Northern California Puppet Festival – Artist Bios

Lee Armstrong has taught puppet performance to thousands of children and adults, including at UCSC. She is co-owner, producer and puppeteer for Images in Motion Media Inc., a Sonoma-based company that specializes in puppets for TV & film. Awards include 2 Regional Emmys, 6 Tellys and more. Credits include performing in the original Muppets “Fraggle Rock” “Being John Malkovich” and PBS shows.

Workshops Bring A Puppet To Life, Puppeteering in 4 Simple Steps

Grant Baciocco is a SAG-AFTRA puppeteer who trained with The Jim Henson Company and has performed in television and movies. Credits include The Muppets, Earth To Ned, Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Wet Hot American Summer. He is also the creator of Toiley T. Paper who has over 3 million followers on Tiktok and over 300k followers on Instagram.

Workshop Social Media for Puppeteers

C. E. Choy is a seasoned educator with two decades as an award-winning Drama Director for the Fairfield-Suisun school District, nurturing budding actors and bringing captivating performances to life. With her expertise, she not only taught the art of acting but also empowered students to delve into the enchanting world of puppetry, guiding them in the intricate process of puppet building and manipulation. It was with these students that she created Bok Choy’s Puppets, donating any profit to the drama program. Now retired, C. E. builds on commission, sending her creations all over the world–from a street artist in Italy, to a famous ventriloquist in Belgium. Join her as she shares her wealth of knowledge and ignites your imagination in the magical realm of puppeteering.

Workshop One Pattern, Three Ways

Margot Marie Fitzsimmons is a theater and film director, puppetry artist, producer, and arts educator focusing on children’s content. She received the Winifred Ward Memorial Scholarship Award in 2016 for excellence in theater for young audiences. As Executive Director of FitzSili Productions, she highlights underrepresented communities and celebrates diverse artists and audiences. Her work has been showcased in the U.S., Holland, Israel, Germany, Taiwan, and Austria. Margot has studied with renowned puppeteers such as Ralph Lee and Pam Arciero (U.S.), Diego Guzman (Spain), and Norbert Goetz (Germany). She has worked with Double Image Theatre Lab and Spellbound Theatre, receiving Jim Henson Seed and Project Grants. She holds degrees from Dickinson College, NYU, and the University of Hawaii at Mānoa.

Workshop Intro to Shadow Puppetry

Gabriel Galdamez has been enthusiastically involved in puppetry and creative arts for over 20 years. He especially enjoys blending different disciplines and adapting storybooks into theatrical productions. Throughout his career, he has taught 100+ workshops on puppetry, creativity, and leadership at the regional, national, and international level throughout the US, Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, and Ecuador. He is currently serving as the President of the Fellowship of Christian Puppeteers and previously served on the SF Bay Area Puppeteers Guild Board. When he isn’t working as a Communications Consultant, you can find him planning his next travel adventure, in a studio recording voice-over, or in the air on the flying trapeze.

Workshops Rod-Arm Puppet Choreography, Secrets I’ve Learned from Disney & Pixar

Daniel Gill is an educational puppeteer, early childhood educator, and teaching artist living in San Francisco. He is passionate about creating a more inclusive world by supporting young children’s access to learning and connection through puppetry arts. Daniel has 12 years of early childhood education experience and has worked as a classroom teacher, expressive arts specialist, teaching artist, and consultant.

Workshop Expressive Collage Puppetry: Fostering Self-Expression

Heather & Martin Gobbée met in graduate school at Brandeis University where they both received their MFA’s in Acting. As actors, they moved to NYC and joined the Actors Equity Association (AEA). Later Martin joined SAG/AFTRA while Heather pursued NYC Teacher Certification in Theater Arts, where she taught acting and Improvisation in Brooklyn at The Children’s School, and later Creative Movement for St. Thomas More Play Group, NYC. Prior to that Martin studied Improv at ImprovOlympic with Del Close and founding members of the Upright Citizens Brigade in Chicago. As an Irene Ryan Nominee, Heather has studied solo performance with Bill Irwin, Rachel Rosenthal. Heather is a founding member and puppeteer of the Blue Room in Chico, CA and has since studied puppetry with David Fino, Paul McGinnis, Pam Severns, Alex Griffin, Art Grueneberger, Stacey Gordon, and worked alongside Lee Armstrong, Andrew Kim, and Donovan Zimmerman.

