Photo Credit: Lamb Chop at the Rockefeller Center observation deck, photographed by Asya Gorovits.

Exhibition opening August 13 features 100+ puppets from beloved productions including Lamb Chop, Sesame Street, Avenue Q, Lion King, Bread and Puppets, Lunar New Year, and more

Museum of the City of New York announces the opening of the exhibition Puppets of New York, examining how puppetry has impacted New York City and scanning the tremendous influence the city has had on this artform all over the world. Opening on August 13, 2021, the exhibition features more than 100 puppets spanning New York City history, from theater, television, and street life, including Lamb Chop, Sesame Street, Avenue Q and Lion King on Broadway, avantgarde theater, parades, and more. Puppets of New York is also part of the partner programming for the International Puppet Fringe Festival (August 11-16, 2021), and is complemented by a companion exhibition downtown at The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center.

“New York City is a global capital of puppetry, where diverse communities and traditions intersect and collaborate, and where new innovations to the art form are born,” said Whitney Donhauser, Ronay Menschel Director and President of the Museum of the City of New York. “Our exhibition showcases the long history of puppetry in New York City and the influence of the city on this whimsical and adventurous art form.”

Puppets of New York covers three themes that emphasize the ubiquity of puppets in urban space—The Stage, The Set, and The Street—and shows the power of puppetry to reveal culture, politics, and art. The history of puppetry in New York is a powerful lens not only into rich cultural traditions and creative stagecraft, but into the dynamics of the multiple communities that have made New York New York.

The Stage examines how puppets became ingrained in the city’s theater industry, from the Modicut Yiddish Theater of the 1920s, to the masterworks of Tony Sarg and Bill Baird, and Broadway productions such as Avenue Q and The Lion King.
The Set surveys the role puppets have played within New York City’s media industry and the role of New York television in broadcasting the art of puppetry to a global audience. Featured puppeteers include Shari Lewis and Jim Henson.
The Street deals with puppets in the city’s street and community life. Examples include Chinatown’s Lunar New Year celebrations, puppets from Halloween Day Parade, and the political work of Bread and Puppet Theater.

“Puppets are not just child’s play. They often reflect the cultural changes, diverse communities, and political events that impact urban life,” said Monxo López, the exhibition’s curator and a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Museum. “Immigrants from around the globe turned New York into a mosaic of puppetry traditions that both mirror their places of origin and blend with one another.”

Highlighted puppets on display include:

• Lamb Chop puppet, shown for the first time ever in a museum
• Duke Ellington puppet
• Howdy Doody
• Lion King on Broadway
• Being John Malkovich
• Albert Einstein puppet
• Oscar the Grouch
• Avenue Q puppets

RELATED PROGRAMS AND EVENTS

An exciting roster of puppet shows, performances, film screenings, and programs will accompany the exhibition. The Museum will also offer hands-on activities for children, teachers, and families bringing New York’s dynamic puppetry traditions to life.

Opening Celebration
Thursday, August 12, 2021, 6:00pm
Free! Registration required
Live puppet performances as part of The International Puppet Fringe Festival NYC.
Puppet Celebrity Red Carpet – hosted by Mallory Lewis & Lamb Chop
Los Grises/The Gray Ones by Teatro SEA

Behind-the-Scenes at the Museum: Puppets and Activism in New York City
Virtual via Zoom; Wednesday, August 18, 2021, 10:00am
Free! Pre-registration required. Recommended for ages 7 and up.

Get creative and make your own puppet out of recycled materials as you discover how puppets have been used by activist movements in NYC. Participants in this virtual intergenerational program will enjoy a behind-the-scenes experience with the Museum’s curators Monxo López and Sarah Seidman, who will share examples from the Puppets of New York and Activist New York exhibitions. This intergenerational program welcomes families to participate together.

Puppets of New York Performance Series
The Museum will host a special series of live, outdoor performances featuring local puppeteers, educators, and performance groups. All of the performances and workshops will be held in-person on the Museum’s beautiful, outdoor terrace. Families can enjoy the performances and then visit the Puppets of New York exhibition to explore the extraordinary creative and diverse stories of puppets in NYC. Family Programs are geared to families with children ages 7-12 years old and are intergenerational for adults to attend with their children.

