Bart Roccoberton, Jr.
Professor, Puppet Arts
Director, Puppet Arts Program
Bart Roccoberton has been a professional Puppet Artist for nearly fifty years. He holds a B.A. in Speech and Technical Theatre from Montclair State College in New Jersey and an M.F.A. in Puppet Arts, which he earned at The University of Connecticut studying under Professors Frank Ballard and Albrecht Roser. Since 1975 he has toured popular puppet performances to schools, libraries, colleges, theaters and museums with his own troupe, The Pandemonium Puppet Company, and with the students of The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s Institute of Professional Puppetry Arts and The University of Connecticut’s Puppet Arts Program. He has created and performed characters for television programs, Broadway productions and special commissions; his workshops, which have been presented for elementary, secondary and college students and teachers are in demand across the United States and have been published in national magazines; exhibits he has mounted of his own work and the work of others have been presented in both extended and permanent runs; as Founder and Director of The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s Institute of Professional Puppetry Arts (1984-1990), he became recognized, internationally, as a leading advocate for the Puppet Arts in the U.S. He currently serves as Director of Production for the annual National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, which has just celebrated its 33rd Anniversary this year.
In September, 1990, Mr. Roccoberton succeeded Frank Ballard as Director of The University of Connecticut’s Puppet Arts Training Program, the only degree-granting program of its kind in the United States, offering B.F.A., M.A. and M.F.A degrees. With more than 120 alumni from Canada, China, Colombia, England, Germany, Hong Kong, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Puerto Rico, Romania, Taiwan, Turkey and across the U.S., Roccoberton has affected the expression of the Puppet Arts around the world. From 1992 – 1998 Bart Roccoberton served on the Board of Directors of UNIMA-U.S.A. (Union Internationale de la Marionnette). He has been sent as a U.S. delegate to the International Congresses of UNIMA in Llubljana, Slovenia, Budapest, Hungary, Magdaburg, Germany and Rijecka, Croatia where he was elected to the Executive Council of UNIMA-International in 2004.
In the summer of 1994, Mr. Roccoberton worked with Zhang ZeHua, one of China’s leading puppet artists, to produce a television program for China, which shows its audience true aspects of real American life through the vehicle of an adventure story based upon trust and friendship. In 1996 Mr. Roccoberton was sent by the U.S. Information Agency as an American Cultural Specialist to work with professional Chinese puppet companies in Beijing, Fujian, Yang Zhou, Guang Zhou and Xi’an. His on-going creative work in Asia has developed rich relationships with traditional and contemporary artists in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan through productions, master classes, academies, symposia, seminars, lectures and advisories. Through his efforts, China joined UNIMA-International in 2011 and hosted the International UNIMA Congress and Festival in Chengdu in 2014.
In 1998, Bart Roccoberton designed puppets and masks for The Last Enemy, a touring show produced by the Creative Arts Team (CAT) of New York University (NYU). The production dealt directly with terrorism, extremism, bus bombings and suicide missions in the Middle East. With a cast of Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian actors The Last Enemy was performed at the U.N. in New York and then successfully toured Israel, Jordan and Palestine two times. (King Hussein of Jordan sponsored the second tour.)
Mr. Roccoberton has directed and designed puppets and lights for Visual Expression’s touring shows, Reflections and Butterfly Dreams (which performed across the U.S., in France and in China). In the Spring of 2006 he directed a major full stage production of Stravinsky’s The Firebird with the National Symphony Orchestra and Oo Do Yo Oh Puppet Company in the National Theater of Taiwan. The show was presented to sold-out audiences in the National Theater in Taipei.
In August of 2015, Roccoberton served as Director of the National Puppetry Festival of the Puppeteers of America, which was held at the University of Connecticut. Collaborating with Dr. John Bell as Artistic Director and a hard-working team of UConn faculty, staff and students, nearly 700 professional artists from around the world and several thousand local audiences attended 165 individual events presented in 6 days.
Bart Roccoberton was honored with the University of Connecticut’s School of Fine Arts’ Lifetime Achievement Award in September of 2015.
2016 lead Professor Roccoberton to participate in professional panels in Charleville, France, Izmir, Turkey and 6 cities in Taiwan. He created a new performance for the Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s concert, Love Notes, and a special HSO fund raising event. Roccoberton also guided the UConn Puppet Arts students in the creation of six vignettes at the request of Maestro Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Symphony Orchestra. These were performed in Symphony Hall in Boston, along with the UConn production of Peter and the Wolf. The personal highlight of the concert event came when Roccoberton, using the newly fabricated puppet caricature of legendary Conductor Arthur Fiedler, designed by Roccoberton and Sarah Nolen, conducted the Pops in the performance of Stars and Stripes Forever.
In 2021, Bart Roccoberton was honored with the presentation of a Special Citation by UNIMA-U.S.A. and proclaimed him as “North America’s Chancellor of Puppetry Education and Training for the Twenty-First Century.”