Welcome! This site presents selected archival objects of Sicilian-American puppet theatre from the Harry Ransom Center’s collections. Our hope is that, in digital format and available online, more people will be able to see and learn from these materials. Sicilian puppet theatre, or in Italian the opera dei pupi, carries both local and global significance. The puppet theatre is local in that, as a cultural practice that originated in a particular place, it carries specific cultural and place-based meaning for Italian diaspora communities. Attending a puppet theatre performance with familiar characters living well-known stories gave some Italians living in New York City a regular taste of the homeland they had left behind. This little bit of Italy in New York then becomes part of a new local manifestation of the City’s “melting pot.” As a performance tradition, the opera dei pupi also has global significance as part of a whole spectrum of culturally specific world theatre traditions.
This modest digital collection aims to provide the researcher with some context at both the local and global level. The objects in the collection mainly follow the Manteo family. These puppet theatre practitioners brought the opera dei pupi to New York City from Sicily, bringing it into a new local context as a manifestation of a past known local “Italianness” from their own former homeland. We then follow the Manteos to the 1980 World Conference for Puppetry and Performance Objects to see the uniqueness of this particular performance style on a global puppet stage.