Workshop Tabletop Puppets, Improvisation for Puppeteers!

Art Grueneberger, Director, Producer, Puppeteer with a keen sense of humor and a flair for drama, Art has become a master at developing marvelous puppet shows that delight audiences of all ages. His company, Puppet Art Theater Co., has eighteen family productions that tour across California and beyond completing more than 500 live performances every year. The pandemic opened up many creative opportunities and now Puppet Art Theater Co. also performs online programs for family audiences around the world that incorporate digital sets, animations with live puppetry. His company also builds and tours fantastic educational shows for government agencies, corporations and other organizations that deliver important educational messages to targeted audiences.

In addition, family shows Grueneberger also produces and directs larger shows, many for adults. Recent directing credits include Peter and the Wolf (Kimmel Center, Verizon Hall, Philadelphia, PA, with Master Organist Peter Conte), Gian Carlo Menotti’s opera Amahl and the Night Visitors (VITA, Sacramento), and Big Dreams, Small Shoulders, the Story of Ruby Bridges (CAM Theater). He has also been Guest Director at California State University, Sacramento (Avenue Q, winner, Kennedy Center’s Outstanding Ensemble Award) and the University of California, Davis (Man of La Mancha). He has also directed large scale symphony productions including adaptations of The Red Velvet Violin and Pinocchio and has been a puppetry consultant for Mark Ravenhill (Nursery/School), Messenger Theater Co. (Macbeth), Berkeley Playhouse (Avenue Q), and Consumes River College (Avenue Q). Grueneberger was recently invited back to The National Puppetry Conference this time as a Featured Guest Artist where he workshopped a production of the musical Sweeney Todd featuring life-sized puppets.

Workshop and performance Rod puppets & Mechanism, Tommy’s Space Adventure

Marisol Himmel is an educational puppeteer and Founder at Spark Homeschool Enrichment inc.. She uses puppets in her homeschool program to teach Spanish, French, American Sign Language, Creative Writing, Science and Art. She is innovative, creating imaginative puppet videos and plays with her students. @ModdyPuppets on Instagram

Workshop Puppets, Poetry & Pedagogy – Apron Puppet Show/Workshop

Camilla Henneman is a credentialed classroom instructor who specializes in art and theater arts.  She has been teaching puppetry and art for over 2 decades from kindergarten through college.  She also has several years experience teaching art and puppetry  to special day classes (disabled students from mildly to severely disabled. Camilla also has a long career history in film special effects. Her credits include work for Disney, Lucasfilm, and the Jim Henson Company. She is currently teaching Muppet Magic at UCSC. 

Workshop Easy Stages & Staging Techniques that Inspire Children

Sean and Patrick Johnson have performed puppets for film, television, new media and the stage. Some notable projects include The Pee-wee Herman Show, Showtime’s Kidding staring Jim Carrey, Comedy Central’s Crank Yankers and The Muppets.

Workshop Television Puppetry

Nao Kobayashi designs and fabricates puppets and costume for TV, film and art related services.  Originally from Japan and recently at Images in Motion Inc. in Sonoma California, she has worked on various projects with dance and theater productions, fashion and entertainment companies, museums and institutes over 15 years. She also explores interdisciplinary art projects with independent artists, musicians, improvisers and performers, with her somatic understanding through martial arts, butoh and dance. She keeps expanding ideas to cross borders and nurture culture with creative solutions.

Workshop Finger Puppet Building/Sculpting

Elizabeth Leonard has been creating hand, rod and shadow puppet shows since 2007, celebrating multiple cultures and themes with audiences all over the Sacramento and Bay Areas. She just put on her 5th family-friendly puppetry slam called “Puppet Ruckus” at The Stage at Burke Junction, in Cameron Park, and built a new 12-foot giant puppet to celebrate, named “Magical Mama Cat”. 