“Back to School” Puppet Workshop with NYC Kids Project
Two performances: Thursday, September 9 at 10 am and 11:30 am ET

(Rain Date: Sunday, September 26 at the same times)
FREE. Registration Required.
Venue: IN-PERSON event at the Museum of the City of New York

Join this interactive, outdoor performance led by NYC Kids Project at the Museum of the City of New York to explore feelings about going back to school and reconnecting with classmates. NYC Kids Project will use large-scale puppet characters of all abilities, sign-language, and storytelling to teach inclusion and respect for all. Participants will get to know the characters through their storytelling and ask questions and interact with the puppets.

“HAO BANG-AH!” Hand Puppet Program with Chinese Theatre Works
Two performances: Sunday, September 19 at 11 am and 1 pm ET

(Rain Date: Saturday, September 25 at the same times)
FREE. Registration Required.
Venue: IN-PERSON event at the Museum of the City of New York

Experience the art of hand puppetry and live music in this special performance by Chinese Theatre Works at the Museum of the City of New York. For over a decade, CTW has been creating new productions in the style of traditional Budaixi, adapted for American audiences. Their series of original “Hao Bang-ah, Zodiac!” New Year performances are the fruit of this labor, featuring a cross-cultural take of this ancient tradition.

This performance is supported by a Presenter’s Grant from The Jim Henson Foundation.

“The Pura Belpré Project / El Proyecto Pura Belpré” with Teatro SEA
Two performances: Saturday, October 2 at 11 am and 1:00 pm ET

(Rain Date: Sunday, October 3 at the same times)
FREE. Registration Required.
Venue: IN-PERSON event at the Museum of the City of New York

Pura Belpré (1901-1982) was a talented author, collector of folktales, puppeteer and storyteller who wrote and interpreted Puerto Rican folk tales. As the first Puerto Rican librarian in the New York Public Library system, she pioneered many programs for the Latino community. Experience this re-enactment of Pura Belpré’s famed “Bilingual Story Hour” in this special performance by Teatro SEA at the Museum of the City of New York where her famous tales – Pérez & Martina, Juan Bobo, and The Three Magi – come to life in a creative and interactive experience.

This performance is supported by a Presenter’s Grant from The Jim Henson Foundation.

“Native New Yorkers are still here!” with the Children’s Cultural Center of Native America
Two performances: Sunday, October 10 at 1 pm and 2:30 pm ET

(Rain Date: Monday, October 11 at the same times)
FREE. Registration Required.
Venue: IN-PERSON event at the Museum of the City of New York

Honor and celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day at the Museum of the City of New York with the Children’s Cultural Center of Native America (CCCONA) to learn about the contemporary and historical presence of Indigenous New Yorkers. The workshop will focus on the Lenape legacy of traditional storytelling and Lenape language using puppets. CCCONA will use storytelling bags and share “How it Came to Be” – creation accounts from Indigenous America.

SUPPORT

Puppets of New York is made possible in part by Mrs. William T. Comfort, Cheryl Henson, Caroline A. Wamsler and DeWayne Phillips, the Lemberg Foundation, Inc., and Eve Klein and Robert O. Owens.

This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Museum gratefully acknowledges The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s support for exhibition curator Dr. Monxo López’s fellowship. Puppets of New York is his capstone project.

Behind-the-Scenes at the Museum: Puppets and Activism in New York City is part of the Museum Association of New York’s “Building Capacity, Creating Sustainability, Growing Accessibility” project. This project is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [CAGML-246991-OMLS20].

The Puppets of New York performance series is part of the Arts Al Fresco Series made possible by Con Edison.

The Frederick A.O. Schwarz Education Center is endowed by grants from The Thompson Family Foundation Fund, the F.A.O. Schwarz Family Foundation, the William Randolph Hearst Endowment, and other generous donors.

About the Museum of the City of New York

The Museum of the City of New York fosters understanding of the distinctive nature of urban life in the world’s most influential metropolis. It engages visitors by celebrating, documenting, and interpreting the city’s past, present, and future. To connect with the Museum on social media, follow us on Instagram and Twitter at @MuseumofCityNY and visit our Facebook page at Facebook.com/MuseumofCityNY. For more information, please visit www.mcny.org.