Jenny is a professional puppeteer and teaching artist, who started her career over six years ago as an educator and performer in Italy and Hong Kong. Now based in NYC, she uses her background in puppetry and theater to inspire kiddos to take their imaginations to new heights! A typical session with Jenny could include shadow puppetry on a rainy day, building marionettes out of recyclables, filming a silly commercial featuring hand and rod style puppets, or just playing around with goofy sock puppets! Learn more about Jenny in our interview below.
Hi Jenny! Where are you from and what brought you to NYC?
I’m from the historic Yorktown, Virginia! New York City was always on the mind, especially in college, but I didn’t make the full move until after I lived in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is very similar in some ways to New York City (especially the high rent!) and I felt like it was the perfect jump for me. I’ve been here now for five and a half years and I absolutely love it! I adore the bustle of the city and how it can really kick you in high gear, especially with a performing career. As a puppeteer there is a beautiful tight knit puppet community here in the city that feels like family. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!
What is your experience with kids? Can you share a story?
My earliest experience with kids is taking care of my younger brother. I used to entertain him by putting on shows with his Legos. (Probably my first pass at puppetry). After some babysitting gigs, and graduating college, I worked in Italy where I performed shows to help teach children English. We also ran theatre and language workshops for the kids after the shows. From there I got a job in Hong Kong at a children’s theatre company. I worked with children as young as two to as old as eighteen. One of my favorite experiences there was being the resident teaching artist for a middle school. My teaching colleague and I directed a musical based on West Side Story called East Side Story. I was in charge of choreography for a hip hop number and many of the kids were very nervous to explore this style. After some encouragement the kids really got their confidence; so much so that four of my students asked to choreograph their own solo! The show ended up being a huge success and I still keep in touch with many of the kids (who are now almost graduating high school) and their parents. After my whirlwind overseas, I continued to work in childcare and teaching where I was the lead teacher for the 2’s Together class at the JCC Manhattan.
You have a background in children’s puppetry. Can you tell us about your professional experience?
Puppetry fell into my hands from my background in theatre. I received my BFA in Theatre Performance from Virginia Commonwealth University, and while I did not receive any formal puppetry training there, I was extremely interested in it and started to use it in my work. Overseas, we used a lot of puppetry in shows and while the puppets were quite basic, they really enhanced the experience for kids learning English. Here in the city I’ve been working with WonderSpark Puppets for almost four years. The type of puppets we do primarily are hand puppets, table top, and marionette. Most of the experience for puppeteers comes from training from mentors, and WonderSpark Puppets has definitely been a mentor to me. While there are only a handful of colleges in the States that you can get a degree in puppetry, there are a lot more festivals and conferences you can go to. I was fortunate enough to go to The Eugene O’Neill Puppetry Conference for three years in a row where I learned from a myriad of amazing puppeteers. I’ve performed and led workshops in tiny apartments, big apartments, restaurants, malls, outdoor theatre spaces, theatres, camps, schools, libraries, parks, and the Intrepid!
How do you incorporate puppetry into your Curated Care sessions?
Puppetry is universal. I think it’s such an important art form to share! My Curated Care sessions includes a wide variety of puppet forms depending on age. On rainy days, exploring shadow puppetry with a working screen and light has always been a hit. Paper puppets for younger ages, and hand and rod style for older with added bonus of filming a puppet commercial is always fun! Some other fun sessions include, felt hand puppets, paper mache, stop motion, toy theater, improvisation, and puppet play for the little ones. Sometimes a child just want interaction with a puppet and I’m happy to improvise with a puppet character in the child’s own interactive play. The fun is limitless!
What do you think is the benefit in hiring a Kid Expert vs a traditional babysitter?
The benefit in hiring a Kid Expert over a traditional babysitter is that while your child is getting the same amount of basic care, a Kid Expert will go above and beyond to share their passion with your child. Your child will come away with a new skill or appreciation!
What are you most looking forward to in the future?
I’m looking forward to developing my solo puppet show more, performing more and more puppet shows, gaining more experience, getting to live in this beautiful city, and seeing what the future holds for my husband and I! 🙂
In addition to regular Curated Care session, Jenny offers one-hour puppetry classes. These highly interactive classes explore different forms of puppetry including, shadows, hand puppetry, toy theater, tabletop, hand and rod, and puppetry for film (depending on age). $50 an hour. Rate includes materials and a finished puppet. Book Jenny here.