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Dennis Murphy Awarded Life Membership to UNIMA Australia – His gift to us was an incredible Bibliography of Puppet Character Comedy!

Dennis Murphy was our special guest speaker for UNIMA Australia’s World Puppetry Day on 21st March, 2024.
At the end of his Artist talk, we awarded Dennis with a Life Membership to UNIMA
Australia, in appreciation of his contribution to Australian Puppetry.
Congratulations Dennis!

His gift to us was an incredibly extensive bibliography of Puppet Character Comedy, which you can download here below. Thank you so much Dennis!

Download Bibliography of Puppet Character Comedy compiled by Dennis Murphy

Remembering Margaret (Peggy) Hetherington (1923-2022)

Peggy Hetherington once amusingly characterised her role in puppetry as “self-effacing back-up”, and while there is no denying the major part played by her brilliant husband in the TV series Mr Squiggle and Friends, as the script-writer she was invaluable. Peggy died peacefully in September, at the grand age of 99, having spent the last year in a retirement home, but until there she had managed to cope with the 39 steps that led up to the Hetherington family home in Mosman, not far from where her daughter Rebecca now lives. 

Margaret Purnell was born in Sydney in 1923, and as an art student in 1943 she accompanied a friend to drop off some paints at the New Theatre League during a rehearsal of Oriel Gray’s play Lawson, and ended up playing a part in the play.  She then became involved in other productions as stage-manager, costume-maker or actor.   [Someone she remembered from the New Theatre in her time there was a U.S. soldier then stationed in Sydney, Corporal Will Lee Lubovsky.  Some of us will remember him as the Will Lee who played the grocer, Mr Hooper, in Sesame Street from its beginning in 1969 until his death in 1982.]  One of Peggy’s surprising achievements was travelling from England to Sydney in 1952 on a small sailing ship as one of a crew of three!

In 1958 she married cartoonist/puppeteer Norman Hetherington and Norman’s puppet of Mr Squiggle, destined for fame, began appearing on ABC TV in 1959, with scripts written by Peggy.  Edith Murray, secretary of the Puppetry Guild, was delighted by the marriage because Peggy was a distant cousin!  And at one time Peggy herself was secretary of the Guild.

In 1974 she assisted Norman when he compiled Puppets in Australia, a booklet richly illustrated with photos, funded by the Australian Council for the Arts [now known as the Australia Council] and issued free, ahead of a puppet festival in Melbourne in January 1975.   She wrote Mr Squiggle and the Great Moon Robbery [1980], Mr Squiggle and the Preposterous Purple Crocodile [1992], both of which Norman illustrated, and Mr Squiggle to the Rescue [1998], an audiobook of three stories, narrated by Rebecca.  Of special interest to puppeteers is the delightful book Hand Shadows [ 1988] by Norman and Margaret Hetherington. [Until Norman had a nasty accident in the 1950s, with a chisel cutting into a tendon to a thumb, he used to do a charming shadow show using his hands and “add-ons”.]

I have many happy personal memories, but especially of 1968-9, my last years of teaching, when my grandmother was in a retirement home just around the corner from the Hetheringtons.  Several times I was able to combine a visit to Grandma in the afternoon with a meal in their home to follow…and lots of laughter.  Sadly I haven’t seen Peggy since Norman’s funeral in 2010, but Murray Raine made a point of visiting when up from Melbourne.

Left to right are Albrecht Roser (crouching!), me, Stephen (now Prof. Stephen Hetherington), Rebecca (peeking around), Norman and, in front, Peggy. The photo was taken by Albrecht’s assistant, Ingrid Höfer.

The attached photo was taken at the Hetherington home in Mosman one Sunday in early 1975, when the great German marionettist, Albrecht Roser, was in Sydney to perform.  (Roser had earlier seen a performance by Norman at the puppet festival in Melbourne that January.)  Left to right are Albrecht Roser (crouching!), me, Stephen (now Prof. Stephen Hetherington), Rebecca (peeking around), Norman and, in front, Peggy. The photo was taken by Albrecht’s assistant, Ingrid Höfer.

Richard Bradshaw

Footnote:  In November, Peggy’s grandson Tom Hetherington-Welch, Rebecca’s younger son, used puppets he made in a well-received show he co-wrote for the Sydney University Drama Society [SUDS].

