Profile Type: Artist

The Grumbling Gryphons delight audiences with their marvelous masks and playful, participatory style.  Celebrating 40 years, the award winning, educational, interactive theater company provides workshops, residencies and performances year round. In 2018, Leslie Elias-Artistic Director and teaching artist/ performer received both the prestigious Connecticut Arts Hero Award from the Connecticut Office on the Arts, as well as the 2018 Culture Max Award for Arts Educator from the Northwest Connecticut Arts Council. Grumbling Gryphons received the 2003 Connecticut Governor's Arts Award for their interactive, participatory styled work in schools, libraries, museums, theater, festivals and other public venues. Addressing marine environmental issues and multi-cultural myths and legends, the Gryphons engage their audiences through pre-performance workshops and interactive performances. SINCE 1980, GRUMBLING GRYPHONS has been performing for and with hundreds of thousands of children in schools, libraries, museums, theaters, festivals, and other venues throughout the United States, and abroad. From small storefronts to majestic theaters, the Gryphons have been delighting family audiences with their uniquely entertaining and educational productions. Their environmental, multicultural, and mythological stories touch the hearts, minds, and imaginations of children and adults alike. “Sheer enchantment” is how Connecticut magazine described the troupe. From Lincoln Center in New York to the Israel Festival in Jerusalem, the Grumbling Gryphons have crossed the continents to bring quality theater to diverse audiences. What makes their productions unique? Grumbling Gryphons Theater is renowned for uniquely fantastic masks, captivating costumes, live music, and commitment to empowering children through theater. The New York Times describes Grumbling Gryphons as “A magical weave of storytelling, music, mythology and masks.” The Gryphons provide an in-depth, hands-on approach to educational theater. Before every show, the director, actors, and musical director provide pre-performance workshops in drama, music, and movement to train young actors to become part of each production. In both school and public venues, everyone becomes a participant in the creative process of theater. Leslie Elias, artistic director has spent 38 years perfecting the Gryphons uniquely participatory style. Original mask and puppet patterns designed by award winning mask maker Ellen Moon are provided to schools to help students create masks/puppets/props in advance of The Grumbling Gryphons arrival. Pre-performance study guides aid in the students understanding of the play’s content. On the day of the show, Grumbling Gryphon actors spend the morning in pre-performance drama workshops where students are taught their individual parts in the play. The final performance in the afternoon is a culmination of theater, music, art and dance with the entire school taking part, including teachers and administrators. Shows can stand alone without pre-performance workshops should a venue prefer this! The Ghost Net premiered in 1990 as part of an environmental expo-The Visit of the Mimi” held at Captain’s Cove Seaport Cove Seaport in Bridgeport, CT., which thousands of schoolchildren attended. With the invaluable input by marine biologist Barbara Whitman and other environmental educators, Leslie Elias created a play that has served as a powerful vehicle for promoting awareness of our planet’s rapidly depleting oceans and endangered marine life. Since 1990 the show has toured the United States, receiving rave reviews for its beautiful artistry and timely message. Sixty of the ocean costumes were featured in New York City’s 25th Anniversary of Earth Day. In Florida, The Grumbling Gryphons were instrumental in helping to get Amendment Three passed, which enforced the banning of net fishing. The Ghost Net was chosen to be the kickoff event for New England’s CoastWeeks as part of National Beach Cleanup Campaign. Says David Brown of Miami, “As an environmental educator for the past sixteen years and a marine science instructor for the past nine, I have not been able to find a program of comparable quality.” In a school performance of The Ghost Net: An Environmental Musical of the Sea a principal may don a special “Trash-Robe” and join the oldest students who wear original trash outfits in the musical/dance number called the “Slimy Sludge Rap.” The music teacher joins other students in a calypso number called The Coral Reef Calypso where the stage is transformed into a dazzling ocean filled with students dancing and singing as beautiful tropical fish. Still other students take on the dramatic roles of skeleton fish, entrapped in the deadly ghost net, which to this day is a major deathtrap for whales, dolphins and various sea creatures. The younger students play the parts of manatees, clams, minnows, electric eels and more. At the end of the show, all the children join in the final song, “Stop the War on the Sea” and help pull out the ghost net, working together to rid the ocean of this menace. Other Grumbling Gryphons’ productions focus on multi-cultural awareness. Anansi The Trickster Spider was featured at The American Museum of Natural History in New York as part of a celebration of Black History Month. Trickster Tales: Native American Animal Legends was developed with the cooperation of The Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington, CT. where it premiered for founders' day on July 31, 1982. Says Trudy Richmond, former chief of the Schagticoke Indians-“Your sensitivity to Native American life ways and culture is appreciated …thanks for the wonderful performance! In 1989, this show was performed at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts for close to a thousand people. The Myth of Persephone exposes children to the classical Greek myth in a highly entertaining and engaging way. This show opened in 1980 in New York City’s Central Park and has toured internationally delighting audiences ever since. Grumbling Gryphons is featured in the book- Participation Theater for Young Audiences, published in 2001 by New Plays Inc. Editor Pat Hale selected Grumbling Gryphons as one of the top participatory theater companies in the U.S., to present in her book. One chapter is dedicated to describing the in-depth participatory process of their work in schools. Another chapter includes major excerpts from The Ghost Net: An Environmental Musical of the Sea. Scenes from The Ghost Net appear in the film- Lisa Picard is Famous, directed by Griffin Dunne and co-produced by Mira Sorvino. Laura Kirk, a long time actress with the Grumbling Gryphons, is co-writer and co-star of this film, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2001 and has toured art cinemas worldwide. Miss Kirk states that her years of touring with the Grumbling Gryphons inspired her in the creation of this film. Grumbling Gryphons tours year round and is ready to come to your school, library, museum, theater or festival!

