Puppetry in Practice

Dr. Tova Ackerman - Founder/CEO

Tova holds a doctorate in TESL from New York University and has taught in New York City schools, Brooklyn College, Lesley College and Jiao Tong University in Shanghai. Tova founded PiP in 1980 and has tirelessly pursued the artistic enrichment of core curricula in schools ever since. She was a teacher of English as a Second Language (TESL) and Special Education for several decades.


Xun Ye - Art Director

Xun came to PiP from Hang Zhou Province in China where he was a flour dough sculptor. This ancient art form was handed down to him from his grandfather, a famous flour figurine artist. Xun’s sculptures of famous mythological characters from Chinese history and legends include an award-winning depiction of “Southern Sun Han City” with a total of 1,500 figurines. Now, as Art Director of PIP, Xun constructs magnificent puppets and projects, sharing his talents with the many students whom he meets.


Jason Leinwand - Art Education Director

Jason is a visual artist and designer with an MFA in Studio Arts from NYU and a BA in Studio Arts from Wesleyan University. In addition to leading animation, early childhood and mural painting residencies with PiP, Jason designs and creates many of the PiP’s promotional materials,  publications and teaching manuals. He has been a teaching artist with various organizations for over 15 years. During the summers, he can be found directing the Children’s Circus of Middletown in Connecticut, a 5-week circus arts program for 150+ youth performers with Oddfellows Playhouse.


Michael Perreca - Program Development Director

Michael Perreca has served as Producing Director and Other Stages Producer of the acclaimed Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Mass.; Managing Director of Making Books Sing in New York City; and Artistic Director of Bristol Valley Theater, a professional theatre located in Naples, N.Y. He also served as Director of External Relations for the York Theatre Co. and Development Director of TADA! Youth Theater. He has directed dozens of productions throughout the United States and in New York City. As an Adjunct Professor for Brooklyn College, he teaches a unique course titled “Performing Arts Techniques for the Classroom Teacher." He also lends his voice to several anime series.

Angelo DeCesare - Resident Author/Illustrator

Angelo DeCesare is an author and illustrator of children’s books. He began his career as a comic book artist and writer. His first children’s book, Anthony the Perfect Monster, is a Dr. Seuss Beginner Book. After joining PiP, Angelo created the Flip’s Fantastic Journal series, which continues to inspire thousands of students every year. Aside from his Flip programs, Angelo teaches English to adults and cartooning to middle school and high school students. Angelo was born in the Bronx and is a lifetime New York City resident.

Judy Schwartz - Puppet Maker

Judy Schwartz has always been an artist even while she was a math teacher in NYC high schools. During her second "incarnation," after retiring from teaching, she became involved as a volunteer at PiP and started to create puppets from plastic bottles, empty toilet paper rolls and other recycled materials. In addition to making many of the "actors" used in PIP puppet shows, she has written and illustrated two children's books. One of them is Zoo Hullabaloo which accompanies the PiP puppet show of that name. The other book, soon to be published by Pram Puppy Press, is Alphabet Zoop, an alphabet/puzzle book that has been in the works since 1970. Judy, a lifetime learner, is currently continuing her education by taking art classes in traditional and 3D animation at Kingsborough Community College as a member of the My Turn program.

Luciano Cohen - Resident Puppeteer/Pre-K Specialist

Luciano Cohen is a storyteller-puppeteer native of Argentina specializing in young audiences since 1999. After studying scriptwriting, Luciano started his career in Buenos Aires while celebrating birthday parties, promoting books and toys for children through a set of interactive shows with puppets. In 2006, Luciano moved to the USA, branded his name as “Mr.Lu” and expanded his horizons into the educational field while becoming an early childhood educator. Soon after he created his own company called “Mr. Lu and Friends”. This allowed him to design shows dedicated to children's behavior, in which they would interact, practice or watch real life situations without feeling stress in a fun environment with puppets, acting and music.

Thierry Remion - Music Teaching Artist

Thierry Remion is a multi-talented musician from the island of Martinique who has toured the U.S., the Caribbean and Europe as a performer and leader of his own ensemble.  He studied music in Paris and Brooklyn, and he is an active music educator, and founder-director of the OpenArtEd, an organization dedicated to offering a more tailored approach to the arts in schools. Beyond music, he is certified in Classical Chinese and Ayrveda medicines and holds degrees in Taoist sciences, as well as successfully operating his own Chinese Martial Arts School in New York City.