"Invisible Earth" 2013. Photo by Lee Capps


In 1998 Paperhand Puppet Intervention’s directors Donovan Zimmerman and Jan Burger met and began a collaboration of epic proportions. Since then, 20 years ago, they have been using papier-mâché, cardboard, bamboo, your old house paints, cloth, and other assorted junk (treasure to us!) to create incredible giant puppets, masks, shadow plays and spectacle performances for all ages. cropped-Paperhand-logo.jpeg

They continue to tell stories, beat drums, sew cloth, get sweaty, push boundaries and carry heavy things to help make the world a better place. Paperhand’s parades, pageants, and award winning performances aim to be an inspiration, a call to action, and a celebration for everyone to enjoy!


6970675578_bd94899666Paperhand Puppet Intervention’s mission is to use diverse styles of puppetry and artistic expression to create works that inspire, promote social change and are deeply rewarding for all involved. These styles include: giant puppets, rod puppets, shadow puppetry, masks, stilt dancing and anything under the sky that strikes our fancy.

Our vision is inspired by our love for the earth and its creatures (including humans). We will synthesize many art forms including, but never limited to, sculpting, painting, dance, music, improvisation, costume design, set design and theater. We are committed to creating multi-scaled and multi-disciplinary puppet performances that support this vision.

We will use this puppetry, performance and creativity to undermine and eradicate greed, hate and fear and promote justice, equality and peace. We will work uncompromisingly to these ends.

We are celebrants. We are activists. We are puppeteers.



Paperhand Puppet Intervention is comprised of artists and volunteers who share their energy, creativity, sweat, smarts, strength, support and hold a belief in our vision and promote our mission. Community is the lifeblood of Paperhand. It makes our creations, our performances and Paperhand Puppet Intervention’s existence possible.


Donovan Zimmerman
Co-Founder and Director

I was born and raised in Cincinnati Not much to say, but it’s a good place to be from. Growing up was a blur of junk food, community swimming pools and getting chased by the local yahoos who didn’t appreciate my humor. Northside, my little suburb, was a mixed ghetto and made for a mixed childhood.

I attended the School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) from the 4th thru the 12 grades. During that time I majored in art and minored in drama. SCPA offered me a routine of practicing with my creativity, a habit I have not been able to get rid of. After graduating high school with more “perfect attendance” awards than I care to recall, I went to the Art Academy of Cinti where I completed my “foundations” year. By far the most important thing that happened to me in Art school was meeting all of my friends there and making art (and trying to make sense of it all) until the sun came up over Eden park. By the end of that year all I could think was “gotta go” so I left and went to Mexico.

Sketchbook in hand and adventure on my mind I continued moving and shaking for the next 8 years. I stopped in NW Connecticut and tried out organic farming and communal living. Both were great for me but neither allowed me the time to create. My travels took me back and forth across this great land several times, as well as India, all of the Canadian provinces, Mexico again, Guatemala and Honduras. I lived in Williams, OR for 2 years where I began making masks. This led to the creation of  “Sticks and Stones Theater”, my first attempt to create a puppet company. It didn’t really work out.

Then I found the jewel of North Carolina, my future wife Lea, and we landed in Saxapahaw, NC. I had actually been visiting there to take part in the Haw River Festival for many years. The community of incredible people I met through the festival was, and is, amazing. Many of the festival folks have been essential to our venture in puppetry. I also met my long time friend and collaborator Jan Burger here. We have been working together now for 7 years on Paperhand, which has been huge in more ways than one.

I live in Saxapahaw on 15 acres of hybrid hippie homestead with my wife Lea, my daughter Althea, our dog Bella and our cat Gertrude.

Jan Burger
Co-Founder and Director

I am a puppeteer, print maker, and paper cutter. I walk on stilts, work as an activist and lead group games. I am also a cartoonist, an amateur naturalist and a terrible accordionist.

With Donovan Zimmerman, I co-founded Paperhand Puppet Intervention. Together we sculpt, paint, sew, design, direct, write, perform, play music and do whatever else it takes to make a puppet show; from the initial inklings of an idea while walking in the woods, to the slopping of paper mache goop with numerous volunteers, to performing in sweat soaked masks, and finally schlepping the puppets away.

I have been an artist since I was a kid. My official schooling consists of one year at the Massachusetts College of Art, a year spent studying outdoors with the Audubon Expedition Institute, and most recently a year at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, where I studied making comic books. I have worked with many other Puppet theaters around the country including:

•  Bread & Puppet Theater, Glover, VT.

•  The Boston Puppeteers Cooperative, Boston, MA.

•  Art and Revolution, San Francisco, CA.

•  Shoddy Puppet Co., Philadelphia, PA.

•  Spiral Q , Philadelphia, PA

A large part of the puppeteering experience I have picked up over the years has come from taking part in large scale demonstrations. At one of these events, dozens of puppeteers, from around the country and abroad, will converge to create hundreds of puppets over a week or more. We share knowledge about our own paper mache glue mixtures and cardboard stapling techniques as we work. The puppets are then used in pageants in the streets to protest injustices while highlighting the beauty and diversity of people working together. Some of these include:

•  The W.T.O. Seattle, WA.

•  The I.M.F. and World Bank in Washington, DC.

•  The F.T.A.A. Miami, FL (free trade area of the Americas)

•  The School of the Americas Fort Benning, GA.