Additional Links: 
Children participating in Grumbling Gryphons Interactive African Folktale
Pre-show mask workshops, show and Parade! Excerpts from The Ghost Net: An Environmental Musical of The Sea
The Black Backed Gull Garbage Blues

I Have Worked With

  • February 2020

     Performed Anansi-The Trickster Spider: A West African Folktale for a Saturday outreach program , including a pre-performance drama and maskmaking workshop. Children engaged in drama training and performed eith our company for the public. Theatreworks is based in New Milford, CT.

  • February 2020

    Conducted pre-performance drama workshops for all the students K-8, who then performed with Grumbling Gryphons in our production of Anansi-The Trickster Spider: A West African Folktale. Hudson Country Montessori School is based in Danbury, CT Worked with Teacher Coordinator Pamela Sauls who participated with her students in the show!

  • December 2019

     Performed  At Geer Village Senior Center with " Elka and the Guardian Gryphon" , an orginal play by director Leslie Elias-for seniors and public, utilizing children K-8 from three Region One Schools in an afterschool arts program created by Ms. Elias. Grumbling Gryphons received a REGI Grant to bring together children from three schools to in an afternoon fall program to participate in drama, music, instrument making & shadow puppet making to perform together in this timely show about environmental impacts on the rainforest and global warming  on Arctic Sealife.

    Sirius Coyote Music led the instrument making workshop and performed for both performances. Puppeteer Adelka Polak of Sova Theater and Katherine Freygang an environmental activist and leader led shadow puppet workshops which were utilized by the children in both performances.


  • Artist

Contact Information

First Name: 
Job Title/Position: 
Artistic Director
Mailing Address: 
West Cornwall, CT 06796-1202
Physical Address: 
West Cornwall, CT 06796-1202
Last Name: 


Profile Type: 
Primary Discipline: 
Theater - Children's
Additional Disciplines: 
Humanities - Anthropology
Humanities - Science
Literary Arts - Poetry
Music - Children's
Theater - Children's
Theater - Improv
Theater - Puppet
Theater - Solo / One-Person Show
Theater - Storytelling
Year Founded: 
Populations Served: 
General Public
Immigrant Populations
People with Disabilities
School Groups
Languages Available: 
American Sign Language
Institution/Business Type: 
Performing Groups
Activities and Services: 
Arts for Social Change / Creative Activism
Arts Instruction / Lessons
Community Arts
Consulting - Organizational Capacity
Creation of a Work of Art (Including Commissions)
Curriculum Development
Performance / Concert / Reading
Professional Development / Training
Residency - Community
Residency - In School
Residency - Production / Development
Wedding / Parties / Private Gatherings
Writing Services
Workshops / Demonstrations / Master Class
Events Per Year: 
Seasons Active: 
Geographic Reach: 
Town / City
Multi-County Region

Affiliations and Accomplishments

Sarah Lawrence College
Omega Institute
Connecticut Governor's Arts Award
Connecticut Arts Hero (Leslie Elias-Aristic Director)
Culture Max Award for Arts Educator- (Leslie Elias)

I am a Touring Artist

I am NEST eligible
Technical Requirements: 
electrical outlets nearby, Two tables for props & costumes
Fee Range Minimum: 
Fee Range Maximum: 
State of Residence: 
Minimum Number of Performers: 
Maximum Number of Performers: 

I am a Teaching Artist

Teaching Settings: 
Afterschool Program
Arts and Cultural Center / Venue
Community Site / Center
Private Studio
School / University
Subject Areas: 
Arts Integration - Science / Technology / Engineering
Ages Served: 
Elementary School-age
Middle School-age
Certifications / Training: 
Sarah Lawrence College
Omega Institute
Fee Range Minimum: 
Fee Range Maximum: