Building Community with Puppets with Sara Peattie

Ballad Institute and Museum of Puppetry hosts seminar Thursday, September 21. Guest speaker Sara Peattie discusses building community through puppetry. (Natalija Marosz /The Daily Campus)

Boston puppeteer Sara Peattie, co-founder of “The Puppeteers Cooperative,” came to talk about her work to a modest yet enthusiastic crowd last night in the renowned Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry. This wasn’t Peattie’s first involvement with the Ballard, however. Earlier this month, she hosted a two-day free puppet-building workshop for the Celebrate Mansfield Parade in downtown Storrs. Last night, she completed her Storrs “trifecta” with a discussion at the Ballard. Peattie spoke for just over an hour about her work around the country and using her skill as a puppeteer to strengthen communities. The event was live-streamed on the Ballard’s Facebook page.

Peattie focused her hour-long talk on various pageants she put together over the years, including her work on the “Out-of-Doors Festival” at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City. There are videos of The Puppeteers Cooperative’s performances at the festival on their website, the oldest one available from 2002. In the video, it’s amazing to see how entranced the audience was at the actors and actresses within the puppets. Peattie made note of that in her talk, saying that “the barrier between fantasy and reality in most people is so thin.” In addition to the Out-of-Doors festival, she also talked of her work for Fight Night in Boston, held on the “first night” of every year.

She also remarked on the paradoxical nature of puppeteers, toeing the line between introversion and extroversion. “They hide behind the curtain yet they want to be seen,” Peattie noted. Many of the puppets the Cooperative has forged over the 41 years it has existed are available to be lent to the general public, stored in the Emmanuel Church in Boston.

Puppeteering is such a community-based platform, and it can be hard to find funds to put together intricate shows from time to time. When asked if she had a budget as large as necessary and an infinite timeframe, what her dream pageant location and topic would be, Peattie responded that she would love to put up shows in small towns around the world, and that an “infinite budget” can be a double-edged sword in puppetry. She remarked art can be “ruined by too much money,” and that a small scale for most acts is perfect.

In a separate question, she remarked that Storrs’ request for her help to build oversized puppets of “army ants” was the strangest task she has been dealt in her illustrious career as a puppeteer.

“Obstreperous Puppets”, an exhibition of Peattie’s work, is currently available to view at the Balland until Sunday, Oct. 8.


Daniel Cohn is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at daniel.cohn@uconn.edu.