"We have been a family oriented theater company for more than 30 years, performing and conducting workshops in schools, theaters, fairs and festivals across the U.S. and around the world"
Founder & Artistic Director
Founding member of Masque Theater since 1981, Jen has performed, promoted and presented workshops in masks and puppets. She studied improvisation with Bob Porter of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and Heather Delude of CT Freeplay Improv, Commedia del Arte and clown with Julie Goell and Avner Eisenburg at the Celebration Barn Theater. With a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theater education and a Master of Arts in Gifted Education, she has incorporated the arts into a successful teaching career. She served two terms as Connecticut’s National History Day Ambassador, and was given the CT History Day Teacher of the Year award twice. She has mentored dozens of students to the national level in performance and documentary categories.
Now on a new path as artistic director of Masque Family Theater, she expands the vision into the 21st Century with her new show Animal Ensemble.
Adelka Polak, founder of Sova Dance & Puppet Theater, based in CT & mainly serving schools, arts venues and community organizations in New England and NYC, including recent performances at Madison Square Park and Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Adelka is a dancer, puppeteer, mask-performer and movement director whose work has brought her to Denmark, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Turkey.
In an original theatrical production of "Ajijaak on Turtle Island” at the New Victory Theater she worked with puppets from the Henson Creature Shop in a show led by artists Heather Henson, Jim Henson’s youngest daughter, and Grammy-Award winner Ty Defoe. She also worked with Squonk Opera who went “from junkyards to Broadway” and performed at Lincoln Center Outdoors and LaMama, E.T.C. with the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theater of NYC. Ms. Polak was featured on CPTV’s “Spotlight on the Arts” with Masque Theatre & Larry Hunt in a segment nominated for a cultural Emmy in 2010 and produced by Ed Wierzbiecki.
She shares her knowledge of dance, puppetry and crossing artistic disciplines with audiences across the U.S. and abroad, especially in NYC, CT, and the Hartford Public Schools where she has worked with children to make over 1,000 frog puppets every year since 2016 through Hartford Performs. She also assists the Jim Henson Foundation in Professional Development training for teachers at the Museum of the Moving Image in NYC through a grant from Next for Autism. She has worked as a professional puppeteer now for nearly two decades, since she graduated from Chatham University with honors with a B.A. in Theatre and Cultural Studies in 2002.
Kendra Garnett is a CCSU BFA Theatre Performance graduate with a passion for acting and dance .
She has appeared in many productions such as Sweeney Todd as The Beggar Woman, Mother Courage and Her Children as Mother Courage, Kimberly Akimbo
as Debra and more.
She also had the pleasure of performing in the one woman show, The Shape of a Girl as Braidie in The New York City Fringe Festival in 2018 and also at the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, CT. Kendra is excited to be jump starting her grad life with such fun and influential work like that of Sova Dance and Puppet Theatre and can’t wait to see what this further exploration of the art form does for her future in the theatre companies she works with.
Travel and performing started early for him as a child of Masque Family Theater, so it’s no surprise that he has lived in London, New York, and most recently Hollywood.
With a degree in Theater Arts from ECSU, Simon has more than dabbled in acting and producing for theater, film, and television. Acting has helped him reinvent himself
to adapt to his environment. Always an optimist.
Nick is a graduate of the BFA program at Central Connecticut State University. While attending school, he studied styles of theatre such as the political/farcical works of Dario Fo, Commedia dell’arte pieces, and a great deal of unarmed and sword-based stage combat. Nick is also fond of his dramatic, classical, and musical theatre work in plays such The Secret Garden, The Laramie Project, and many others. He recently performed as Wink Winkerdale in the world premier of The Silly Dilly Musical, written by the talented and hilarious Alan Katz, at the Stepping Stones Museum for Children in Norwalk, CT. Nick is thrilled to flex his physical acting skills and collaborate with such an amazing company. His mission is that those who come to support Masque Family Theater can experience genuine laughter and relatability through the telling of stories. Some old, some new. Larry Hunt’s work, along with the brilliance of Jennifer Hunt and company, has lit a fire in Nick to create characters and stories that reflect the human (and animal) spirit.