Vale Elka Schumann (1935-2021)

Elka holding a bunch of flowers waving next to a door.
Source: Bread and Puppet Theatre

The large extended family and community whose lives were touched by Elka Schumann mourn the end of her rich life on August 1st.  I count myself among that group. I met Elka in the mid-1970s, when I was fresh out of college and trying to make sense of the world. She was the person who introduced me to singing, to puppetry, and to theater. She remained a dear friend and mentor.

Elka was the backbone of Bread and Puppet Theater. While raising five children, she was also able to be chief counsel and critic to her brilliant and prolific husband Peter. She managed the theater’s finances, founded and ran the Bread and Puppet Press – disseminating posters, calendars, books and recordings throughout the world. She was the primary caretaker and curator of the theater’s huge barn museum. And, when I first connected with her, she was designer, writer and director of Dancing Bear Children’s Theater, performing hand puppet shows in public schools throughout northern Vermont. She was an accomplished singer and flautist, and was responsible for introducing me, as well as Bread and Puppet, to the a cappella hymn tradition known as shape-note singing, which became a mainstay in the theater’s productions.

Elka was born Elka Leigh Scott in Magnitogorsk, Siberia. Her father, John Scott, was an American Communist, interested in the radical re-imagining of economic structures and the creation of a new social order in the Soviet Union. Her mother, Masha Dikareva, was Russian; she had one sister, Elena. When the Nazis invaded Russia, the family fled. Her father’s politics took a sharp turn toward conservatism, and they spent time in Germany, New York State, and New York City, finally settling in Ridgefield, CT.  She attended Bryn Mawr College, and met Peter Schumann during a junior year abroad in Munich, Germany, when she was enlisted to join his non-dancer dance company.

Elka’s grandfather was Scott Nearing, whose back-to-the-land democratic socialism had a powerful influence on her as well.

Through this heritage, and through her partnership with Peter, Elka developed an acute sense of justice, and a belief in the possibility of building new structures, and imagining new worlds. Bread and Puppet’s deep ethical foundations – anti-war, pro-democracy, frugality, living in harmony with the earth – were well-lived in Elka herself.  There was always room at the table for one more roaming puppeteer. There was always a song, a slice of bread, and an encouraging word.

I spent my first months as a Bread and Puppet company member after they had already escaped the streets of NYC for a more pastoral existence on Cate Farm in Plainfield, VT. The company was on tour in Europe and I was alone with Elka and her kids. I joined adventures of her design on picnics, hikes, and cultural trips. I loved those escapades, complemented by visits to many remote elementary schools to perform puppet shows. Later, I had opportunities to tour with Elka, often to distant lands, and I was struck by how open her eyes always were, how eager to see and learn new things, how willing to extend herself to new situations.

In Glover, the theater took up residence on a farm purchased by Elka’s parents. Elka was a consistent strong protector of the land – pine forest, apple orchard, hay fields, sugar bush, house, barn and outbuildings – especially as they were transformed into amphitheatre, workshop, puppet storage, museum and venue for tens of thousands of annual spectators. Creating a balance between private home and public space, between the needs of her family and the needs of the theater, and between the grandeur of Peter’s vision and the simplicity of the life-style they chose, was an ongoing struggle. But her expansive generosity was its own art form. She was the definition of hospitality for me and countless other puppeteers. Her guiding light continues to shine.

Trudi Cohen (August 16, 2021)

Vale Rose Hill 1922-2022

Rose Hill of Mildura, a devotee of puppetry and the mother of the brilliant puppeteer, Ross Hill, died in Melbourne aged 99.  As she says in this link to a short ACMI video from 2017, she became involved with puppetry as an aid to helping Ross overcome a speech defect resulting from a bout of encephalitis.  Those of us who knew Ross would never have suspected that he had ever had such a problem, but the puppetry not only helped him to overcome it, it launched what would become his career.


Rose and her husband Arthur, had a poultry farm in Mildura.  They built the house themselves despite the constraints of wartime Australia, and there they raised a family of four boys, John, Keith, Ross and David.  John has a strong boyhood memory of the day that Ross was born, 7 November 1954. Rose had been bedridden with encephalitis for some time before being transferred to the hospital and late that afternoon a tornado had swept across the district doing extensive damage.  

With Rose’s help and encouragement Ross was presenting a regular marionette segment on local TV in Mildura when he was 14 and still at school. He had been particularly inspired by Peter Scriven’s Tintookies, and in Rose’s video you will see some of his marionettes from that time, many (such as the goat and the chook), clearly showing that influence.  Especially interesting were the figures he had made which did not have the basic humanoid construction, and in later life Ross had an amazing skill in turning a free-hand sketch into a working puppet.

