The facility is part of an expansion of the Eugene O’Neill campus expansion, which will include seven new housing cottages and additional production and rehearsal space to accommodate the conferences at the O'Neill. It will also be home to the National Music Theater Institute, a new division of the undergraduate National Theater Institute.
Jim Henson, creator of the “Muppets” and wife Jane Henson, a collaborator, were participants at the O’Neill’s Institute of Professional Puppetry Arts. After Henson’s passing in 1990, Jane Henson spearheaded a campaign to create the National Puppetry Conference, dedicated to the legacies of several puppet artists.
"Jane Henson loved and supported the O'Neill's National Puppetry Conference,” Cheryl Henson, daughter of the Henson’s and President of The Jim Henson Foundation, said in a statement. “As one of the founders of this innovative program in 1990, our mother returned to the O'Neill every June to enjoy the playful camaraderie of the creative process, encourage new artists and reconnect with established masters."
“There is no finer name for the centerpiece building of our new expansion than that of ‘Henson,’" O’Neill Center executive director Preston Whiteway added. "Jane, Jim, and their daughters Cheryl and Heather have supported the O’Neill’s mission of discovery and development for decades, since our earliest days as an organization I’m delighted that new generations of puppeteers will create in this space, and that it allows for an broad expansion of our offerings – a new major new professional puppetry residency and year-round undergraduate musical theater training with our National Music Theater Institute. O’Neill artists in every discipline will be train in the Jim & Jane Henson Rehearsal Hall, and know of their commitment to our mission.”
Along with puppetry, the O’Neill Theater Center houses conferences in musical theatre, play-writing and cabaret. It has served as a springboard and provided immense training for several of today’s renown artists in play-writing and acting. The Henson hall will serve as the headquarters during the 25th anniversary of the National Puppetry Conference, for the 2015 season. For tickets and further information about the National Puppetry Conference or the Jim Henson Foundation Puppetry Residency, call (860) 443-1238 or visit theoneill.org.