I was very sad to hear today about the passing of Frank Ballard. Although perhaps not well known to the general public, in puppetry circles Frank was a renowned designer and puppeteer who built over 1,500 puppets and directed 100 puppet operas and musicals over the course of his career. Probably his greatest contribution to puppetry was teaching and inspiring several generations of puppeteers as a professor in the puppetry program at the University of Connecticut, which he founded in 1966 as the first ever degree-granting program in puppetry at an American university (the Ballard Institute & Museum of Puppetry at UCONN is named in his honour).
I never had the opportunity to meet Frank myself, but every puppeteer I have ever met who worked with him or studied under him universally sings his praises. The world has lost an important and visionary advocate for puppetry. Rest in peace Frank.
08/06/10 Update – I’ve added a link to Frank’s complete obituary.