Workshop Giant Puppets  

Kevin Menegus, Fratello Marionettes Kevin Menegus became intrigued by puppetry after receiving a puppet as a gift, at age six.

Kevin went on to apprentice with some of the leading puppeteers in the country, including Tony Urbano, Bob Baker, Randal Metz and Lewis Mahlmann, learning from them while developing unique building and performing styles of his own.

Kevin holds a Bachelor of Music Degree in Percussion Performance from the University of The Pacific Conservatory of Music. This comes in handy for selecting and orchestrating the right music for each marionette performance.

Kevin has performed for audiences around the world, including several major cruise lines

Performance “Carnival of the Animals” 

Michael and Valerie Nelson have been professional puppeteers for 45 years. They are winners of 3 UNIMA Awards (the highest national for excellence in puppetry). They were granted highest rating Artists in Schools, California Arts Council and have toured for the U.S. State Dept. representing American culture abroad. They have been a headlining act at numerous festivals, coast to coast in the U.S. and in over 18 countries throughout Europe, Asia, Latin America. Michael studied puppetry with Muppet Creator Jim Henson, International Institute of Puppetry.

Workshops and Performances Puppets in Story & Song, “Los Animalitos”, Forbidden Puppet Cabaret “Summer of Puppet Love” Slam

The Oregon Shadow Theatre is a Portland Oregon based company specializing in the art of shadow puppetry. Their award-winning shadow plays have toured across the United States and in Canada, including performances at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the Detroit Institute of Arts, Festival Place in Alberta, the Chilliwack Cultural Centre in British Columbia, the Puppeteers of America National Puppet Festivals, the Atlanta Center for Puppetry Arts and The Northwest Puppet Center in Seattle, Washington. OST productions are noted for exquisite, colorful puppets, live music and sound effects, and lively good humor. Among other honors, OST has twice received the Unima Citation for Excellence in the Art of Puppetry.

Oregon Shadow Theatre is a collaboration of shadow puppeteer Deb Chase and musician and actor Mick Doherty.

Performance “The Green Bird”

Hugo Shum is a young San Francisco Bay Area based puppeteer. He’s 15 and currently a sophomore in high school. He specializes in Hand/Moving Mouth Puppets though has worked with rod and table top. Hugo has worked on numerous different projects such as his Halloween Show Spooky Squeals, and Stinky Tales Twinkle Twinkle Shoot. Hugo is always looking for new opportunities to learn and improve his craft.

Workshop Making a Monster Puppet 

Dahlia Yarbrough discovered a biography about Jim Henson while selecting a topic for a school project. Since then, she has built and wrangled puppets for several productions such as JLS’s School House Rock Live and Stanford’s Huppet. She is currently a freshman in high school and is looking forward to incorporating her interests in the stage tech elective.

Workshop Making a Monster Puppet 

Lisa Zagone is a professional theater designer of over 20 years, and a university lecturer in technical theatre for 12 years. Her area of specialty is in set, props and costume design. In addition she has masters in Fine Art, and is enrolled at UConn Puppetry Arts graduate school.

Workshop Eyes & Eye Mechanisms

Doug Zesiger is a teacher, storyteller and musician with a passion for helping children navigate the social-emotional world with humor and understanding. A father of four and grandfather to two, he’s taught for the past 30 plus years at Marin Country Day School, where Dillard and his pals have become treasured characters on campus and beyond.

Workshop and performance “Personal Space” , SEL Workshop 

Anne Nachtrieb Zesiger is an award-winning musician, innovative kindergarten teacher and proud parent of two Creatives. Her children’s music awards include a Gold Selection by NAPPA (National Association of Parenting Publications), a Silver Parent’s Choice award, and a Just Plain Folks finalist. Her music underlies each episode and helps kids sing their way into internalizing life’s important lessons.

Performance “Personal Space”