Rose made contact with the puppetry community, and puppeteers passing through Mildura often paid a visit.  In 1973 Ross was invited by L. Peter Wilson to join the Tasmanian Puppet Theatre in Hobart and while there was responsible for a 13-part TV series. From 1977-1984 he was with Richard Bradshaw at the Marionette Theatre of Australia in Sydney where he was invaluable as a brilliant puppet-maker although he was also a gifted performer.  

Rose, Arthur and Ross attended the UNIMA Festival in Moscow in 1976 and Rose also went to the 1979 festival organised by PUK in Tokyo celebrating 50 years of UNIMA.  At that festival Ross worked as a puppeteer in the M.T.A.’s The Mysterious Potamus, for which he had made the puppets (to Norman Hetherington’s designs).  Ross’s manipulation of Paul the Peacock and Calvin the Crocodile was outstanding. His cruel death in1991 at the age of 36 was a tragic loss to Australian puppetry, and a devastating blow for Rose and the Hill family.

Two political figures Ross made to designs by cartoonist Patrick Cook were installed in the Museum of Democracy in Old Parliament House, Canberra, near puppets by Peter Nicholson for the ABC’s Rubbery Figures which Ross had originally had a hand in making while at the M.T.A.  After he left the M.T.A. Ross freelanced, and even worked for Jim Henson in London on the movie Labyrinth.

Rose Hill created the Mildura Puppetry Centre in a large room added on to the house.  There she displayed Ross’s early marionettes and many other figures she had gathered or made.  Some of Edith Murray’s figures from the Clovelly Puppet Theatre in Sydney were there.  The Centre was visited by schoolchildren and other local groups and puppeteers who visited when they were passing through Mildura were surprised by the extent of the collection.  The following link will give you some idea: 

Source: Picture: Andy Rogers

Rose Hill had been in hospital in Mildura where her mind was fading before being transferred to a hospital in Melbourne, to be close to her son, John and his wife, Kerry, and also to have the company of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  She died three days after catching COVID-19 in hospital.   A great character, with enormous energy, a good sense of humour and, to the very end, devoted to puppetry, especially as an educational tool.  

There remains the problem of the future of the Mildura Puppetry Centre with Rose’s large collection of puppets.  Rose would have liked to extend the facility to set up a museum as a tourist attraction but unfortunately it remained a dream.  Rose’s sons hope there might be an enterprising puppeteer willing to purchase the property and restore the facility to its former glory.  Perhaps they may even build that museum that Rose and Ross would have loved.

There are some excellent museums of puppetry in other countries and it would solve a growing problem if somehow, somewhere in Australia, a home for “retired puppets” could be established.  If it can’t be in Mildura then hopefully another solution can be found to keep the collection together.

John, Keith & David would welcome any enquiries: 0408 688 122

by Richard Bradshaw and John Hill

Vale Lyndon Peter Wilson

Lyndon Peter Wilson
We are very sad to inform the greater puppetry community of the recent passing of Lyndon Peter Wilson, who died peacefully at his home in New Zealand on 22nd March, 2021. 

Among his many achievements, he was the co-founder of Spare Parts Puppet Theatre (WA), which is marking its 40th anniversary this year. Here is the piece that Spare Parts wrote about Peter:

“Puppetry people from around Australia, New Zealand and the world both remember and celebrate the life of Lyndon Peter Wilson, known as Peter Wilson, who sadly passed away earlier this week.

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre was formed in 1981 by Peter, together with writer Cathryn Robinson and designer Beverly Campbell Jackson, to share the magic of puppetry in Western Australia.

From the outset, Peter brought an international flavour to Spare Parts. He had earlier established the Tasmanian Puppet Theatre in 1970 and studied theatre and puppetry with Puk Theatre in Tokyo, the Bunraku Theatre, National Theatre of Japan, the Central Puppet Theatres of Prague and Moscow, and Cannon Hill Puppet Theatre in the UK.

The company’s first production Faust was presented as part of the 1981 Festival of Perth (now Perth Festival) and was billed as a “total visual experience”. The work was directed by Peter and developed with Japanese artists Noriko Nishimoto and Takeshi Hoshino.

We celebrate the enormous legacy Peter built for puppetry and for his vision in igniting the art form in Australia and later in enriching the lives of artists and audiences in New Zealand. He is fondly remembered by all of us at Spare Parts and by the many artists who received their start under his leadership.”