AWI Graphic Design Intern
This very artsy lady has an “eye” for beauty. You may have seen her as the young queen in “King Fear.” Whatever the medium, she is a natural. Communicating in color, design, and her intuitive sense of creativity. Let’s list a few. From puppets to stone painting, her touch is perceptive. From event planning to family parties, she knows how to orchestrate a good time.
Also a seasoned traveler as a young child of Masque Family, Alex is a mover. After a time at the Arts Institute of Boston, he created his own radio show for WPKN as a DJ. He played the role of the young king in “King Fear.” Most recently he uses his “voice mask” with any band that will let him stand in. Man of many talents, some know him as the “Karaoke King”, with his recent rendition of Minnie the Moocher.
While still a student, Courtney has participated in several exhibitions and personal projects such as Art.Write.Now's National Exhibition, 2018 in New York City and traveling to Tanzania, Africa to paint a set of doors for a local schoolhouse built in 2019. She anticipates graduating from The Hartford Art School in 2022 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, majoring in Visual Communication Design. Courtney hopes to continue her career as a designer, focusing on brand development/content, social media marketing and publication.
History of MFT & Larry Hunt
Words by Jennifer Hunt
Larry used a wide variety of cultural traditions as he sculpted over his 35+ years. Aside from his Picasso period, he sculpted for the stage. His commitment to an artist’s responsibility to enlighten or comment on the human condition was paramount.
All of Larry’s work came from a deep, spiritual, conviction and respect for the power and responsibility of the arts to contribute, enhance, and elevate humankind.
During the early 70’s the first Earth Day gave voice to an emerging consciousness. The idea of channeling the energy of the anti-war protest movement into that of non-violence and urgent environmental concerns inspired the artist in Larry. He established himself as an actor, director and mask movement artist, as his first solo show Animan evolved. His cast of characters included young and old caricatures of human qualities in conjunction with those of our animal friends.
His concern for the anti-nuclear movement led him to create a staged version of Kuboyama. The story of an innocent fisherman who veered off course in the Pacific Ocean and became the first victim and anti-nuclear symbol of our destructive power.
His early work with Earthlife Theater Company, Spokane, WA. produced a collaboration with local musicians, Larry Ellingson and John Farley. After gaining permission from the author, they wrote a musical version of the children’s story Bo and the Sad King, written by Vittorio de Girolamo. A cast of characters in a mythical kingdom led by the young optimist, Bo, show the king how to counter his sadness with an innocent embrace of nature’s beauty.
“Bo” was the first production produced in Connecticut, 1989, at the Bethlehem Public Library with 30+ children and several area artists.
You Are What You Eat was a production of Masque Theater and Tears of Joy Puppet Theater of Portland, OR. The animated mask characters “served up delectable vignettes of nutritional information in a palatable fashion which touched the young mind and the young heart.” Prompted by a state call for educational programs to inform school systems of the Dietary Goals prepared by the Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, United States Senate; December, 1977.
The 1980’s found Larry deeply moved by the Sanctuary Movement. His response was to study, which led him to the conditions in El Salvador. When he learned about the events that led to the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero he was soon into a theater piece that would show the evolution of justice rising from the suffering of victims of violence fleeing civil conflict.
2003 This World The Next, Then the Peach Orchard was a theatrical variety show that incorporated some of Animan’s characters into a full stage, adult performance that included vignettes with a variety of themes. Three to five minute pieces included the trigger happy couple who find themselves ravenously attracted to the gun and the personal power it tempts; to the unconscious connection between the Owl and the Hunter and on to Ghandi’s haunting message about consumption. "The Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need but not for every man's greed." All ending with an echoing sound of the assassin's bullet.
