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Faculty

Bart Roccoberton Jr.

Bart RoccobertonDirector of the Puppet Arts Program, Bart is recognized worldwide as a leading advocate for Puppet Arts in the United States and abroad. Inspired by his knowledge and enthusiasm, UConn’s Puppet Arts alumni have worked on Broadway shows, including The Lion KingLittle Shop of Horrors, and Avenue Q; in major motion film, including Spiderman 2; and on PBS’s Between the Lions and Sesame Street, as well as forming their own touring companies. Says Bart:

“In our program, we open our students’ eyes and ears to the myriad of possibilities. Nothing is impossible. In fact, our graduates are renowned around the world for being exceptionally well qualified to do any type of work in puppetry – one of the key reasons so many of our students have gotten puppeteer positions in major motion films and Broadway productions.”

Email: BP.Roccoberton@UConn.edu

Dr. John Bell

John BellOne of the preeminent historians and theorists of Puppet Theater in the U.S., Dr. Bell is the Director of the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry and an Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts at UConn. He is a founding member of the Great Small Works Theater Collective; was a member of the Bread and Puppet Theater Company from 1976 to 1986; and received his doctoral degree in theater history from Columbia University in 1993. He is the author and editor of many books and articles about puppet theater, including American Puppet Modernism, Strings, Hands, Shadows: A Modern Puppet History and The Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance. Says Dr. Bell:

“One of the basic challenges we face is how to communicate, not with our faces, but with our hands. In both the hand puppet and shadow puppet courses, you’ll learn types of manipulation that help you develop hand dexterity. We teach students how to figure out the different positions and movements of the hand to enable the puppet to communicate thoughts and feelings. And we always look at traditional forms of puppetry from other countries to help students understand what makes a good performance, what kinds of stories can be told, and what contexts are useful for them to take advantage of in their own performances.”

Email: john.bell@uconn.edu

Paul Spirito

Puppet Arts Graduate Certificate Faculty: Paul SpiritoUConn’s Puppet Arts Program’s Technical Supervisor, Paul guides students through the process of designing, creating, and performing puppets for their projects and for the Connecticut Repertory Theater. His profound love of machines and the parts that make them go, along with his obsession with the people of the industrial age, are the driving forces behind much of his work.  Paul’s goal is to push puppetry forward by infusing traditional forms and techniques with 21st century materials and processes. Says Paul:

“Most of our online students can’t interrupt their lives for two years to come to campus to study puppetry. The online graduate certificate program offers the perfect solution. You can try out one course or take the entire four-course program. Plus credits are directly transferrable to the MA or MFA in Puppet Arts at UConn. Some students use the program as a stepping stone to getting a Master’s degree. Whether you choose the traditional route or go online, you’ll get the benefit of our program’s 50 years of teaching puppetry, along with all the resources and networking opportunities that a large university like ours provides.” 

Email: paul.spirito@uconn.edu

Penny Benson

Puppet Arts Online Certificate: Instructor Penny BensonAdjunct faculty member in UConn’s School of Fine Arts, Dramatic Arts Department, Penny is a visual and performing artist, puppeteer, actor, and teacher with more than 150 professional credits over the past 15 years. She and her work have toured nationally and internationally, including Canada, Italy, and China. Says Penny:

“Using VoiceThread is great. I can stop a video, actually draw on it and make specific comments, for example, ‘The puppet’s steps feel tentative, maybe his stride should be a larger arc like this to project an air of confidence.’ Providing this kind of critique is even better than face-to-face because the student can actually watch his or her own performance, while we freeze frames and discuss exactly what they might do differently.”

Email: Penny.Benson@UConn.edu
Website: http://www.pennybenson.com

Fergus J Walsh

Puppet Arts Online Graduate Certificate Faculty: Fergus Walsh

Adjunct faculty member in UConn’s School of Fine Arts, Dramatic Arts Department, Fergus is a puppeteer currently working in New York City. In 2014 he co-founded Acheson Walsh Studios (AWS), a kinetic creation studio providing design, fabrication, direction, and performance services. Recent clients include Cirque Du Soleil (Toruk), Lincoln Center (The King and I), Radio City Music Hall (The New York Spectacular), and The Lyric Theater on Broadway (On The Town). Says Fergus:

“The entire film industry is going back to the original ways of using actual puppets instead of computer animated graphics. Puppets are far more realistic – the human eye can spot if something is fake. No matter how advanced computer generation is, it will never live up to the actual physical thing of being there.”

Email: Fergus.Walsh@UConn.edu
Website: http://www.fergusjwalsh.com