Guild Meetings and Events

  • May Meeting Ralph Chesse, Early Children’s Television Pioneer & SF Renaissance Man Rediscovered in New Exhibition & Puppet Demo by Fred C. Reilly lll

    Guild Meeting & Public Opening Program & Reception
    Saturday, May 18, 1-4:30 p.m.
    San Francisco Main Library,
    Koret Auditorium, Lower Level,  
    100 Larkin Street, SF

    • 1 pm SFBAPG meeting
    • 1:30 Tour of the Ralph Chesse exhibit
    • 2 pm Puppet Demo by Fred Reilly lll
    • 2:30 Break
    • 2:45 Bruce Chesse sharing highlights of Ralph’s work.
    • Reception to follow, ending at 4:30.  

    Ralph Chesse, Early Children’s Television Pioneer

    San Francisco Public Library hosts world premiere of Ralph Chessé: A San Francisco Century, including never-before-seen artworks and puppets from the children’s television show Brother Buzz
    San Francisco Public Library hosts world premiere of Ralph Chessé: A San Francisco Century, including never-before-seen artworks and puppets from the children’s television show Brother Buzz

    Born of Creole heritage in New Orleans in 1900, Chessé spent the bulk of his life as a working artist in San Francisco, contributing to and representing Bay Area culture. His work is prominently featured amongst the murals in Coit Tower placing him in the midst of Depression-era public works; he staged puppet shows at the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island; and starting in the early 1950s, was the main creator of Brother Buzz, a long-running and beloved animal-themed educational children’s show still fondly remembered by Bay Area residents. All the while, Chessé made a wide variety of works, including paintings depicting the 1960s rock and roll scene. Ralph Chessé: A San Francisco Century offers an overview of the artist’s work, including rare puppets, paintings, woodcuts, photographs and documents that highlight his unique and under-recognized place in the City’s history. 

    The exhibition opens with a snapshot of Chessé’s artistic range. This section features works dating back to the early 20th century, including the 1927 painting, The Black Madonna, which won the prestigious Anne Bremer Prize in the San Francisco Art Association’s Annual Art Exhibition in 1928, along with self-portraits, documents and family photographs, including a portrait by noted photographer Imogen Cunningham. 

    Following is a section devoted to Chessé’s Coit Tower fresco and his activities during the WPA era. During this period, he served as the State Director of Puppetry for the State of California, and staged puppet shows for the Federal Theater Project, with some rare footage of his Snow White and the Seven Dwarves on Treasure Island during the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition.

    Chessé’s puppets are a key part of his legacy, it is a form that he used to create theatrical experiences for adults and children.  The show includes puppets created for his productions of Shakespeare, Eugene O’Neil’s The Emperor Jones, which he staged numerous times, and works by Moliere. A selection of linocut posters, printed with an old-fashioned washing machine ringer, attest to the range of material and the San Francisco addresses where Chessé set up his stage, many of them now lost to history. As part of the exhibition, the SFPL produced a facsimile of a puppet theater based on the artist’s sketch.

    Brother Buzz may be Chessé’s best-known achievement. The children’s show ran on KPIX from 1952 until 1966 with the Brother Buzz character serving as a guide through the animal kingdom. Chessé created new puppets weekly for the show, doing extensive research into his subjects. A video reel, compiled by the artist’s grandson, Matt Chessé, an Academy Award-nominated film editor, introduces the TV show to new audiences while bringing back fond memories to those whose Bay Area childhoods were enriched by the show. 

    In the 1960s, Ralph Chessé was introduced to San Francisco’s youth culture—hippie and rock and roll—through his nephew, Peter Albin, the guitarist for Big Brother and the Holding company. While he was more stately in disposition, Chessé observed the cultural shift with interest.  The show includes a stylized painting of the band, including lead singer Janis Joplin, full of life and color. Chessé’s paintings engage a number of aesthetics and styles, attesting to his continued creativity and curiosity. 

