2018 National Puppetry Conference

Pre-Conference Intensives June 6-8, 2018

Main Conference June 9-17, 2018


PLEASE NOTE: The below information is from the 2017 National Puppetry Conference, but can be used for reference. Stay tuned for information on the 2018 National Puppetry Conference, or join our email list for updates!

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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 7-9, 2017

writing_puppetry-1.JPGRonnie Burkett - Writing

Ronnie will act as a go-to sounding board for those working on full length puppet theatre productions. While there will be group sessions focusing on the general aspects of creating new work, the primary focus will be one-on-one mentoring with the individual participants, with insight on dramaturgy for text-based work, translating design into reality, the mysterious language of collaboration, finding performance vocabulary, and the role of puppeteer-as-actor through performance interpretation, plus advice and guidance on a lot of nuts and bolts practical issues. Participants will not be expected to produce a performance piece during the Conference. Focus will be on projects already underway and participants will be selected based upon submissions which should include preliminary script drafts, outlines or storyboards, set and character designs, research notes and source material. 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.



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! Also you will need to submit 3 possible storyboards to be considered.

WEBSIZESoft_Sculpture_Puppetsc_Isaak_Berliner.jpgLisa Lichtenfels - Using Soft Sculpted Puppets to Develop Characters

Developing believable characters is at the heart of an excellent puppet design and performance. In this class, students will explore the potentials of soft sculpture to create unique faces. Fiberfill will be sewn into features under skins of nylon to create character heads. These will be mounted to simple hand puppet bodies and embellished with facial color, hair, simple costume suggestions, and accessories. After the puppets are finished, students will take part in exercises designed to explore the potentials of their invented personas. Finally, small groups will be formed with the idea of having the characters interact to suggest story lines for short performances. These will be presented to the conference audience during "Show and Tell."


Hua Hua Zhang - Artist in Residence (note: this project is not accepting applications)

The purpose of developing this project is to examine the universal question: How can we find peace of mind in our ever-changing society? The project, White Nights, will develop as a series of dream-like vignettes created by puppet artist Hua Hua Zhang. White Nights is a blending of installation, puppetry, mask performance, and live music. Each vignette presents a complex, mysterious scene focusing on the self’s inquisitive interactions with the world. Hua Hua will push the limits of the ancient art of Chinese puppet theater by integrating cross-cultural aesthetics, adapted materials, installation, improvisation, and a mix of Eastern and Western sound.


Funding for the 2017 National Puppetry Conference provided by: 

Walt Disney Parks & Resorts (Creative Entertainment)  |  The Jane Henson Foundation



June 10-18, 2017


Text Creation and Interpretation - Ronnie Burkett

“Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I like to feel something when I go to a performance. I want to be stirred and moved and thrilled by people and puppets who can do that. That is why I feel that training in acting is essential for this funny field.” –George Latshaw

Ronnie Burkett will be concentrating on interpretation/acting of solo text created by each of the participants. This year, the focus will be solely on new writing and performance exercises created during the conference. Various writing and performance styles will be explored, using a variety of puppet types. Daily writing based upon assignments will be a large component of the work, although the main goal is always the playing of the text through the puppet.Participants will need to send a sample of their writing for the puppet stage, although work on current projects-in-progress will not be part of our exploration during this conference.  Instead, we will play and write and strenuously explore the possibilities of text for the puppet actor and how to give it our voice. Limited to 8 participants.


IMG_5721.JPGSigns of Life - Mervyn Millar

Participants will work together towards the development of a new puppet theater piece - using objects and puppets - exploring psychological and neurological phenomena relating to the perception of life and consciousness. The process will include some dramaturgical work, developing ideas into scenes, and working on the scenes with focus on manipulation, intention, and working together. The workshop may include improvisation with and without puppets, working from scraps of dramatic and non-dramatic texts, movement or sound.


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 cosmologists of our 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 potentially spend the week working in other material. This is not a workshop to make your current project better; rather, it is an effort to give you the skills that will help your story in the future. That said, there will be ample writing time and assignments that a writer with an existing project may find it a proper development opportunity. 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 in 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 Fred Thompson and 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 with Derron Wood

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 - Alice Gottschalk 

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.  


Marsian De Lellis- Artist in Residence (note: this project is not accepting applications)

Model Killer: Giant Crimes & Tiny Cover-Ups is a morbid comedy centered on a disgruntled dollhouse maker turned investigator. Vivian Nutt builds dioramas of unsolved murders, only to be discovered that she is in fact the killer who has committed these very crimes. In Model Killer, De Lellis is creating a universe in which we are invited to reconsider female serial killers, the historically feminine craft of miniatures, and murder as entertainment. How is our perception of gender colored through the lens of aggression? Can injecting the idealized settings of dollhouses with the macabre, expose the fraud of domestic tranquility? Are Vivian’s attempts to construct a world that fits her model of justice by eliminating problematic people out-of-scale with their transgressions? These are a few of the questions De Lellis will take a stab at.