Living Objects Festival & Symposium 

Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut will celebrate the rich world of African American puppetry in the United States with a four-day series of performances, presentations, discussions, film screenings, and workshops on Feb. 7 to 10, 2019 in Hartford and Storrs.

Activities for the Living Objects: African American Puppetry Festival and Symposium will take place in various venues on UConn’s Storrs campus Feb. 8 to 10, with related festival events with UConn Hartford at the Hartford Public Library on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, and at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019.

Attendees have two options to participate in Living Objects Festival and Symposium events:

  1. Living Objects performances in Storrs and Hartford are open to the public. Individual tickets can be purchased at
  2. To attend all Living Objects Festival and Symposium events, including performances, panel discussions, film screenings, and more, registration is required. Registration can be completed at

These events are part of the current Ballard Institute exhibition Living Objects: African American Puppetry, on display through April 7, 2019, which for the first time brings together historical and contemporary puppets, masks, and performing objects by African American artists and puppeteers. Many of the exhibition's contributors, as well as scholars from around the United States, will come together at the festival and symposium to celebrate the past, present, and future of African American puppetry.

Exhibition co-curator Paulette Richards, a teaching artist and Fulbright Scholar, writes that “since their arrival in the Americas, African people have animated objects in a rich variety of forms and contexts, animating objects to represent their experiences and identity.” The Living Objects: African American Puppetry Festival and Symposium will highlight such work by contemporary African American artists, while also contextualizing the evolution of African American object performance.

Artists and puppeteers performing in the festival and symposium include Tarish "Jeghetto" Pipkins, Megan Piphus, Nehprii Amenii, Schroeder Cherry, David Liebe Hart, Dirk Joseph, Pandora Gastelum, Brad Brewer, Gabrielle Civil, Bruce Cannon, Nate Puppets, Yolanda Sampson, Edna Bland, and Paulette Richards.


Public performances at UConn, to which individual tickets can be purchased, include:


Friday, February 8

8 – 9:30pm
Throwing Voice: African American Ventriloquism
UConn’s Doris & Simon Konover Auditorium

Performances by ventriloquists Megan Piphus, David Liebe Hart, and Nate Puppets. Recommended for ages 13 and above.Ticket Prices – Adults: $12; Members/Seniors: $10; Students: $8

Saturday, February 9

4 – 5:00pm
Harlem River Drive by Bruce Cannon

UConn's von der Mehden Recital Hall

Marionette performance for family audiences celebrating the history and diversity of the world’s most famous black community. Ticket Prices – Adults: $12; Members/Seniors: $10; Students: $8; Kids: $6 (12 years and under).

8:30 – 10:00pm
Double Selves: African American Puppets and Puppeteers
UConn's von der Mehden Recital Hall

Featuring A Conversation with Frederick Douglass by Tarish “Jeghetto” Pipkins, The City that Care Forgot by Pandora Gastelum of The Mudlark Puppeteers, Curled by Isaac Bloodworth, Lovely Day by Brad Brewer, and For the Love of Cats and Dogs by Dirk Joseph and String Theory Theater. Ticket Prices – Adults: $12; Members/Seniors: $10; Students: $8

Sunday, February 10

9:30 – 10:30am
Gospel Puppetry
UConn's von der Mehden Recital Hall

Featuring The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Edna Bland, and The Agape Love Train by Rev. Yolanda Sampson. Ticket Prices – Adults: $12; Members/Seniors: $10; Students: $8; Kids: $6 (12 years and under)



Hartford Events

The following Living Objects events in Hartford are free and open to the public. These events are not included in festival registration and transportation is not provided.


Thursday, February 7

4 – 5:30pm
Puppetry and African American History: Tarish Pipkins and Pandora Gastelum

Center for Contemporary Culture, Hartford Public Library

Tarish "Jeghetto" Pipkins performing A Conversation with Frederick Douglass; and Pandora Gastelum performing The City that Care Forgot. This free event is sponsored by UConn Hartford, Hartford Public Library, and Judith M. Zachs and the Zachs Family Foundation.

Saturday, February 9

10:00am – 1:00pm
Wadsworth Atheneum Second Saturdays for Families

Amistad Center for Art and Culture at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

Performances of How the Sun Came to the Sky by Schroeder Cherry; and Paulette Richards’ “STEAM through Puppetry” workshop, led by UConn Puppet Arts students. This event is sponsored by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and Amistad Center for Art and Culture.



