of the O’Neill since its founding in 1964. The O’Neill's National Puppetry Conference was established in 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.
Please scroll down to the bottom of this page for a comprehensive timeline of puppetry at the O’Neill.
Funding for the National Puppetry Conference is provided by the Jane Henson Foundation.
a history of puppetry at the O'Neill
Timeline Photo Credits: Richard Termine, Jean Marie Keevins, Isaak Berliner, A. Vincent Scarano.