Barefoot Puppet Theatre

Barefoot Puppet Theatre | Puppetry, Fiber Arts, Arts Integration

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 graduated magna cum laude from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2021 with a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies in Arts Integration and a minor in Art History.

Rugg has participated in (and led) 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 an active teaching artist with Wolf Trap through the Richmond Performing Arts Alliance. Rugg 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.

About the Artist/Ensemble

Puppetry Artist, Heidi Rugg, is a maker of puppets and theatrical works. She 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!) sharing programs with 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 passionate about the possibilities within the art of puppetry to bring 21st Century Skills into the learning environment. At its heart, puppetry is an integrated, rigorous, and interdisciplinary art form that demands clarity of thought through a written script, a comfortable familiarity with trial and error, and a deep trust in the human capacity for creativity. As a guide, Rugg dives fearlessly into the turbulent waters of arts integration and gently steers students and educators through swirling eddies of collaboration and creativity.

A teaching artist for over 20 years, Rugg has worked with all ages leading workshops in eco-arts, puppet building, and puppet manipulation. She has extensive expertise in fiber arts (especially feltmaking), papier-mâché, puppet mechanisms, design, prototyping, and creative processes. 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 Program Description

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 can lead sessions in-person, 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. In-person or virtual. (Ages 8 and up)
  • Puppet Making Sessions: We have a variety of ways to make puppets with easily obtained materials. These can include a focus on puppet mechanisms, prototyping, and a variety of other processes. 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.)
  • Wild & Woolly: 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 like those of our ancient ancestors as they crafted the first textiles. By combining ancient techniques with modern twists, participants will craft forms from wool, water, and soap. In-person only. (Recommended for Ages 10-Adult.)
  • Professional Development for Teachers, Parents, and Librarians: Customized for various ages and subject areas. In-person or virtual.

We welcome inquiries on customized programming for arts integration.


Workshops: $300-$500 per day
Residencies: $2000-$3000 per week

Workshops: $125 per contact hour

Residencies: please inquire


  • All Ages
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