Z Puppets Company Bios

creative directors

Shari Aronson

Chris Griffith

teaching & performing artists

Sandy Agustin

Gustavo Boada

Julie Boada

Graci Horne

Ifrah Mansour

Derek Phillips

Laurie Witzkowski

ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

Rachel English

Shari Aronson

creative director

Z Puppets co-Creative Director and Founder Shari Aronson earned an M.A. in Drama Education from the University of Arizona, studied physical comedy with Sigfrido Aguilar in Mexico, Theatre of the Oppressed with founder Agusto Boal and puppetry with Sandglass Institute and OBIE award-winner Paul Zaloom. Shari has written plays for family audiences through commissions from the Minnesota History Center, Science Museum of MN, Mill City Museum and Minnesota Cancer Coalition. Along with collaborator Chris Griffith, she has received multiple awards for their work in puppetry from the Minnesota State Arts Board, Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, Jim Henson Foundation,  Puppeteers of America, Jerome and McKnight Foundations. Shari has also developed interactive environments for the MN Children's Museum and Science Museum of MN.

Email shari@zpuppets.org

Chris Griffith

creative director

Before Chris Griffith was co-Creative Director and Founder of Z Puppets, he was co-founder and artistic director for 13 years of Galumph Interactive Theater, nationally recognized pioneers in participatory theater. Additionally, Chris served as editor of The Puppetry Cookbook and Education Coordinator for In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater. As a clown/juggler, he has performed for The Minnesota Children’s Museum, the Minnesota Fringe Festival and the Edmonton International Street Performer’s Festival. In addition to their accomplishments in performance, for over ten years, both Chris and Shari have served as arts education consultants for the national Educational Theater Association, Minnesota’s Perpich Center and taught residencies for students of all levels. His work has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Minnesota State Arts Board, Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, Jim Henson Foundation, Puppeteers of America, Jerome Foundation. In 2009, Chris received an Ivey award for his puppet design.

Email chris@zpuppets.org

Gustavo Boada

TEACHING & PERFORMING ARTIST

Gustavo Boada, (Perú-1954) is a theater-based multidisciplinary artist with more then 25 years working in professional Theater in Peru, Chile, Puerto Rico and New York, Vermont and Philadelphia. USA.

Since he moved to Minneapolis in 2007, he had been working as Mayday Parade staff and roster artist with Heart of the Beast Mask and Puppet Theater. He also works teaching artistic residencies about puppetry, mask-making, and stilting, and receives commissions to build big puppets and pageants, and tour his children’s puppet shows for diverse community organizations and school districts of Minnesota.

Julie Boada

TEACHING & PERFORMING ARTIST

Julie Boada is an Anishinabe artist, storyteller, puppeteer and arts educator. She has worked regionally and nationally for the past 23 years, both with In the Heart of the Beast Mask and Puppet Theatre and independently. She has worked with many arts organizations including the L.A. Music Center, The Minnesota History Center, and The Fergus Falls Center for the Arts. Recent original work includes Beauty All Around, Between the Worlds, Shota and the Star Quilt, Coyote Stories, and Retelling the World where Julie has served many roles- as designer, performer and director. She has over a decade of experience working on the annual Mayday Parade with Heart of the Beast. Julie has received grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Jerome Foundation and is a 2014 Ivey Award recipient. Julie has a B.A. in Studio Arts and American Indian Studies from the University of Minnesota. She is passionate about work that inspires, builds community and fosters cultural pride.

Graci Horne

TEACHING ARTIST

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Hapistinna Graci Horne, better known at Graci, was born and raised in Minnesota. Her bands are the Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota people and Hunkpapa Lakota/Dakota people. Horne holds a degree in Museum Studies from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM. She has expertise in exhibition design, planning, and curation, as well as educational programming. She loves to combine both art and protecting Grandmother Earth. Horne’s passion projects encompass using art as a way to raise consciousness and engage viewers to preserve the earth. She has created environmental awareness and peace themed art activities for all ages. Horne is a mixed media artist and specializes in water color painting. Her water colors often emphasize the sacredness of water.

Ifrah Mansour

teaching & Performing artist

Ifrah Mansour is a multi-disciplinary artist who blends poetry, photography, movement and installations made from recycled materials. Off-stage she enjoys teaching elderly East African students, leads craft circle programs and Healspace gatherings, tends community gardens and is in training to be a bike mechanic. In 2015, Mansour became the first Somali artist to perform a show at the Minnesota State Fair.

Derek Phillips

Teaching artist

   Derek Phillips  is a native of Kansas City, Missouri and a 1977 graduate of Carleton College. He began his dance career with the Nancy Hauser Dance Company and later toured nationally with the Children’s Theatre Company. Derek has been a roster artist for the Minnesota State Arts Board’s Artists-in-Education Program and conducted annual residencies for the Montevideo, Minnesota public schools for over twenty years. He has taught as part of the Dance/Math program at Whittier Community School for the Arts in Minneapolis and instructed and performed for the City Children’s Nutcracker Project. He has also served as Development Assistant for Intermedia Arts’ capital campaign and Adjunct Dance Education Coordinator for the Perpich Center for Arts Education. Currently, Derek is a teaching artist for both the Children’s Theatre Company and the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts. He tours internationally with Katha Dance Theatre, performs English country dances with Minnesota Traditional Morris, and is a 2016 Minnesota SAGE Awards Nominee.


Derek Phillips is a native of Kansas City, Missouri and a 1977 graduate of Carleton College. He began his dance career with the Nancy Hauser Dance Company and later toured nationally with the Children’s Theatre Company. Derek has been a roster artist for the Minnesota State Arts Board’s Artists-in-Education Program and conducted annual residencies for the Montevideo, Minnesota public schools for over twenty years. He has taught as part of the Dance/Math program at Whittier Community School for the Arts in Minneapolis and instructed and performed for the City Children’s Nutcracker Project. He has also served as Development Assistant for Intermedia Arts’ capital campaign and Adjunct Dance Education Coordinator for the Perpich Center for Arts Education. Currently, Derek is a teaching artist for both the Children’s Theatre Company and the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts. He tours internationally with Katha Dance Theatre, performs English country dances with Minnesota Traditional Morris, and is a 2016 Minnesota SAGE Awards Nominee.


Laurie Witzkowski

teaching & Performing artist

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Laurie Witzkowski is a maker of theater, music, ritual and gardens in both English and Spanish. She has enlivened space in war zones, sacred sites, on the streets and by rivers across the country and the world, dedicated to ending violence on all levels.

Besides her theater work with many ensembles, she has appeared on stage, screen and recordings as a vocalist, musician and conductor.

Rachel English

Administrative Assistant

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Rachel English has worked for most of the past 10 years as a Community Organizer focusing on criminal justice, immigration, and the economy.  Rachel combines the behind-the-scenes skills of program management and administration with the on-stage energy of a workshop facilitator--all mixed in with plenty of compassionate listening, a commitment to grassroots collective visioning and strategy making, and a good dose of creativity.  In addition to working for Z Puppets part-time beginning in Fall 2018, she is currently a student at the Rolf Institute® of Structural Integration, a training program focused on helping clients enhance ease of movement.