    Audio commentary from family members provides unique personal insight into the works in the exhibition. 

    Fred C Riley III (Founder/Artistic Director) of Odd Savvy, Oakland CA to Give Demo at Event

    Fred Reilly has graciously offered to give a puppet demonstration as part of the Ralph Chesse Exhibit, showing the versatility and expressiveness of a variety of puppet styles.

    Jon Ludwig, Ping Chong, Janie Geiser, Yeng Feng, Josef Krofta, Larry Reed … These are just a few of the iconic directors that Fred worked with and learned from over many years in puppet theater. He has performed marionettes from 9 foot to 7 inches tall. He has performed rod, moving mouth, Czech black, tabletop, mask, and every combination thereof. He has performed shadow with press screen, overhead, and 30 foot wide cinematic. He has directed and written for the Center for Puppetry Arts and many others. He choreographed for Ping Chong and Company. He has taught movement and puppet theory. He voiced many puppets and has done voice over work for many companies. He has recorded and done sound design. He is so grateful for all he has been able to do and accomplish.

    This year, Fred received a Henson Foundation Production Grant for The Ground. The Ground is a sonic/visual poem exploring the intersection of nature and technology through the journey of a lone tabula rasa.
    Web: Odd Savvy

    Come out and learn about 3 different styles of puppetry. Puppet artist Fred C Riley III will do a demonstration of shadow puppet, tabletop puppets and marionettes. He and Jessica Nguyen will perform a short excerpt from Fred’s upcoming production, “The Ground”. The will also demonstrate tabletop puppets from the same show. Then Fred will show a short piece from Larry Schmidt’s “Driveway Follies”. Come out and bring the family. This talk is intended for adults and older kids. It probably won’t hold the attention of the little ones. See you there!

    Our Guild Library at the May 18th Meeting in SF

    The Guild Library is a treasure trove of hundreds of books on puppetry. History of puppets, construction, stages, puppets in education, etc. It’s now easy to see what books are available by going to Or if at select Resources, then Library.

    The Librarian will bring a selection of books to the May 18th meetings. You can select from the offerings or can request a book in advance.

    To Request a Book: Peruse the online catalog then request books by emailing They will be brought to the next “in person” event. If you have a library book to return, please bring it to the May 18th meeting, or mail it back to Guild Librarian Lee Armstrong at 720 Ladera Dr., Sonoma, CA 95476.

    Note: The Library is a free service, but borrowers need to have been members for 6 months. If not, and you’d like to borrow, you can leave a check with the librarian for the amount of the book. When you return the book, you get the check back.  

  • 2024 Guild HolidayParty and Tabletop Workshop Saturday, February 17th

    Mark your calendars and save the date! Saturday, February 17th for the Guild Holiday Party and Tabletop Workshop

    Vallejo Naval and Historic Museum
    734 Marin Street Vallejo, CA

    Access: Disability access to the event is easy from the North parking lot.

    Happy Holidays! We invite you, your friends and family to the Annual Puppet Guild Holiday Party! This will be a unique experience. Never before have we had a Puppet Olympics, or as we call it The Puppetahalon. Preparation started in November., when the great puppet fabricator Mary H. Nagler flew out from Virginia to help us construct our PuppetAthletes. And there’s the museum as well, which current features a special puppet exhibit.  So, save the date of February 17th for a great get-together!

    The Puppetahlon Prep Team is preparing the challenging course which may make the bravest Puppet quiver in its socks. Other Guild members are fabricating the prestigious awards for this year’s best and brightest Puppet Manipulators.

    On Feb 17th at our stadium at the Naval Museum in Vallejo, Puppet Manipulators will attend a rigorous training early in the afternoon. Later they will compete for the highest prizes. Please come and participate or cheer on your favorite PuppetAthlete. DO NOT MISS THIS EVENT! I attended the Puppetahalon at the Seattle Puppet Festival and it was a hilarious highlight…and safe for children of all ages.

