Bart Roccoberton & Irina Niculescu In Conversation

Master puppet artists, directors and educators Bart Roccoberton and Irina Niculescu discuss their unique approaches to education in puppetry and theater. This very special evening closed with a brief Q&A.

This event is presented as part of our “Puppet Tuesday” series.


Our Pay What You Can format for our “Puppet Tuesdays” Series makes it possible for everyone to attend. Please pay as much as you can so that others who cannot will still be able to participate.

Thank you.


Bart Roccoberton

Professor and Artist, Puppet Arts

Bart Roccoberton has been a professional Puppet Artist for nearly fifty years. He holds a B.A. in Speech and Technical Theatre from Montclair State College in New Jersey and an M.F.A. in Puppet Arts, which he earned at The University of Connecticut studying under Professors Frank Ballard and Albrecht Roser. Since 1975 he has toured popular puppet performances to schools, libraries, colleges, theaters and museums with his own troupe, The Pandemonium Puppet Company, and with the students of The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s Institute of Professional Puppetry Arts and The University of Connecticut’s Puppet Arts Program. He has created and performed characters for television programs, Broadway productions and special commissions; his workshops, which have been presented for elementary, secondary and college students and teachers are in demand across the United States and have been published in national magazines; exhibits he has mounted of his own work and the work of others have been presented in both extended and permanent runs; as Founder and Director of The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s Institute of Professional Puppetry Arts (1984-1990), he became recognized, internationally, as a leading advocate for the Puppet Arts in the U.S. He currently serves as Director of Production for the annual National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, celebrating its 31st Anniversary this year.

In September, 1990, Mr. Roccoberton succeeded Frank Ballard as Director of The University of Connecticut’s Puppet Arts Training Program, the only degree-granting program of its kind in the United States, offering B.F.A., M.A. and M.F.A degrees. With more than 120 alumni from Canada, China, Colombia, England, Germany, Hong Kong, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Puerto Rico, Romania, Taiwan, Turkey and across the U.S., Roccoberton has affected the expression of the Puppet Arts around the world. From 1992 – 1998 Bart Roccoberton served on the Board of Directors of UNIMA-U.S.A. (Union Internationale de la Marionnette). He has been sent as a U.S. delegate to the International Congresses of UNIMA in Llubljana, Slovenia, Budapest, Hungary, Magdaburg, Germany and Rijecka, Croatia where he was elected to the Executive Council of UNIMA-International in 2004.

In the summer of 1994, Mr. Roccoberton worked with Zhang ZeHua, one of China’s leading puppet artists, to produce a television program for China, which shows its audience true aspects of real American life through the vehicle of an adventure story based upon trust and friendship. In 1996 Mr. Roccoberton was sent by the U.S. Information Agency as an American Cultural Specialist to work with professional Chinese puppet companies in Beijing, Fujian, Yang Zhou, Guang Zhou and Xi’an. His on-going creative work in Asia has developed rich relationships with traditional and contemporary artists in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan through productions, master classes, academies, symposia, seminars, lectures and advisories. 

In 1998, Bart Roccoberton designed puppets and masks for The Last Enemy, a touring show produced by the Creative Arts Team (CAT) of New York University (NYU). The production dealt directly with terrorism, extremism, bus bombings and suicide missions in the Middle East. With a cast of Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian actors The Last Enemy was performed at the U.N. in New York and then successfully toured Israel, Jordan and Palestine two times. (King Hussein of Jordan sponsored the second tour.)

Mr. Roccoberton has directed and designed puppets and lights for Visual Expression’s touring shows, Reflections and Butterfly Dreams (which performed across the U.S., in France and in China). In the Spring of 2006 he directed a major full stage production of Stravinsky’s The Firebird with the National Symphony Orchestra and Oo Do Yo Oh Puppet Company in the National Theater of Taiwan. The show was presented to sold-out audiences in the National Theater in Taipei.

In August of 2015, Roccoberton served as Director of the National Puppetry Festival of the Puppeteers of America, which was held at the University of Connecticut. Collaborating with Dr. John Bell as Artistic Director and a hard-working team of UConn faculty, staff and students, nearly 700 professional artists from around the world and several thousand local audiences attended 165 individual events presented in 6 days.

Bart Roccoberton was honored with the University of Connecticut’s School of Fine Arts’ Lifetime Achievement Award in September of 2015.

