Three West Virginia University puppetry students met with one of the creators of Kermit and Miss Piggy while participating in a festival this month in Maryland.

Theater professor Joann Siegrist and students Hannah Chuby, Benjamin Levesque and Mike Schrum met Jane Hensonwho co-founded the Muppets with her husband, the late Jim Hensonand toured the new Henson Exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution.

Siegrist and the students were in the Washington, D.C., area to take part in the Puppeteers of America Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Regional Festival at the University of Maryland July 10-13.

Siegrist didnt have to pull too many strings to make the meeting with Jane Henson happen: Henson was a visiting artist at WVU a few years ago, and she and Siegrist have remained friends.

It was a joy for the students to learn the ropes from someone who has had such an influence on modern puppetry,Siegrist said.

Chuby, of Morgantown; Levesque, of Assonet, Mass.; and Schrum, of Monaca, Pa., are in the Bachelor of Fine Arts program in puppetry at the College of Creative Arts . They will graduate with degrees in creative dramatics and puppetry in 2009.

At the festival, Siegrist led the workshopIn the Spot and Sharing the Stage: Actors and Puppets.The 90-minute presentation helped participants learn to analyze scripts for both youth and adult theater performances, as well as how to conceptualize the addition of puppets.

The students assisted me in the demonstration part of the workshop, showing excerpts from our WVU productions,Siegrist said.They also performed their own segment on Saturday evening and got lots of positive feedback.

Other events included presentations, puppetry exhibits, workshops, and a symposium and awards ceremony of the U.S. chapter of Union Internationale de la Marionette, the worlds oldest theater organization dedicated to the art of puppetry. Siegrist is a past president of the organizations board of directors.

She is also author of the textbookPuppet Heroes from Around the World,which features puppetry from different cultures, along with stories of their heroes and ways to bring them alive through classroom study and performance. The book was illustrated by William Winsor , associate professor of scene design at WVU .

In addition to teaching puppetry, childrens theater and creative dramatics, Siegrist is director of the WVU Puppet Mobile and serves as a consultant for schools, museums and teacher training programs throughout the United States.