    But wait, there’s more at the Holiday Party! The Spooky Squeals Musical Spectacular by Hugo & Wing Shum, plus a puppet scavenger hunt, puppet exhibit, raffle, lending library, refreshments and more!  

    Please RSVP to this event no later than Friday, February 9th 2024 at the following

    Bathrooms: There is a short staircase in the building to get down to the bathroom level from the guild event. If accessed from inside, this must be walked. Wheeled access to the bathroom level is available but at this time it involves exiting the building on the northside (into the parking lot) and then going around the exterior of the building to the south side of the building where museum personnel can open a door on the bathroom level. They will provide personnel to do that, but it is a bit of a trip around the building on the sidewalk. This is because of a broken elevator and the museum apologizes profusely for this inconvenience. 

  • Annual Puppet Fair at Fairyland

    Sat., Aug 26 Fairyland, Puppet Fair 10:00-4:30

    699 Bellevue Avenue, Oakland
    Oakland, CA

    Your Guild has been participating in Puppet Fair at Fairyland since 1956! Join us for this action-packed day of puppet shows, a puppet exhibit and events, provided by Fairyland. Admission: Admission to Fairyland is free to Guild members who are volunteering. If your membership needs to be renewed, please do this before Aug 15th, so we can give a current list to Fairyland. At admissions, say that you’re with the Puppet Guild and have come to help. However, if you are bringing friends that are not members of the Guild and are not helping, they must pay admission (unless they want to join the Guild that day. If so, they should go directly upon entering to the Guild Info booth). Bart & AC Transit bus can take you to Fairyland. Additional info on directions, parking, etc. is at

    The Puppet Fair Saturday schedule.
    It Could Always Be Worse – Showtimes: 11 a.m., 2 p.m., 4 p.m. at the
    Storybook Puppet Theater

    A funny Yiddish tale of a Jewish family that is unhappy with their living conditions. A mother, father, baby and two children all living in a very small house are fed up with their overcrowded, noisy home. They seek out the local Rabbi who advises solutions and tries to tell them that it could always be worse. Will this family ever learn to be happy with what they have? Come to Fairyland and find out! This show features lively klezmer music for a fully spirited performance!
    Puppets designed by Elizabeth Luce. Rod puppets created by Randal Metz.
    Scenery by Lewis Mahlmann. Script by Shana Barchas, Inspired by a Traditional Folktale.

    “Three Dinosaurs Gruff” presented by The Puppet Company
    Showtime: 12:00 p.m. at the Emerald City Stage

    Granny Brachiosaurus is telling her friend Grumpy Greta, a Pterodactyl, the tale of three dinosaur brothers. A Stegosaurus, a Triceratop, and a Ceratosaurus who all love to cross a tree bridge each day to nap, eat, and play on the other side. But what will happen when Ugh, a trollish caveman, moves in under the bridge? Our show teaches children the importance of working together, problem solving, and getting along. The pre-hysterical comedy pokes fun at the famous “3 Billy Goats Gruff” tale through the use of
    imagery, music, and songs. A family treat millions of years in the making!
    The Puppet Company was created by Randal Metz and has been producing imaginative family entertainment for close to 50 years.

    12:35-1:15 Guild Meet & Greet & Lunch break.
    From 12:35-12:50 gather at the benches at the Storybook Puppet Theater for a quick “hi” to meet other Bay Area puppeteers and keep you up to date on puppet happenings in the Bay area on beyond.

    Then, for folks that would like to do lunch at this time, the group can have lunch break at the benches, at the tables near the snack bar or some shady area of your choosing. We’d strongly recommend bringing a bag lunch and beverage, as the lineup at the snack area can be long.