2016 has lead Professor Roccoberton to participate in professional panels in Charleville, France, Izmir, Turkey and 6 cities in Taiwan. He created a new performance for the Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s concert, Love Notes, and a special HSO fund raising event. Roccoberton also guided the UConn Puppet Arts students in the creation of six vignettes at the request of Maestro Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Symphony Orchestra. These were performed in Symphony Hall in Boston, along with the UConn production of Peter and the Wolf. The personal highlight of the concert event came when Roccoberton, using the newly fabricated puppet caricature of legendary Conductor Arthur Fiedler, designed by Roccoberton and Sarah Nolen, conducted the Pops in the performance of Stars and Stripes Forever.

Irina Niculescu

Theatre director, producer, teacher 

Irina is a theatre director recognized internationally for her productions combining: actors, puppets, dancers, singers, and live orchestra, and creating new forms of dramaturgy. Captivated by the capacity of the puppet to transmit emotions she has explored the relation between the actor and the puppet. She created shows in Romania, U.S.A., Belgium, Switzerland, Norway, Poland, Canada, Taiwan. She conceived and implemented a three-year training program in the arts of puppetry in Riksteatret, Norway, forming a new generation of puppetry performers and directors (between 1986-89).

Niculescu was guest assistant professor in theatre directing at Institutul de Artă Teatrală şi Cinematografică Ion Luca Caragiale (today U.N.A.T.C.) Bucharest from 1980 to 1984. She also taught directing and puppetry performance at the Instituto de Teatro in Seville, Spain, 1985, 1986 and 1988; the O’Neill Theatre Centre, USA, 1986-1987; Riksteatret, 1987-2000, École Nationale Supérieure des Arts de la Marionnette, Charleville-Mézières, France, 2001, University of Quebec in Montreal, 2008-2014 as well as well as in Norway, Argentina, Taiwan, India, and in universities and schools across the USA.

She designed, and piloted a 3-year cultural exchange and coproduction between Switzerland and Romania funded by the Swiss Department of State, 1994-97.

As Associate Director with Madcap Productions, 2007-2013 Cincinnati, created the chamber operas: Master Peter’s Puppet show by Manuel De Falla and Amahl and the Night Visitors, by Gian-Carlo Menotti, in co-productions with the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra and the play “The Dragon” an adaptation after Evgeni Schwarz, with Madcap Puppet Theatre and The Know Theatre (2011). 

Irina Niculescu has been a member of the UNIMA Commission for Professional Training from 2010 to the present and she served as Vice-President of UNIMA-USA. 

In 2015, on behalf of UNIMA International she conceived and organized the First International Meeting on Training in the Arts of Puppetry in Charleville-Mezieres, France, with the participation of master artists, researchers, school directors and pedagogues, and students from 25 countries. 

In 2017, she contributed to the conception and organization of the Second International Meeting on Training in the Arts of Puppetry in, Romania, and acted as the Artistic Co-director of the Puppeteers of America National Festival in Minneapolis. 

She worked on the concept and program of the 3rd International Meeting on Training in the Arts of Puppetry, which took place in Florianopolis, Brazil in 2019, hosted by the University of the State of Santa Catarina.

Her latest productions and teaching took her to India, and Canada. At present she prepares two productions for Romania.

List of places: 

United States (Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Detroit, University of New Mexico Albuquerque, University of Stamford CONN, University of Michigan Ann Arbor (International Center for World Performance Studies), Eastern Michigan University, Xavier University, Madcap Cincinnati, Madcap Puppet Theatre Cincinnati

Romania (Bucharest, Academy of Theatre and Cinema, and other professional structures), Canada (Toronto and Montreal), France (Ecole Supérieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionnette, Charleville-Mézières 

Her artistic work is mentioned in the World Encyclopaedia of Puppetry Arts, published in 2002 and updated 2016.

CARTE BLANCHE MARIONETTES, Compagnie Irina NiculescuIn 2001, Irina Niculescu created the non-profit organization CARTE BLANCHE MARIONNETTES – COMPANIE IRINA NICULESCU. The goals of the company are to promote theatre with masks, puppets and video generated images, to explore new forms of theatre and to promote professional training for theatre artists. “The Foal” is the company’s first production. The show was performed in Geneva, Lausanne, and toured in Switzerland. In September 2003 « The Foal « participated in The World Festival of Puppet Theatres in Charleville-Mézières, France. Following its success in Charleville-Mézières, « The Foal » was invited to perform in September 2004 at the International Festival of Jonquière Saguenay, Quebec.

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare today.”

~malcom x

Not quite what you’re looking for? As we continue to book additional workshops, I’d love to know what you’re curious about. What would you like to learn? The sky’s the limit! Drop me a line!

%d bloggers like this: