National Puppetry Conference

The National Puppetry Conference provides a meeting and creating ground for master artisans to pass their craft and ingenuity to new artists in the field of puppetry. Each June, participants gather from across the globe to create works that defy the bounds of contemporary theater and the imagination.

The 2021 National Puppetry Conference will occur online June 6 – 11, 2021.

Overview

The mission of the National Puppetry Conference is to encourage puppet artists to create and communicate through the visual and kinetic form of the puppet, to push beyond their personal boundaries, and develop new works for puppet theater. Participants collaborate with renowned guest directors, puppet artists, and playwrights to develop innovative productions conceived by guest artists, as well as presentations initiated by the Conference participants.
Past conference participants have gone on to work in such venues as HERE Arts Center, Dixon Place, La MaMa, Redmoon, The Puppet Showplace, The Sandglass Theatre, Trouble Puppet, The Center for Puppetry Arts, Zeum, Automata Theater. Their work has also been seen in commercials; in films such as Being John Malkovich, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and The Muppets; and on television, including Sesame Street, Between the Lions, Saturday Night Live, and Bear in the Big Blue House. On the global stage, our puppeteers have gone on to produce and perform in shows in Afghanistan, Iran, Australia, Scotland, India, Uganda, and China.
The O’Neill’s National Puppetry Conference was established by key founding members Jane Henson, George Latshaw, Richard Termine, Bobbi Nidzgorski, Bart P. Roccoberton Jr., and Jim and Margo Rose and is dedicated to the legacies of Bill Baird, Jim Henson, Rufus and Margo Rose, Don Sahlin, Martin Stevens, Burr Tillstrom, Brad Williams, Nikki Tilroe, and George Latshaw in the spirit with which they shared their artistry and themselves.
Artistic Director
Pam Arciero is a principal puppeteer with Sesame Street, performing numerous characters, most notably Grundgetta Grouch. She has worked on many adult and children’s programs including Between the Lions, Blue’s Clues Blue’s Room, Chappell’s Show, Allegra’s Window, The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss, TV Funhouse, Oobi, Eureeka’s Castle and The Great Space Coaster. She has performed in many commercials and films, including Zappos, Fuze, Angel Soft, Sundance Myths, Sundance Film Festival; Extreme Measures, Little Monsters, and Follow That Bird.
As a stage director, she directed Iftah Ya Simsim-Sesame Street Saudi Arabia, Sesame Live Shows for Sesame Place, Beaches Turks and Caicos, Beaches Jamaica, Port Adventura, Barcelona, Spain; Sea World Orlando; Play with Me Sesame Live, US tours; and Disney’s Wahoo Wagon at the El Capitan Theater in Los Angeles. Pam directed the film Whiskey Neat, and she has also directed Between the Lions and Oobi for television.
Pam is the Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Jim Henson Foundation. She has taught for the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, the University of Hawaii, Sesame Street International; South Africa; remotely for Afghanistan and Bangladesh, Taipei National University of the Arts, the University of Connecticut, and California State University, Fresno. Pam holds a BA in Dance and Drama from the University of Hawaii and a MA in Puppetry from the University of Connecticut.
Scholarships
All gifts toward puppetry scholarships are appreciated and go directly to support the next generation of puppetry artists. Click below to make a donation, or contact development@theoneill.org for more information.
The application for scholarships is included within the application for conference attendance. If necessary, we highly encourage all applicants to apply for a scholarship. Most applicants will receive some form of scholarship assistance.
Jim Rose Memorial Scholarship
This scholarship honors Jim Rose, one of the great marionette masters, beloved Conference mentor, and son of Margo & Rufus Rose. This scholarship is awarded to puppeteers who have a special interest in marionette construction and manipulation. > Give Now
Allelu Kurten Generous Spirit Scholarship
Please help us honor the memory of the one and only Allelu Kurten with a donation to the “Generous Spirit Scholarship” that has been created in her memory. > Give Now
Lisa Simon Scholarship
On April 4, 2015, we lost a dear friend in Lisa Simon, longtime producer and director on Sesame Street, on her 64th birthday. Winner of 20 Emmys over a career spanning four decades, Lisa started with a summer job as a file clerk and a caretaker for children who appeared on the show during the early days and rose to supervising producer/director of “Sesame Street”. She directed shows for “Between the Lions”, “Oobi” and many humanitarian outreach projects. The Lisa Simon scholarship is awarded to a female director whose work is currently or is growing in the puppet arts. > Give Now
Jerry Nelson Scholarship
This scholarship honors one of the great character puppeteers, Jerry Nelson, and is awarded to puppeteers who have a special interest in character and vocal development of puppet performances. > Give Now
Alumni Grants
Alumni Grants are awarded to returning participants who display a desire to retool their thinking about their work in the art of puppetry. These artists display a strong desire to learn new skills or challenge themselves in unconventional ways thus bringing a newly invigorated desire for growth to the conference and to themselves. The Alumni Grants began through the efforts of alumna Honey Goodenough, the Conference indebted to this ardent artist and all who helped her to support this grassroots effort. > Give Now
Connecticut Guild of Puppetry Scholarship in honor of Margo Rose
Given by the Connecticut Guild of Puppetry. Margo Rose was one of American Puppetry’s pioneers, with over 60 years of contributions to the field. In 1931, Margo, with her husband Rufus, started the Rufus Rose Marionettes. They were founding members of the Puppeteers of America and organized the first festival in 1937. Rufus and Margo are perhaps best known for giving life to the marionettes of the popular television program Howdy Doody. The couple went on to win a Peabody Award for the best children’s program for their series The Blue Fairy. In addition, Margo was a founding member of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in 1964 and one of the founders of the National Puppetry Conference at the O’Neill in 1991. > Give Now
Ralph E. Cheese Minority Scholarship
The Ralph E. Cheese Minority Scholarship is intended to build and promote the community of minority puppeteers in this country. Past recipients have gone on to join the casts of many well known television and Broadway shows as well as create and perform their own small works of puppet theater. All are encouraged to apply with passion. > Give Now
Frequently Asked Questions
We assembled a list of frequently asked questions for your convenience, but should you prefer to ask your questions directly to a member of our literary staff, you are more than welcome. The O’Neill’s Literary Office can be reached at litoffice@theoneill.org or 860.443.5378 x227.