The waiting had ended. For weeks I watched my muscular, lean husband wither away to a bony fragile version of himself.. One sunny July morning I entered the hospital room, and he gave me his last dying breath. I spent the next few days, weeks, and months in a sleepwalk haze that felt hollow and swirling with memories of his life, the dreams he lived, and the ones not fulfilled.
I don’t remember a time in over 40 years that Larry wasn’t performing, directing, collaborating, writing a theater piece, or sculpting a mask. The respect and response Larry received in other countries around the world was encouraging to his creative spirit. Creativity was an “essential food group for him,” a friend remarked. He was not only a gifted performer and mask maker, but a scholar of theater arts and a history buff. He started his college career undecided: history or theater? He always embraced both. He performed in countries with rich cultural heritage in classic forms of theater such as: Bunraku of Japan, Commedia dell’arte of Italy, and Pantomime of France. He honored both the art and the people, and never visited a country without studying the language and culture first. His unique style drew from many of those traditions.
One of his dreams was to perform at the famous Edinburgh International Fringe Festival in Scotland. The Fringe story dates back to 1947, when eight theatre groups turned up uninvited to perform at the newly formed Edinburgh International Festival, an initiative created to celebrate and enrich European cultural life in the wake of the Second World War.
In the early 90’s, Larry was guest director with the “Ming Ri Theater Company” in Hong Kong. He helped create a production based on fables, lending his masks and physical approach to the production. This process made a lasting impression on a young actor in the company, Even Lam, who moved on from Ming Ri to start his own company, ”Jumbo Kids Theater,” with his wife Vivian. They also had a dream of creating non-verbal theater like Larry had demonstrated. Twenty years later, Lam and his wife traveled to our home in Bethlehem for training. Larry and the two of them brainstormed an original show that incorporated characters from the two companies. Hunt would be guest director, bringing our actor son, Simon along to perform. I would be included as educational consultant for Hong Kong teachers helping them incorporate the experience into their curriculum, with the ultimate goal, “The Fringe.”
Although Larry died before he could make that trip, Even and Vivian carried on the legacy of Masque Theater on his behalf. They lived out his dream when Toasty’s Day Dreaming traveled to the Fringe in August 2017.
Simon and I traveled together to the Fringe, just one year after Larry’s death. As the lights dimmed, we felt the spirit of Masque fill the small black box theater. Larry’s masks, his movement, and his influence helped create the story. As he would have, less talk and more play, a thought-provoking story of a schoolgirl with a bit of writer’s block unfolded. Colorful, animated school kids with large hats and bright eyes eagerly embraced their assignment to write a composition, “My Dream.”
An energetic character in a grey stocking cap knew instantly that race car driving was his dream. Another imagined growing up to be a beautiful princess, but Toasty’s frustration led her into a dreamy world to brainstorm with Larry’s white mask chorus.
Functioning like the traditional Greek chorus, this well trained physical ensemble became a dynamic collective voice sweeping Toasty into the main action of her busy world outside the classroom in search of inspiration. They painted pictures in the audience’s mind, combining elegant, percussive choreography, gestures, and gibberish. The white mask chorus became busy adults scurrying down escalators, bumping and swaying on the shadow train. We couldn’t help watching the audience follow the action. The delight on their faces was heartwarming.
Two signature Masque characters that have touched audiences for decades came into Toasty’s world to share their dreams. The Old Man portrayed brilliantly by Even Lam, offered hope. The frisky Puppy brought spontaneity and playfulness to the production.
The play ended with a poignant video montage of Larry Hunt’s lifetime dedication to the world of mask-theater. My love and admiration spilled out in uncontrolled tears of pride. Simon and I looked at one another, so moved we were unable to speak. He later told me he thought to say anything would spoil the magic.
Losing my partner, friend, soulmate and husband was a seismic shift. Never would I have imagined fulfilling his dream in Edinburgh would be the road to my healing, replacing the grief that filled the void with his presence, his dream.