In 1956, Frank W. Ballard was appointed to the faculty of, what was then, the Department of Speech and
Drama. He was hired as the Set Designer and Technical Director of the new Harriet S. Jorgensen Theater.
At that time, there were five professors in the Department.
In 1962 the Drama, Art and Music Departments merged to form the School of Fine Arts. With the creation
of a graduate program in Drama, Professor Ballard added Puppetry to The University of Connecticut’s
Classes in Puppetry were first taught in 1964. The popularity of these classes necessitated the addition
of extra class sections. After three years, the department had to limit the class enrollment because of
inadequate classroom facilities and the inability of one professor to oversee so many students.
The Mikado (1968) was the first full-length puppet production to be presented in Jorgensen Theatre as
part of the Department of Dramatic Arts’ season. With the intention of introducing the audience to the
scope of Puppetry, all types of puppets were utilized.
The University of Connecticut offers a B.F.A. degree in Puppetry at the undergraduate level and M.A. and
M.F.A. degrees in Puppetry at the graduate level. It is the only university in the United States that offers
three different degrees in the art of Puppetry. It is one of only two schools in the U.S. that offers any
degree in the form.
There are several dozen other schools, worldwide, that offer formal training in the Puppet Arts.
However, The University of Connecticut is among only a few that offer accredited academic degrees upon
successful completion of its program.
Enrollment in the Puppet Arts classes and participation in the productions are open to any qualified
student in the university.
Graduates of the program perform and design for theatres around the world; appear in, build for and
manage internationally recognized television programs and films; write books; design toys; teach
children; and direct prominent schools and museums.
The University of Connecticut’s Puppet Arts Program, it’s faculty and students have received numerous
honors and awards, including six UNIMA-U.S.A. Citations for Excellence.
In the Fall of 1990, Bart. P. Roccoberton, Jr. succeeded Frank Ballard as Director of the Puppet Arts
Program. Professor Roccoberton, a graduate of The University of Connecticut’s M.F.A. program, is also
Artistic Director of The Pandemonium Puppet Company, and Founder and former Director of The Institute
of Professional Puppetry Arts at The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. As Director of Production for the
National Puppetry Conference he involves students of the program as production assistants and
participants in close relationship with some of the world’s leading artists in the Puppet Arts.
The courses and projects of the Puppet Arts Program are designed to inform the students with the
history and theories of Puppetry, to give them practice in multiple performance expressions and to give
them experience with a variety of tools and materials. In the course of their studies they can practice
performance techniques in String Puppetry, Mask Theatre, Shadow Theatre, Hand Pantomime, Glove
Puppetry, Moving Mouth Puppetry, Chinese Rod Puppetry, European Rod Puppetry, UV Theatre, Black
Theatre, Television Puppetry, Stop Action Animation and Puppet Films. They develop design skills in
drawing and painting and learn how to realize their designs via mechanical projections, patterning,
sculpting, carving, cutting, mechanics, mold-making, casting, fabric manipulation, costuming and
painting. Class projects and productions require the students to become proficient with computers, sewing
machines, band saws, sanders, drill presses, the lathe, common hand tools, chisels, knives and rasps. The
realization of the puppet figures offers experience with oil base clay, water base clay, ultracal, neoprene,
latex, foam latex, silicone, rubber, poly foam, reticulated foam, ethafoam, L-200 foam, H-Form,
varaform, buckram, woods, metals, plastics, papers, putties, glues, adhesives, paints and fabrics of all
The Jim Henson Memorial Guest Artist Fund established by Jane Henson brings in a variety of guest
artists each year. In the 2008-2009 school year there will be classes and lectures by professionals in
Storyboarding, Film Art Direction, Stop Action Animation, Biomechanics, Television Puppet Construction,
Career Counseling and a number of Guest Artist visits related to Career Shaping. Past Guest Artist
residencies have focused on Commedia del’Arte, Found Object Theatre, Taiwanese Hand Puppet
Performance, Chinese Rod Puppet Performance, Table Top Rod Puppetry, Music Composition, Finalcut
Pro, Script Writing and Character Development.
In addition to the full-stage Puppet Productions which are mounted for the Department’s Connecticut
Repertory Theatre, majors are encouraged to mount their own productions, which are presented at the
university and toured to schools, museums and theaters. One such student-originated production, A Show
of Hands, received an invitation and was performed at the National Festival of The Puppeteers of America.
This same production was later invited to perform at the International Festival of UNIMA (Union
Internationale de la Marionnette) in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Collaborative productions have been mounted with The Hartford Stage Company, The Eugene O’Neill
Theater Center, The Hartford Symphony and the University of Connecticut Opera Program.
Nearly 500 student puppet productions have been presented since 1964.
Video projects include PSA’s and informational videos for the Lyme Foundation, performed with Emilio
Delgado (“Luis” on Sesame Street), which are receiving national distribution and broadcast; a pilot for
PBS, What If I’m Home Alone???, which deals with safety issues for “Latchkey” children; a production of
Peter & the Wolf, with the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra; and an introductory segment to
Rabbit Ears Productions’ Pinocchio, narrated by Danny Aiello.
Adjoined to the Puppet Arts Program is the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, which provides
the students with access to a collection of more than 2000 historic and contemporary performance figures
from many different cultures.
The book, video, audio and document libraries of the Puppet Arts Program and the Ballard Institute and
Museum of Puppetry, provide excellent research possibilities.