Photo Gallery
Photo Gallery
Photo Gallery


Robert Smythe, as Oskar Vanderwold.

Considered one of the foremost puppet artists in the United States, Robert is widely acknowledged to have changed perceptions about puppetry and theater throughout America. According to the Puppeteers of America, he is one of the most influential puppeteers in the United States and the world. He is the founder of Mum Puppettheatre, the only regional theater in the United States dedicated to puppetry, serving as its Artistic Director for 23 years. During that time he wrote, directed and performed over 20 original productions using puppets, masks and human actors, winning numerous awards and honors, including four Barrymore Awards. He also led Mum on international tours on four continents. According to the Philadelphia City Paper, his work is responsible for the "Philadelphia theater renaissance that continues to this day." In addition to his work for Mum, he has directed and designed puppet work for theaters throughout the region and across the country, including for the Arden Theater, the Wilma Theater, Interact Theater Company, and the Minneapolis Children's Theater. He has created four original concert works with the Philadelphia Orchestra; Swan Lake won the 2003 Barrymore Award for Outstanding Collaboration of the Year. From the Ashes, his original play for masks and puppets, was named "Pick of the Fringe" at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2001 after winning three Barrymore awards and a Citation for Excellence in the Art of Puppetry from UNIMA-USA. In 2002 his choreography for Mum's landmark production of Equus was awarded both the Philadelphia dance community's "Rocky" award and the Barrymore Award for Outstanding Choreography.

Listed in "Who's Who in America," and currently a University Fellow at Temple University in Philadelphia, Robert is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Pew Fellowship in the Arts for Performance Art and six Solo Performer Fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. He is one of the last solo performers ever to receive a Theater Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Robert is the Director of Emerging Artists for the International Puppetry Conference at the 2010 Tony Award-winning Eugene O'Neill Theater Center. He was recently named 'Best Professor" in Philadelphia Magazine's 2010 Best of Philly issue. In April 2011 the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts will present the world-premiere of his production of Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia with Music Director Dirk Brosse.