Barefoot Puppet Theatre Puppetry


Heidi Rugg

Heidi Rugg
PO Box 26366
Richmond VA 23260
804-358-3377 (office)
804-334-4338 (mobile)


Barefoot Puppet Theatre's award-winning performances and interactive workshops have thrilled audiences throughout the country and internationally since 1997. Touring from Richmond, Virginia, they travel to theatres, schools, museums, libraries, and community centers with their innovative, hand-crafted puppets and beautifully built staging and scenery. Families, educators, librarians, and theatre directors give enthusiastic reviews of their programs and invite them back again and again. Notable venues include The Smithsonian Discovery Theater, The Puppet Showplace Theatre in Boston, The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and The Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta. In 2005, Barefoot Puppet Theatre was awarded an UNIMA Citation of Excellence in Puppetry, the highest honor in American puppetry.

Barefoot Puppet Theatre was founded by Heidi Rugg, a puppetry artist with her hands in every aspect of production: building, writing, designing, and performing. As a working performing artist and puppet builder, Rugg enjoys the limitless opportunities within the medium to communicate ideas. As a teaching artist, she is equally passionate about the boundless possibilities to joyfully integrate puppetry into all aspects of learning.

Educational Background/Training

Heidi Rugg, founder of Barefoot Puppet Theatre, has studied with puppeteers and makers from all over the world. She first apprenticed as a puppet builder and performer with Barry Gordemer of Handemonium Puppets (Silver Spring, MD) from while working concurrently with a variety of puppet companies throughout the mid-Atlantic. Rugg has participated in numerous professional development opportunities through Puppeteers of America’s Puppets in Education and Therapy annual sessions at regional and national puppetry festivals, completed workshops with the Kennedy Center on Arts Integration, and trained at the National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill School of Theatre. Most recently, Rugg traveled to Germany to study with Gladys Paulus, a UK-based mask-maker and textile artist. She constantly continues researching and learning new materials and technologies as they apply to puppetry through active involvement with Richmond area makerspaces.


Workshops: $300-$500 per day
Residencies: $2000-$3000 per week (includes most materials)
Travel expenses/accommodations not included.
All fees negotiable.


K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12; adult master classes; teacher workshops/training


Throughout the year

Educational Programs

Puppetry exists at the crossroads between theatre and visual arts. As an interdisciplinary art, puppetry programs have the flexibility to encompass research, writing, design, planning, engineering, building, and performance. Barefoot Puppet Theatre’s programs receive enthusiastic reviews from children, educators, and parents. All programs can be tailored to a variety of age groups with a focus that fits the needs of your classroom and curriculum. Listed below are some samples of past programming ideas to help inspire you.

  • Puppet Lab – Full STEAM ahead! Our Puppet Lab workshops focus on materials and technology involved in puppet design and construction. Sewing, laser-cutting, papier-mache, woodworking, mold-making, and casting are just a smattering of the topics available. (Grades 4-12)
  • It’s Showtime! – Looking for a program that integrates Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity? This fully customizable experience takes a group through the entire process of creating a puppet show from ideation to execution. (Grades 5-8)
  • Exploring Our Ecosystems: Lions and tigers and bears? Despite what Dorothy says, these animals do not share habitats. Using puppetry, students demonstrate their understanding of the ecosystems, habitats, and niches they study. In this residency, students work with shadow puppets or toy theatre as they create puppets and develop characters that explore their environment. Working in groups, they build visual scenes to share with their class. Barefoot Puppet Theatre works with the classroom teacher to guide students through the diverse and varied landscapes of the world of puppetry and the world in which we live. (Grades 3-8)
  • Puppetry 101: Thinking Outside the Socks – Our most popular program! In this customizable workshop, we introduce students (and teachers!) to the five basic types of puppets (hand, rod, shadow, marionette, and object). Puppeteers demonstrate the different types of puppets and guide participants in basic puppet manipulation. A dash of history, a handful of contemporary examples in movies/television, and a pinch of geography round out this interactive experience. (All Ages and Teachers)
  • Beyond Power Point with Puppets – Stuck in a Power Point rut? Go analog with puppets! Using shadow puppets, crankies, and/or toy theatre, participants explore alternative presentation formats featuring puppetry. Brainstorming and storyboarding are combined with simple, accessible puppet building projects for a fully hands-on experience. Available as a 3-5 hour workshop for teachers or customizable for an artist-in-residency program with students. (Grades 6-12 and Teachers)
Additional Information