Sep 29, 2021
Oct 10, 2021

The Jim Henson Foundation presents — American Puppet Theater Today: The Photography of Richard Termine

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New York-based photographer Richard Termine has documented American Puppet Theater for over 30 years. Termine’s work captures the animated gesture of the puppet in still images. Over 100 images and objects in this exhibition illustrate the dynamic range of Puppet Theater being created by a vibrant community of artists in the New York City area, as well as some of the excellent work presented at National Puppet Festivals across the United States.

A special section, "Puppetry During the Pandemic," celebrates resilient puppet artists who continued to create and perform new work through the past year.

On a city street, a performer is wearing a tall white dress and carrying a parasol. A puppeteer is holding a puppet, and their shadows are cast onto the white dress.
Bated Breath Theatre Company
Mara Lieberman, puppets by James Ortiz
Greenwich Village, New York, 2020
A large puppet shaped like a human is seated on a black cube, while a performer to the right is sitting on the ground and holding the puppet’s arms. The background is a black brick wall.
Andy Gaukel
ANIMIST, work-in-progress
HERE Arts Center, New York, 2021
On stage, one puppet front and center has its arms outstretched. Behind it, 11 performers are gathered together and looking upwards. In the background are four large busts on top of pedestals.
Skysaver Productions
Theodora Skipitares
La MaMa e.t.c. Ellen Stewart Theatre, New York, 2009
A puppeteer in a bowler hat and black suit is holding a puppet in a white dress with orange hair. There are two other puppets seated on tables. Behind them are two performers holding up objects in their left hands. The background is a projected photo of a wave.
Roman Paska
La MaMa e.t.c. Ellen Stewart Theatre, New York, 2013
A performer is lying on the ground on their back and is balancing a puppet shaped like a human on their feet and holding its arms. In the background are piles of trash bags and a textured background.
Phantom Limb Company
Erik Sanko & Jessica Grindstaff
Brooklyn Academy of Music Harvey Theater, New York, 2018
Three puppeteers are looking upwards and holding a puppet shaped like a chimpanzee. There is a tube light above them illuminating the scene.
Nick Lehane
HERE Arts Center, New York, 2019

“My training and work experience in puppet theater preceded my career as a photographer. It has shaped and guided my work with the camera.

My challenge as a photographer of puppet theater is to capture the animation of the puppet in a still image.  To do that, I focus on the gestural life of the puppet, seeking to capture the “decisive moment” when the figure is most animated and a peak dramatic event is visualized.  

Through the camera lens I am connected to the puppet and the puppeteer.  I compose through the lens, and I feel a rich, creative exchange of energy as I shoot an art form I know and love.  

Any photographer of theatrical performance is only as good as the artists they work with.  It has been a blessing to collaborate with some of the most talented puppet artists in America and to capture their unique artistry.”

—Richard Termine

Richard Termine attended the University of Connecticut and completed his MFA in Puppet Arts  in 1978.  In 1980, he began his association with The Jim Henson Company as a puppet designer and builder for a variety of Muppet productions and was honored with an Emmy Award in 1987 for his design work on Sesame Street.  His puppet theater production of Diary of a Madman received a UNIMA-USA Citation for Excellence in 2002.

While working on the set of Sesame Street in New York City in the mid-1980s, Termine began photographing behind the scenes. This work led to a new career as a performing arts photographer. He has photographed many of the world’s leading performers and puppet artists. Currently, Richard is a photographer for the culture desk of The New York Times. His other clients include Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and The Metropolitan Opera.  He has been the in-house photographer for Sesame Street since 1988 and has been on the board of The Jim Henson Foundation since 1987, currently serving as the Foundation’s Vice President.

Cheryl Henson - Foundation President and Exhibition Producer
Lindsey “Z.” Briggs - Foundation Manager and Exhibition Project Manager
Stefano Brancato - Exhibition Installation

The Jim Henson Foundation was founded in 1982 by Muppets creator Jim Henson to support the art of puppetry in the United States. Cheryl Henson became the President of the Foundation in 1992. Since it began, the Foundation has awarded over 1000 grants to more than 360 puppet artists for the creation, development, and presentation of new works of innovative contemporary puppet theater.

From 1992–2000, the Foundation produced the largest international festivals of puppet theater in the United States. Initially presented on the five stages of the Public Theater, the festival expanded to 24 stages including La MaMa, HERE Arts Center, and PS122 and presented 136 different productions from 31 countries. With Cheryl Henson as Executive Producer and Leslee Asch as Producing Director, the five festivals brought the best of contemporary puppetry from all over the world to New York audiences and garnered critical acclaim for puppet theater. The city continues to foster an extraordinarily dynamic creative community of puppet artists as well as a number of wonderful theaters committed to including puppetry in their seasons.

In addition to Artist Grants for the development of new works, the Foundation currently offers Presenters Grants to theaters in the New York City area, an annual residency at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and two international travel grants called the Allelu Award, named after founding board member Allelu Kurten. The Foundation is proud to present Richard Termine’s photographs, which include many Foundation grant recipients.

Photo by Richard Termine of Leila Ghaznavi, performing in Ronnie Burkett’s CRAVE, Eugene O’Neill Theater Center National Puppetry Conference (Connecticut, 2018)

La MaMa Puppet Festival


The La MaMa Puppet Festival showcases new contemporary puppet theatre by artists from around the world. Curated by Denise Greber, focusing on diversifying the voices, stories, and perspectives shared onstage, with the goal of uplifting marginalized identities within the puppet community.

La MaMa Galleria


Founded in 1984, La Galleria is a nonprofit gallery committed to nurturing experimentation in the visual arts. La Galleria encourages an active dialogue between new media, performance, the plastic and visual arts, curatorial projects, and educational initiatives. It serves the East Village community by offering diverse programming to an inter-generational audience, and expanding the parameters of a traditional gallery space. As a non-profit, La Galleria is able to provide artists and curators with unique exhibition opportunities that are largely out of reach in a commercial gallery setting.

Special Event