Classes in puppetry were first taught at UConn in 1964 by Professor Frank W. Ballard, who had joined the faculty of Theatre Department as a set designer and technical director eight years earlier. After three years, the demand for these courses had grown so drastically that the department had to limit enrollment in puppetry classes.
Professor Ballard’s first full-length puppet production, The Mikado (1968), was presented on the stage of the Harriet S. Jorgensen theatre as one of the department’s Mainstage productions. UConn soon became one of only two (soon to be three) universities in the country offering a BFA degree in puppet arts and the only institution in the country offering masters degrees (both MA and MFA) in the field.
Graduates of the puppetry program perform and design for many theatres around the world. They appear in, build for and manage internationally recognized television programs (such as Between the Lions) and films, write books, design toys, teach children, and direct prominent schools and museums.
In 1990, Bart. P. Roccoberton, Jr. succeeded Frank Ballard as Director of the Puppet Arts Program. In addition to the full-stage Puppet Productions that are mounted for the Department’s Connecticut Repertory Theatre, puppetry majors are encouraged to mount their own productions, which are presented at the university and toured to schools, museums and theatres. Nearly 500 student puppet productions have been presented since 1964.