Institute for Advanced Study and Northrop Present

Strings of Resilience: A Puppetry Celebration

Spotlight Series
Past event
Feb 22, 2024
Strings of Resilience: A Puppetry Celebration - Heart of the Beast puppet theater

Immerse yourself in the magical world of puppetry as we explore how this timeless art form has been shared around the world and become a powerful tool for expressing joy and resilience. From vibrant characters embodying our diverse communities to the joyous narratives of overcoming challenges, each puppet tells a story of strength, hope, and cultural richness. Join special guests and artists from In the Heart of the Beast, Open Eye Theatre, and Monkeybear’s Harmolodic Workshop in a conversation that celebrates the transformative potential of puppetry and its ability to bring communities together.

Steve Ackerman: oversees mainstage programming and community partnerships for In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre
Sofia Padilla: Mexican theater artist, director, designer, and puppeteer
Chamindika Wanduragala: Sri Lankan American puppet artist, filmmaker, and DJ

Moderated by Karen Brown, director of the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC) at the University of Minnesota

About the Presenters

Steve Ackerman oversees Mainstage Programming and Community Partnerships for In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre. He is a playwright and puppet artist who focuses on quick, crude, high-energy art making. He has his BFA in Acting from East Carolina University and MFA in Playwriting from Southern Illinois University. Previous projects include Bowels of Heck, Impact Theory of Mass Extinction, Spit Take, Action Sequence, and Cartooon!

Sofia Padilla is a Mexican theater artist, director, designer, and puppeteer who has participated in over 40 national and international theater productions and toured around the world. For television, she was the First Assistant Director of Sesame Street in Mexico City for the 2016 season “Listos a Jugar.” During the pandemic she moved to the Twin Cities and was captivated by its vibrant puppetry scene. She was the 2023 Co-Director of the Barebones Extravaganza (Giant Outdoors Puppet Show): Decomposed/Recomposed. Currently, she teaches Puppetry at Macalester College, works as a summer staff member of Bread and Puppet Theater, as the Artistic Co-Director of Paradox Teatro, which she founded in 2017 with Davey T. Steinman, and as Co-Director of Puppet Lab at Open Eye Theatre.

Chamindika Wanduragala is a Sri Lankan American puppet artist, filmmaker, DJ (DJ Chamin), and now exploring sound design. She loves transporting people to another world through puppetry and sharing the sense of joy and magic that comes with bringing a puppet to life. Wanduragala is the founder and Executive + Artistic Director of Monkeybear’s Harmolodic Workshop, which supports Native, Black, IPOC in developing creative and technical skills in contemporary puppetry.


Karen Brown is Director of the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC) at the University of Minnesota, where she directs international and interdisciplinary education and research programs. Dr. Brown also co-leads the systemwide Sustainable Development Goals Initiative. In her ICGC role, she co-chairs the Master of Development Practice degree program in international development studies with the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, serves as the Director of Graduate Studies and teaches in the ICGC Development Studies and Social Change (DSSC) Ph.D. minor program, and also serves as a Graduate Faculty member in Feminist Studies, the Human Rights Program, and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Her academic interests focus on gender and public policy in global context, international women's and children's human rights, girls in international policy, and international research ethics and methods.

Know Before You Go

Event Information

  • In-person Seating: General Admission
  • Doors: 2:30 pm
  • Event Begins: 3:30 pm CT
  • Online Access: You will receive an automatic email reminder one day and one hour prior to the event including the Zoom link and instructions for those who wish to attend in person.
  • Accessibility: 
    All Spotlight Series events are professionally captioned and are available either online or in person at the Best Buy Theater at Northrop. Some accommodation requests may take us time to arrange, so please make requests for this event by Thu, Feb 8, 2024. If you are registering after this date, please reach out to us so we can explore available options. Questions/requests, contact Carolina Maranon-Cobos,

Part of the 2023-24 Spotlight Series

2023-24 Spotlight Series: Moving Through Injustice

The University of Minnesota Spotlight Series is a collaborative partnership between the Institute for Advanced Study and Northrop to present lectures, conversations, performances, exhibits, and other events around timely topics of interest throughout the academic year. The six-part 2023–2024 series will focus on racial and social justice. Events may be attended in Northrop’s Best Buy Theater or online via Zoom. Q&A sessions will follow each event.