If I’ve been to the National Puppetry Conference before, do I have to apply again?

Yes. A completed online universal application is always required.
What is the application fee to apply for the conference?
$35.00 USD
How do I pay the application fee?
If you are using our online form to submit your script, you will be guided through the payment process step-by-step as you finalize your application. We are glad to accept both debit and credit cards.
There are a limited number of fee waivers on a first-come, first-served basis. If you would like to request a fee wavier, please reach out directly to us at litoffice@theoneill.org before you begin your online application.
Apply
Applications for the 2021 National Puppetry Conference are open February 12 – March 4, 2021.
If you are interested in applying for 2021, please review the preplist that corresponds to strands of your interest for a general idea of the application process. Please note that only complete applications will be considered for acceptance.
Tuition & Refund Policy
The base cost of tuition for all strands is $450 USD.
The Marionette Construction strands has an additional materials fee of $100.00 USD*.
The Manual Cinema strand has an additional materials fee of $100.00 USD*.
*This fee includes the cost of prepared materials and shipping fees within the United States. If shipping is required outside of the United States, participants may incur additional fees.
Included in all tuition fees: classes within your chosen strand, a daily movement warm-up, access to five master classes, chats with guests artists, as well as the opportunity to view and participate in Puppets in the Pub presented by Blue Gene’s Pub.
Should you not be able to attend the Conference, the O’Neill will refund half of your total paid cost, minus any non-refundable deposits if the request is made prior to May 31, 2021. The O’Neill is unable to offer refunds requested after June 1, 2021.
Daily Schedule
The National Puppetry Conference thrives with a rigorous and varied schedule. Below is an example of a potential daily schedule, all strand sessions, mentor check-ins, master classes, and pub events will take place on Zoom between 11am – 10pm EST. Zoom links and further class information will be communicated to you in advance of the Conference.
Note: All times listed below are in Eastern Standard Time:
11am-12pm – Movement Warm-Up
12pm-1pm – Strand Class Session #1
1pm-2pm – Lunch (on own)
2pm-3pm – Master Class
3pm-4pm – Strand Class Session #2
4pm-5pm – Optional Guest Artist Conversations
5pm-6pm – Strand Class Session #3
6pm-7pm – Dinner (on own)
7pm-9pm – Strand Class Session #4
9pm-10pm – Puppets in the Pub presented by Blue Gene’s Pub