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About Our Puppeteers & Staff

Staff Member Description
Jeffrey Lazos-Ferns
Executive Director
Jeffrey Lazos-Ferns, a native Arizonan entrepreneur, artist, and cultural worker, provides leadership in business development, fundraising, marketing, public relations, community partnership, community relations, and strategic planning for corporations, and cultural institutions, museums, artists, and clients. His foresight and long-range planning skills have contributed to significant growth for clients in the regional and national touring arts sectors. His primary work includes working within Native American, Latin@, and 2SLGBTQ+ communities and bridging these communities with each other and institutions through the arts.
Nancy Smith
Founding Director
Nancy began playing with puppets when she was 5 years old and never outgrew it. After earning theater degrees at Arizona State University and Florida State University, she co-founded Great Arizona Puppet Theater in 1983. Nancy writes and directs most of our shows and music, helps in puppet construction including designing and making costumes, controls, face painting and hair. She also performs in a bunch of shows. Her favorite characters are the Prince in Cinderella, Nibs and Peter in Peter Pan, the mother in Rapunzel, the Little Red Hen, Baby Turtle in Oh Coyote and any other puppet she's operating at the moment.
Gwen Bonar
Artistic Director
Gwen Bonar is a second generation puppeteer and builder that has been performing for audiences, other than her parents, since was 6 years old. She has performed in Regional, National and International Puppetry Festivals and her solo puppet slam pieces have been selected for multiple National Puppet Slams. Passionate about creating high quality art for children, she believes that no two live performances are the same and enjoys finding new unique moments to share with every audience.
Lisa Haslbauer
Head Puppeteer
After studying for a Master's degree in the Puppet Arts program at the University of Connecticut, Lisa began working at Great Arizona Puppet Theater in 1993. In 2010, Lisa moved to Seattle where she worked as a puppeteer with Thistle Theater and the children's band The Bears Upstairs, as well as helping to found and performing with the Fussy Cloud Puppet Slam. Lisa returned to Phoenix in 2012 and resumed her role as Head Puppeteer. She's happy to be back with GAPT!
Matt McGee
Lead Fabricator, Digital Media Director
Matt McGee is an award-winning actor and puppet designer with over 25 years of puppet-making-experience, along with years of experience as a self-motivated media-maker, artist, builder, and seasoned teacher. A second-generation puppeteer, Matt was practically raised by puppets in the wilds of Central California and spent many a summer attending puppetry festivals throughout his youth–he has known Gwen and Nancy since he was at least 12 years old! He wrote, directed, starred in, and designed the two-time Jim Henson Foundation Grant-awarded show Under the Sea with Dredgie McGee, which was nominated for 4 Helen Hayes Awards, including Best Ensemble and Outstanding Production.
Lisa Marie Pirro
Scenic Arts and Design
Lisa Marie began working with The Great Arizona Puppet Theater in the early 90’s painting signs and backdrops. While working on props and painting for numerous film and stage productions, she was also performing in local bands. Combining her love of Illustration, Music, Storytelling and Puppetry, she earned her bachelor's degree in Performing Arts and Letters and again began studying and working with professional puppeteers. In 2021, Lisa Marie became a full time GAPT staff member.
Val West
Community Engagement Assistant
Val West is a writer, poet, amateur filmmaker, and puppetry enthusiast. She is currently an undergraduate at Arizona State University studying English, creative writing, and film. Val’s poetry has been published in multiple literary journals, and she has a background in audio drama production, voice acting, and social media management, and will even perform in a Puppet Slam or two if she’s feeling adventurous. In 2023, she was a Finalist in the 61st Glendon and Kathryn Swarthout Awards in Writing for Undergraduate Poetry. She also has a passion for LGBTQ+ history and storytelling, and seeks to turn people’s attention to stories that may otherwise be forgotten by time.
Tommy Cannon
Office Administrator
Tommy Cannon has been doing puppet slams at the Great Arizona Puppet Theater since 2002. In addition to puppetry he also keeps busy as an improv comedian, a writer, and cartoonist.You can find more information about Tommy and see some of his work at his website.
Mae Ortiz
Mae is currently an undergraduate at Arizona State University, and is studying Animation. She has an associates in Fine Arts from Estrella Community College. Her work has been publicly displayed in the Las Laguna Art Gallery and the MIX Center. She has a background in illustration, and is currently working on 3D modeling and animation. Her GAPT journey in 2021 as a summer intern and she has since cemented herself as a full fledged part-time staff member.
Glen Starrett
Glen has been our volunteer webmaster since June 2001. He has two puppet fans (also known as his daughters) who have grown up visiting the theater, with many handprints on the wall!

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