 Peter won many awards in his career, including the National Drama Critics Award (1979), Sidney Meyer Performing Arts Award (1988) and the UNIMA Australia Lifetime Achievement award (2006) at the 2nd National Puppetry Summit in Hobart, Tasmania (you can read about it in this issue of Australian Puppeteer Magazine, p10-11). 
 In 2018, UNIMA Australia nominated him to be a Member of Honour for UNIMA International, which was to be decided at the UNIMA Congress in Bali in 2020. The congress was unfortunately postponed until April 2021 due to Covid. Peter’s global interaction with puppetry, the establishment of training programs in Australia, (which have been the main driver of the development of puppetry in this nation) and his cultural exchange programs that have also supported innovation in the puppetry arts, were principal factors in his nomination for Member of Honour.

Our hearts go out to Peter’s family, friends and the wider puppetry community as we grieve his loss.

Here are some more photos of Peter below, courtesy of Spare Parts Puppet Theatre:

Thank You Richard Hart

After 6 years as President of UNIMA Australia, Richard Hart has stepped down from his role. We thank him for his years of service and significant contribution to our organisation – especially developing ties with UNIMA International as well as the Asia Pacific Commission.

He represented UNIMA Australia in the 5th China Quanzhou International Puppet Festival in 2017 and has advocated for artistic partnerships and skills exchanges with artists in Australia and overseas.

He will be sorely missed, and we wish him all the best with his future endeavours.

Best regards,

Kay Yasugi
General Secretary
UNIMA Australia

Applications are now open for the 2020 Lorrie Gardner UNIMA Australia Biennial Scholarship!

Dear Members,

We are excited to announce that applications are now open for the 2020 Lorrie Gardner UNIMA Australia Biennial Scholarship! You can get all the information at or read the details below.

We realise the deadline for applications is quite soon, so if you have a project/course in mind but need more time to put your application/support documents together, please let us know (contact Sue Wallace from the scholarship committee at 
 Application Information Guidelines
Closing date: Tuesday 31st March, 2020
Scholarship amount: Up to $2,500 AUD
Projects must start no earlier than May 1st 2020.
Successful applicants will be notified by Saturday 25th April, 2020.
Please send your application to the General Secretary, Kay Yasugi at She will forward them to the current scholarship committee: Joanne Foley, Philip Millar and Sue Wallace.
 About the Scholarship
Lorrie Gardner of Gardner’s Puppet Theatre was a longstanding and active member of UNIMA Australia. She was President for 3 years until illness forced her to retire in 2004. In 2005 Lorrie Gardner bequeathed a substantial contribution to the fund and the renaming of the scholarship fund is to honour not only her financial contribution but her artistic contribution as an outstanding puppetry practitioner, teacher and colleague. The Scholarship Fund has been created through the individual contributions of members, and supported by further donations from the Gardner family. 
 Purpose of the Scholarship
The purpose of the scholarship is to assist the development, evolution and growth of Australian puppetry arts & culture by benefiting UNIMA Australia Inc. members.  All activities, projects and situations must be puppetry oriented.
The Scholarship is offered to individual puppetry practitioners to further develop their puppetry practice.

 Scholarship Guidelines
The scholarship can be used toward tuition costs or travel expenses to attend training institutions, workshops, appropriate festivals, etc. or to work with a specialist teacher. It can also be used towards the costs of bringing a specialist teacher to work with an individual member or group of members or for any other activity that the scholarship committee deems worthy.
It cannot be used for production costs or capital purchases.
 Who is eligible?
 Applicants must be Australian citizens or Permanent Residents.
Applicants must have been continual financial members of UNIMA Australia for a minimum of 2 years up to the closing date of the application. In the event of a group application, all members of the group must be UNIMA Australia Inc. members (with at least one participant being a continuous financial member for 2 years at the time of application).
Members of UNIMA Australia Inc. executive and scholarship committee members are not eligible to apply during their terms of office.
 How to apply
 1. Check your eligibility. If in doubt about the length of your membership contact the UNIMA Australia Membership Secretary, Katherine Hannaford, by email to
2. Check that the proposed project meets the guidelines. If in doubt contact Sue Wallace from scholarship committee (
3. Clearly articulate your proposal in writing in a maximum of 2 pages. If you are applying to attend a course or festival include source material about the course or festival e.g. festival program, web site link, course brochure etc.If you are applying to work with a specialist teacher/artist please check with the scholarship committee if you need to include a CV for that artist. Provide a 1 page CV for each member applying highlighting information relevant to this application. Provide a project budget detailing the Scholarship proponent. 
 Successful applicants must submit a report of their scholarship project no later than 6 weeks after completion of the project. Visual illustration should be attached, including photos, drawings &/or video .  This report will be published on-line and/or in print and also circulated to members. Reports must be sent by email to the General Secretary, Kay Yasugi at

 Previous Recipients of the Lorrie Gardner Scholarship: 
(AboutFace Productions)
Tim travelled to Vermont, USA, to take part in Peter Schumann’s Bread & Puppet Theater’s Residential Apprenticeship Program – An intensive 5 week experience.