    Please sign up at Sign Up Genius,

    “The Frog Prince” presented by Fratello Marionettes
    Showtime: 1:30 p.m. at the Emerald Stage
    This production of the classic fairy tale follows the spoiled princess Ofelia on her birthday.
    Her life is changed by a chance meeting with a frog – who we know to be a handsome prince, transformed by a witch. When she loses her new golden ball down a well, the princess promises to grant the frog three wishes in exchange for the ball’s recovery. Will Ofelia follow th rough with her promises, and will the frog turn back into the handsome Prince?
    The Fratello Marionettes has produced timeless marionette shows since 1989. Puppeteer
    Kevin Menegus brings classic stories and vignettes to life through hand-crafted

    Bob Baker Marionettes of L.A. presents a Musical Variety Show
    Showtimes: 2:30 p.m. at the Aesop’s Playhouse
    Since 1963, the Bob Baker Marionette Theater has been part of imagination and fantasy that thrives in Los Angeles, with over 200 performances a year, utilizing over 2000 handcrafted puppets. Join Alex Evans as he presents his one-man variety show with marionettes from Bob Baker.
    The Bob Baker Marionette Theater of Los Angeles was founded by Bob Baker and Alton Wood. It’s reportedly the oldest children’s theater company in America.

    Note: Puppet Fair continues Sunday, Aug 27. The schedule is similar to Saturday’s schedule with a few changes. Find online at

    Volunteers: We need volunteers!
    ● Do you have a puppet and would like to greet kids as you walk around the park? Bring your puppet and surprise kids as they enter the park, roam the ground and engage families in the fun or team up with another puppeteer for lively banter.
    ● Or would you like to help at the puppet making table? All materials and instruction are provided.
    ● Or answer puppet and Guild questions at the Puppet Guild Info Booth/Library + monitor puppet exhibit (your table will face the puppet exhibit)?

    Thank you! If you would like to display some of your puppet creations, contact Randal Metz at (510) 569-3144. You MUST have your puppet at Fairyland no later than 10:00 on Sat. 26th
    Guild Library will be at Fairyland
    The Guild library has hundreds of books covering a variety of topics. Books & DVD’s will be available for checkout at the Guild Info Table for people that have been members for at least 6 months. If you have a book checked out, please return it at Fairyland. If you can’t make Fairyland, please mail it to…
    Guild Librarian, Lee Armstrong, 720 Ladera Dr., Sonoma, CA 95476.

  • Grant Baccioco to present at this month’s Guild meeting via Zoom
    Would you like to learn how to make money on social media with puppets? Join us Friday, April 21st at 7pm via zoom for our Guild meeting with a special presentation by Grant Baccioco. Sign up at the link below to receive the meeting ID and passcode. See you there!… Grant Baciocco is a SAG-AFTRA puppeteer who started his training with The Jim Henson Company in 2006 and has performed over 300 live shows with the company’s Puppet Up! Uncensored including tours to Australia, Toronto and Las Vegas. His other puppetry credits include Earth To Ned, Wet Hot American Summer, The Muppets, Last Week Tonight and Mystery Science Theatre 3000 where he plays M. Waverly. Grant is also the creator of Toiley T. Paper who has over 3 million followers on Tiktok and 230k followers on Instagram.
  • Guild Holiday Party! Saturday, February 18th 2pm-5pm Volunteers Appreciated
    Guild Holiday Party – In February! Saturday, February 18 2-5pm, Featuring a performance of “Winnie the Witch” Black-light Puppet Spectacular by Art Grueneberger of Puppet Arts Theater Co. at 3:30pm Location: Poison Apple Productions 847 Arnold Dr. Martinez, CA 94553 Would you like to help with the set up/ raffle/ contribute a finger food? SIGN UP HERE A Holiday party in Feb? Yes!  As traditional, the Guild waits until the new year to celebrate the Holidays, as it’s the busiest time of the year for some puppeteers. What could be more traditional than a Halloween Show to ring in the New Year? Winnie the Witch is no ordinary show. It’s filled with amazing digital effects created by our own Guild member, Art Grueneberger of Puppet Art Theater Co. After the show, he’ll give a “behind the scenes” look at his show and share his tech-pertise. Also, the Guild Holiday party includes a potluck, Guild library and other fun. So, save the date of Feb 18 for a great get-together!