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About Our Puppeteers & Staff

Staff Member Description
Nancy Smith
CEO/Artistic 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
Assistant Artistic Director
Born into puppetry, Gwen has been performing since she was six. She has performed at numerous puppetry festivals, performed in national puppet slams, and has toured internationally. As assistant artistic director, Gwen takes pride in overseeing all puppet productions.
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!
Brandon Dwyer
Office Administrator
Brandon, while not a professional puppeteer, designs, writes, builds and performs at our Adult Slams. Sometimes he even ropes his wife into them. When not doing puppet related work, he can be seen riding around Phoenix on one of his many scooters.
Aubrey Watkins
Director of Education & Development
Aubrey Watkins is an Arizona native and has been with GAPT since 2012. She started here as a puppeteer before she went off to Hawaii to study puppetry. Aubrey recently received her Masters in Theatre for Young Audiences with an emphasis in puppetry from The University of Hawaii at Manoa. She currently loves working in the office here at the puppet theater. Aubrey is also a freelance puppet designer and performer around the valley. You can get more information about Aubrey and see her work on her website.
Gavin Cummins
Puppeteer
Gavin Cummins holds a MFA in Puppet Arts from the University of Connecticut. He is the creator of multiple puppet works for both children and adults. Gavin began his puppet career in Seattle with Thistle Theatre and has performed puppets shows across the United States. He is a co-founder of the Fussy Cloud Puppet Slam (with Lisa Haslbauer) in Seattle and the Salmagundi Puppet Cabaret in Storrs Connecticut. As a graduate assistant at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry he assisted in the curation of multiple exhibits and fully curated three exhibits at the 2015 National Puppetry Conference. Also in 2015 he was selected to be an Emerging Artist at the National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O'Neil Theater Center where he created J&M&G. His solo show Ok, Love You, Bye was part of the Connecticut Repertory Theater season. You can find more information about Gavin and see some of his work at his website.
Ken Bonar
Co-founder/Puppet Designer
Ken came to puppetry as a visual artist. He and Nancy co-founded Puppetpower in Florida in 1976 and Great Arizona Puppets in 1983. Ken is currently enjoying retirement with his dog.
Glen Starrett
Webmaster
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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