Lana was invited to be one of three emerging Artists at the 2011 National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Centre in Waterford, Conneticut (USA). It was a 2 week experience of Artist development. (Photo shows here shadow work for her show, ‘Small Talk’. Photo by Richard Termine).

2012 RECIPIENT: BETH MCMAHON (the indirect Object)
Beth underwent specialist training with Puppeteer, Film maker and Marionettiste Yvette Edery in Los Angeles, USA. She learned about new creative techniques for Theatre and Film.

Lauren did a summer internship with Phantom Limb Company in New York City, USA. She learened more about their puppet making process while gaining perspective about her own practice, and challenging herself creatively in an unfamiliar landscape.

Jhess used her scholarship to complete her Diploma in Professional Puppetry at the London School of Puppetry (LSP) in the UK, and also attend the Fifth Annual “Festival des Marionettes aux Estampes”, a Puppetry festival in the south of France.

2015 RECIPIENT: MICHAEL BEVITT (the indirect Object)
Michael used his scholarship towards developing the experimental work “For the Love of an Orange” for the Prague Quadrennial Makers Exhibition and working with internationally acclaimed Object Theatre Specialist, Stéphane Georis, in Belgium. (Photo: Gabriel S. Partington and Michael Bevitt performing ‘For the Love of an Orange’.

Katherine went to Beyond the Sock – A Puppetry for Film and Television Workshop in Denton, Texas USA.

2018 RECIPIENT: FIONA FINLEY (The Drama Studio)
Fiona had a 2 day private workshop with puppeteer Kay Yasugi (Pupperoos) to learn various puppetry skills (including shadow puppetry, marionettes and rod puppets) in order to practically apply them in both classes and productions at the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre in Wollongong, NSW  

Randwick Puppet Festival 17-19 January 2020 – 3 days of puppet mayhem and fun

Randwick Puppet Festival 2020 is coming to a venue close to you! You will find great puppet performances, puppet making workshops and even a puppet picnic at Randwick Environment Park where you can rub shoulders with the biggest puppets you have ever seen. All the shows are family friendly except for the Puppet Cabaret for the grown-ups. You’ll find some old favourites like Dreamer who returns to the Randwick Literary Institute but this time from space! Miss Muffet emerges from a giant pop-up book and Showko brings her brilliant stand-up comedy show Showko: Absolutely Normal to the Randwick Community Centre. Pop in to the library to see the exhibition The Magic of Puppets and to hear Richard Bradshaw talk about his life as a famous shadow puppeteer. Check the website for venues and bookings. See you there! BOOK NOW!

Vale Axel Axelrad

We present to you a special issue of the Oz Puppetry Email Newsletter (O.P.E.N.) dedicated to UNIMA Australia Life Member Axel Axelrad, who passed away on 13th November 2018 aged 99 years. 

O.P.E.N. was a free email puppetry newsletter edited by Julia Davis and Richard Hart (Dream Puppets), and ran from 2010-2015. Julia and Richard reopened the newsletter for this special edition, and we thank them for their considerable efforts in compiling this very important record of Australian Puppetry history.

Thank you to everyone who also shared their stories and memories about Axel. 

You can read this issue in two parts, by clicking on the links below.



UNIMA International Medal presented to Axel Axelrad as a member of honour.

As a Life Member, Axel Axelrad was also presented this medal by UNIMA International for being a Member of Honour of UNIMA.

Congratulations to Scholarship Recipient Fiona Finley

Congratulations to Fiona Finley from the Drama Studio (Wollongong, NSW), who has been awarded the 2018 Lorrie Gardner UNIMA Austraila Biennial Scholarship. She will receive her requested amount of $550 to learn cardboard puppetry and mask construction and performance from specialist tutor Kay Yasugi (Pupperoos).

Applications for the next scholarship will open in 2020. To be eligible, an applicant must be a continuous financial member of UNIMA Australia for at least 2 years. To join, please go to our UNIMA Australia Member Planet site

Or Contact our Membership Secretary, Ruri Konishi, via our Contact form.