Tickets for individual performances can be purchased in advance at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, by calling 860-486-8580, or online at A surcharge will be added to any purchases made online. Tickets may also be purchased on the day of performance at the venues listed starting an hour before showtime. There will be open seating and no reservations. For address and parking information for von der Mehden Recital Hall, visit  For address and parking information for the Doris & Simon Konover Auditorium, visit

Symposium Registration

Living Objects Festival and Symposium registrants may purchase one-day, three-day, or student passes to attend all festival and symposium events. Registration will include breakfast and lunch. Symposium events open to registrants only include the following sessions, which will be held at UConn’s Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, located at 1 Royce Circle in Downtown Storrs:

Conference Schedule

Download the Conference Schedule PDF


Friday, February 8

1:30 – 2:00pm
Keynote Address
with Living Objects co-curator Paulette Richards, introduced by John Bell (Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry)

2:15 – 3:45pm
Minstrel Performance and the History of the African American Puppet
Moderator: Bart. P. Roccoberton, Jr. (UConn Puppet Arts Program)

Amber West (UCLA): “Blackface Minstrelsy in American Puppetry”

Benjamin Fisler (Harford College): “Black and Blackface in the Performing Puppet: The Jubilee Singers, Ralph Chessé, and the Burdens of... Everything”

Paulette Richards: “It’s Not Easy Being Green”

3:45 – 4:15pm
Miss Lily's Living Objects Tour
With Schroeder Cherry

4:15 – 5:45pm

Puppetry and Community
Moderator: Michael Bradford (UConn Department of Dramatic Arts)

Yolanda Sampson (GO Y.O. Worldwide): “Power Puppets in Portable Pulpits: A Personal Account of Puppet Ministry in the African American Community”

Schroeder Cherry (Schroeder Cherry and His Puppets): “Playing with Puppets from Childhood to Adulthood”

Jonathan Walz (Columbus Museum): “The Marionette Show as a Correlating Activity in the Public Schools”

Lisa Sánchez González (UConn Department of English): “Pura Belpré's Puppetry at the NYPL Children's Rooms: 1921-1944”

Saturday, February 9

9:00 – 10:30am
Afro-Diasporic Storytelling and Culture
Izabela Brochado (Universidade de Brasília): “African Puppetry and Brazilian Mamulengo: Possible Links between Symbolic and Material Representations”

Nehprii Amenii (Khunum Productions): “African Spirituality, Puppetry, and Cultural Erasure”

Susan Fulcher (Matteson Area Public Library District): “Storytelling and Puppetry”


10:45am – 12:15pm
The Means of Production (film screening and discussion)
Featuring films by Tau Bennett, Pierre Bennu, Raymond Carr, Jayden Libran, Paulette Richards, and more


2:00 – 3:30pm
Representations and Appropriations of Blackness
Moderator: Michael Bradford (UConn Department of Drama)

Brad Brewer (The Brewery Troupe): “Creating a Puppet Production for the Smithsonian Institution”

Tarish Pipkins (Jeghetto’s Entertainment)

Valeska Populoh (Maryland Institute College of Art)

Nehprii Amenii (Khunum Productions)

5:30 – 6:30pm
Black::Body::Gesture: From Puppetry to Performance & Design
Dialogue with Gabrielle Civil (CalArts) and Kelly Walters (Parsons School of Design, The New School)

Sunday, February 10

11:00 – 12:30pm
Closing Session: Next Steps 
Moderator: Paulette Richards (Living Objects co-curator)

Panelist: Ra Malika Imhotep (UCLA): “Tar Baby: The Performance of Object”

Discussant: Valeska Populoh (MICA)



To register for a one-day or three-day pass to the festival and symposium, visit To read more about the Living Objects exhibition and festival, visit

Living Objects: African American Puppetry Festival and Symposium sponsors include: Judith M. Zachs and the Zachs Family Foundation, UConn School of Fine Arts, University of Connecticut Humanities Institute, UConn Africana Studies Institute, the H. Fred Simons African American Cultural Center of the University of Connecticut, UConn Hartford, Hartford Public Library, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, the Amistad Center for Art and Culture, and Maryland Institute College of Art.

For more information or if you require an accommodation to participate in this event, please contact Ballard Institute staff at 860.486.8580 or