Profile Type: Artist
NEFA Grant Recipient
John Bell and Trudi Cohen

Trudi Cohen and John Bell are theater makers, puppeteers, festival organizers, musicians, and founding members of Great Small Works, a visual theater collective created in 1995 in New York City, whose six members share roots in Bread and Puppet Theater. Its members are now dispersed, with outposts in Brooklyn, NY's Hudson Valley, Montreal, and Cambridge, MA.  Bell and Cohen anchor the New England base in Massachusetts.

John Bell is the Director of the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry and an Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts at the University of Connecticut.  He was a member of the Bread and Puppet Theater company from 1976 to 1986; and received his doctoral degree in theater history from Columbia University in 1993.  He is a respected scholar in the field of puppet theater, whose writing includes American Puppet Modernism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008); and Strings, Hands, Shadows: A Modern Puppet History (Detroit Institute of Arts, 2000).  He edited Puppets, Masks, and Performing Objects (MIT Press, 2001), and co-edited with Dassia Posner and Claudia Orenstein The Routledge Guide to Puppetry and Material Performance (2014).  He is an editor of Puppetry International, the publication of the U.S. branch of the Union Internationale de la Marionnette; an organizer of the Honk! Festival of Activist Street Bands in Somerville, Massachusetts; and a trombonist in the Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band. He received the 2011 Research Prize from the Institut International de la Marionette in Charleville-Mezieres, France; and the Puppeeers of America's 2019 George Latshaw Award for puppet scholarship.

Trudi Cohen was a full-time member of Bread and Puppet Theater's resident company in Vermont for 10 years, and has performed as puppeteer in productions directed by Peter Schumann, Janie Geiser, Amy Trompetter and David Neumann.  She was Director of Great Small Works' 2008, 2010 and 2013 International Toy Theater Festivals and has curated dozens of the company’s Spaghetti Dinner events.  She plays bass drum with the Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band, and is a founder and organizer of the HONK! Festival in Somerville, MA. She is secretary of the Board of UNIMA-USA,  and on the boards of Bread and Puppet Theater, and Parts & Crafts, a maker space for young people in Somerville, MA.

Together Bell and Cohen received Puppet Showplace Theater's 2014 Paul Vincent Davis Award for artistry and mentorship; and NEFA's 2017 Rebecca Blunk Award for outstanding New England artists.

Bell and Cohen offer original Toy Theater productions for both family and adult audiences. Original plays based on the daily news are more geared to adults; the retelling of folk tales and fables are designed for audiences of all ages, including very young children. They also offer Toy Theater workshops for groups of all ages and backgrounds, lasting from 3 hours to a full week long.

Great Small Works’ mission is to draw on folk, puppet, avant-garde and popular theater traditions to address contemporary issues. We value the beauty and potency of puppet theater, the urgency of speaking out about the news of the day, the power of creating theater with diverse groups of citizens and of bringing art to public spaces. We work for intelligent and engaged content in our work. We teach in public schools and at universities, and mentor young artists who are learning how to integrate critical thought into their creative work. Great Small Works performs in theaters, schools, parks, libraries, museums, prisons, street corners, and other public spaces, producing work on many scales, from gigantic outdoor spectacles with scores of volunteer participants, to miniature shows in living rooms. The individual members of the Great Small Works collective are each engaged in writing, scholarship, mentorship, and community organizing.

We stumbled upon Toy Theater (also called Paper Theater or Model Theater) 25 years ago, and were inspired by its accessibility, scale and beauty.  Since then, we have produced ten international Toy Theater Festivals, and have traveled around the world discovering practitioners of this arcane form of table-top storytelling. Through both workshops and performances, we have introduced Toy Theater to hundreds of artists and students. We believe that everyone has a story to tell, and with Toy Theater they can do it themselves.


We are willing to negotiate our fees, depending on the resources of each presenter.

Additional Links: 
Trudi Cohen and John Bell perform "Sidewalk Ballet" at Great Small Works' Spaghetti Dinner, 11/4/2014

I Have Worked With

  • November 2019

    Bell and Cohen have performed with Great Small Works and Facto Teatro on several occasions, conducted a workshop for adults in July 2016, and did three performances in November 2019.

  • July 2019

    Conducted a week-long workshop creating Toy Theater shows, with a culminating performance. Presented our own show before the festival mainstage show on July 12, 2019.

  • May 2018

    Bell and Cohen performed with Great Small Works and Facto Teatro in 2013 and 2015.; as part of their May 25-26, 2018 Puppet Slam; and will perform on May 30-31, 2020.


  • NEFA Grantee
  • Artist

Contact Information

First Name: 
Job Title/Position: 
Mailing Address: 
100 Jackson Street
Cambridge, MA 02140
Physical Address: 
Cambridge, MA 02140
Last Name: 


Profile Type: 
Primary Discipline: 
Theater - Puppet
Additional Disciplines: 
Theater - Devised / Artist-Led
Populations Served: 
General Public
Institution/Business Type: 
Performing Groups
Activities and Services: 
Arts for Social Change / Creative Activism
Performance / Concert / Reading
Workshops / Demonstrations / Master Class
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Affiliations and Accomplishments

Professional Associations: 
Puppeteers of America
UNIMA (Union International de la Marionette) - USA
John Bell, PhD, Columbia University School of Arts and Sciences
Bell received the Prix de la Recherche from the Institut International de la Marionette (France), for American Puppet Modernism (2011)
Bell received the Jalal Sattari award (Iran) for “Shalako Puppets and Nineteenth-Century Ritual” from American Puppet Modernism (2011).
Cohen and Bell jointly received the Puppet Showplace Theater's 2014 Paul Vincent Davis Award for artistry and mentorship, on the occasion of the Brookline theater's 40th anniversary. They were honored with NEFA's Rebecca Blunk Award in 2017.
Great Small Works received a Village Voice Obie Award (1997), two UNIMA/USA Citations for Excellence (1997 and 2008); and the Puppeteers of America’s Jim Henson Award for innovation in puppetry (2005).
Cohen and Bell jointly received the NEFA 2017 Rebecca Blunk Award.
Bell received the Puppeteers of America's 2019 Paul McPharlin Award for puppet scholarship
I am a NEFA Grant Recipient

Accessibility of Services

Access accommodations for people who use a wheelchair and have limited mobility

I am a Touring Artist

I am NEST eligible
Technical Requirements: 
Our Toy Theater productions are completely self-contained. They require a darkened room and a performing area minimum 12' x 10'. Ideal audience is no larger than 80 people.
Fee Range Minimum: 
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State of Residence: 
Minimum Number of Performers: 
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I am a Teaching Artist

Teaching Settings: 
Arts and Cultural Center / Venue
Community Site / Center
Subject Areas: 
Ages Served: 
Elementary School-age
Middle School-age
High School-age
Fee Range Minimum: 
Fee Range Maximum: