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UConn Hosts National Puppetry Festival

Peter Morenus

More than 500 puppeteers are at the University of Connecticut in Storrs this week for the National Puppetry Festival.

Amy Rush attended the festival to show off her new project. It’s called "Depict­-O-Mat."

“It’s in the form of a photo­ booth, an old­ school photo booth,” she said.

A person can walk up and sit down in it, just like a real photo booth.

“You go inside, it asks you about yourself, and then develops your story,” she said.

A person leaves the booth, and joins a crowd of about twenty people to watch the show play out on a puppet stage. It’s a hole cut into the front of the photo booth.

“A little red curtain opens, and then this whole little world opens up that stars you. There’s a puppet with your face on it," Rush said. "We took your photo inside the photo booth."

Rush got her training in puppetry at UConn more than 10 years ago. She said when she’s trying to sell Depict­-O-Mat at events, like conventions or corporate retreats, she calls it theatre, not puppetry.

“If I tell people this is a puppet project, people out in the world, the people I want to pay me a lot of money, they will think it’s for the kids, and they won’t give me a lot of money,” she said.

Bart Roccoberton is the director of UConn’s Puppet Arts program. He says he wants to get rid of the stigma that puppetry is for kids.

“I believe puppetry has been part of civilization since the very beginning. I believe it’s been used as both our gods and our demons. So what is puppetry? Who hasn’t sat in front of a campfire and seen their shadows cast on the wall and started doing hand shadows on the wall? That’s puppetry,” he said.

UConn is the only school in the U.S. that offers Master’s Degrees in puppetry. This year is the 50th anniversary of that program.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.