Barefoot Puppet Theatre Puppetry


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


Heidi Rugg is the founder and director of Barefoot Puppet Theatre, a touring company that performs for youth and family audiences. Rugg is an interdisciplinary artist with her feet firmly planted in the worlds of both performance and visual arts. Born in Hawaii, she studied Hula when most mainland girls were twirling in tutus. She now calls Richmond, Virginia home and tours throughout the country (and beyond!) presenting to schools, libraries, theatres, museums, and venues including The Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, Puppet Showplace Theater in Boston, and The Smithsonian Discovery Theatre.

Rugg is known for tackling complicated themes and breaking them down into delectable, bite-sized morsels; she infuses her work with rich language, vibrant visuals, a touch of whimsy, and a joyful exuberance for the creative process. She specializes in wet-felting applications in puppetry and rod puppet mechanisms. She has a passion for sustainable practices in art-making that promote healthy people and a healthy planet.

A teaching artist for over 20 years, Rugg leads master class workshops in puppet building and manipulation; she has extensive expertise in prototyping and creative processes. Rugg enjoys the limitless opportunities within the medium to communicate ideas. As a teaching artist working with schools, she has extensive experience with arts integration and is passionate about the boundless possibilities to joyfully integrate puppetry into all aspects of learning.

Rugg’s work has been supported by grants from The Henson Foundation, Puppeteers of America, the Virginia Commission for the Arts, and the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Arts. In 2005, Barefoot Puppet Theatre and Heidi Rugg received an UNIMA-Citation of Excellence, the highest American award for puppetry.

Educational Background/Training

Heidi Rugg, founder and director of Barefoot Puppet Theatre, has studied with puppeteers, puppet builders, and makers from all over the world. She first apprenticed as a puppet builder with Barry Gordemer of Handemonium Puppets (Silver Spring, MD) from 1994-1996. During this time, she worked concurrently with a number of puppet companies throughout the mid-Atlantic region and developed her performance skills. 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. Rugg is also a graduate of VCU with a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies degree in Arts Integration. She constantly continues researching and learning new materials and technologies as they apply to puppetry through active involvement with the National Capital Puppetry Guild, Richmond area makerspaces, and other puppetry artists across the globe.


Workshops: $300-$500 per day
Residencies: $2000-$3000 per week
Workshops: $125 per contact hour
Residencies: please inquire

Workshops materials and travel expenses/accommodations not included.
Discounts for back-to-back and/or multi-day workshop sessions. All fees negotiable.


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


Throughout the year

Workshops & Residency Program Offerings

Puppetry exists at the crossroads between theatre and visual arts. As an interdisciplinary art form, puppetry programs are highly adaptable and 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. We are accustomed to tailoring our programming to dovetail with your needs and are able to lead some sessions virtually or in a hybrid manner. Our current offerings include, but are not limited to:

  • Talk to the Hand: A Puppet Manipulation Workshop: We will explore puppetry manipulation techniques with attention to stage directions, lip synching, and body positioning for both television and stage. Participants will learn about the two main types of puppets and simple ways to replicate rehearsing and developing skills. This is available in-person or virtually. (Ages 10 and up)
  • Puppet Making Sessions: We have a variety of ways to make puppets with easily obtained materials. In-person or virtual. (Adaptable to most ages.)
  • Puppetry 101: Thinking Outside the Socks – Our most popular program! In this customizable workshop, we introduce 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. In-person or virtual. (Adaptable to all ages.)
  • Spring into Puppetry: A STEAM-powered workshop that explores puppet mechanisms with a focus on springs (extension and compression) and levers. In-person or virtual. (Recommended for Grades 3-adult. Adaptable to most ages.)
  • Wild & Woolly with Puppets: An arts integration residency focused on working with wool fibers to craft puppets. Participants will understand the science and history of wool as they work to manipulate fibers using methods similar to those of our ancient ancestors as they crafted the first textiles. By combining ancient techniques with modern twists, participants will craft puppets from wool, water, and soap. In-person only.
  • Professional Development Training for Teachers: Customized for grade levels and subject areas. In-person or virtual.

We welcome inquiries on customized programming for arts integration.

Additional Information