The O’Neill is proud to announce the naming our new rehearsal facility, the
Jim & Jane Henson Rehearsal Hall, honoring a lifetime of commitment to the National Puppetry Conference and the advancement of puppetry around the world, and due to underwriting support from their daughters, O’Neill Trustee Heather Henson and her sister Cheryl Henson.
Henson Hall will serve as headquarters for the annual summer National Puppetry Conference beginning with its 25th Anniversary in 2015.  The new facility is part of a major campus expansion, including construction of seven new housing cottages and additional production and rehearsal space to further accommodate a new division of the National Theater Institute, the National Music Theater Institute (NMTI), which operates programs largely in the fall and spring.  

"Jane Henson loved and supported the O'Neill's National Puppetry Conference,” says Cheryl Henson, daughter of the Henson’s and President of The Jim Henson Foundation.  “As one of the founders of this innovative program in 1990, our mother returned to the O'Neill every June to enjoy the playful camaraderie of the creative process, encourage new artists and reconnect with established masters. In 2009, she participated as an artist-in-residence to develop her production of "The Nativity". As her birthday fell on June 16th, she always looked forward to spending her special day with puppeteers whose company she enjoyed.  

“My sister Heather and I are honored to dedicate this new rehearsal hall to our mother and father, Jim and Jane Henson, and to their love of the art of puppetry.  We look forward to seeing what wonderful productions will be created here."

O’Neill Center Executive Director Preston Whiteway added, “There is no finer name for the centerpiece building of our new expansion than that of ‘Henson.’ Jane, Jim, and their daughters Cheryl and Heather have supported the O’Neill’s mission of discovery and development for decades, since our earliest days as an organization. I’m delighted that new generations of puppeteers will create in this space, and that it allows for a broad expansion of our offerings – a new major new professional puppetry residency and year-round undergraduate musical theater training with our National Music Theater Institute. O’Neill artists in every discipline will be train in the Jim & Jane Henson Rehearsal Hall, and know of their commitment to our mission.

The spacious new rehearsal hall will also house the Jim Henson Foundation Puppetry Residency each January.  Residencies will last 2-4 weeks (full room and board), expanding and broadening the work of the National Puppetry Conference, and offering space and support to a deserving artist or project.

Together with Jane Henson, the National Puppetry Conference was established by key founding members George Latshaw, Richard Termine, Bobbie Nidzgorski, Bart P. Roccoberton Jr., and Jim and Margo Rose. The mission of the 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. 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.