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Work Samples

Ice Picker Bird

Puppet Character from Immersive Theatre Production with Submersive Productions called H.T. Darling's Incredible Musaeum: Treasures of New Galapagos, Acquisitions from the Perisphere. This tender bird character looked after her three nestlings and attempted to escape her enclosure in the Musaeum. She reaches out to connect with others by plucking her feather to give as a token. Materials: Plexiglass, Embroidery Hoops, Chicken Wire, Gauze, Feathers, Petals, Legos, Slinky, Fabric. Photo By: Glenn Ricci

JessRassp_Puppet_Audition

Song: Tra la la la (Peter's Aria), Humperdink's Hansel and Gretel (Provided by Old Trout Puppet Workshop), Voldie the Vulture: Jess Rassp, The Mastodon Bones: Francisco Benavides, Filming: Glenn Ricci, Location: The Peale Museum, Baltimore, MD

Frankenstein Creature

Puppet Character in Cohesion Theatre Company's Production of Frankenstein by Robert Kauzlaric. Standing 7'6" tall, and constructed from reed, muslin, burlap, coffee filters, and LED lights, this puppet was operated by one puppeteer and as many as six. A mask can be more expressive than an animated face; gentle, subtle angles can convey such a spectrum of emotion. Photo By: Shealyn Jae

Tornkid

Tornkid, produced by Cohesion Theatre Company in collaboration with Baltimore Asian Pasifika Arts Collective featured puppetry in character, costume, and scenery. This magical world based on Pacific Island Mythology told the story of a child searching for their identity and their voice. As scenery and puppetry designer, I worked closely with the director and creative team to steer our artistic direction in aesthetic materials and puppetry movement. We presented this production in New York City as part of their LadyFest Theatre Festival featuring works by all women creative teams.

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About Jess

Baltimore City

Jess Rassp's picture
I am a zookeeper. I sculpt and construct puppet creatures with animal qualities that capture natural forms and movements through a tension between realism and abstraction. I give life to these creature puppets using intense focus to transfer enigmatic energy through my hands. This allows me to disappear behind the puppet to become a visible invisible puppeteer. My endearing puppets emotionally connect to audiences, like Lucy the Ice-Picker Bird plucking a delicate feather to reach out for interaction.... more

H.T. Darling's Incredible Musaeum

H.T. Darling's Incredible Musaeum: Treasures of New Galapagos, Acquisitions from the Perisphere
Submersive Productions
Directed By: Lisi Stoessel, Susan Stroupe, Glenn Ricci

I was a contributing artist and puppeteer for this fully immersive theatre experience. The explorer, H.T. Darling has traveled to another planet called New Galapagos to obtain 'alien' creatures to collect and put on display in 'his' museum. Many specimen characters were puppets, and as a puppeteer, I developed the characters and moments between actors, while also improvising puppetry with audiences in direct interactions. I enjoy spontaneous, improvisational puppetry because it feels so playful and in the moment. My contributions to the Musaeum were: the Ice Picker Bird and her three Nestlings, Bird Moth, Polar Barong, Goddess Mask, and Hydra Snail. All are adapted to the environment on New Galapagos and play into the mythology of the peoples of that planet. Inventing creatures for another world was an exciting artistic exploration, and our team collaborated well to create a unique, out-of-this-world experience.

  • Ice Picker Bird

    Puppet Character, Materials: Plexiglass, Hoops, Chicken Wire, Gauze, Feathers, Fabric, Legos, Slinky. Photo By: Glenn Ricci.
  • Polar Barong Mask

    Hand carved in wood from one solid log, fangs and ears are additions to original log. Acrylic Paint. Photo By: Glenn Ricci
  • Goddess Mask

    Hand carved wood, acrylic paint. Photo By: Glenn Ricci
  • Bird Moth

    Puppet Character, Materials: Clothespins, Embroidery Hoops, Command Hook, Shell, Beads, Fabric, Wire. Photo By: Glenn Ricci
  • Hydra Snail

    Puppet Character, Materials: Coffee Filters, Latex, Slinkies, Fabric, Glass Eyes
  • Polar Barong

    Mounted Head, Materials; Hoops, Chicken Wire, Fabric, Celluclay, Acrylic Paint, Glass Eyes. Photo By: Glenn Ricci

The Vultures

I am currently developing puppetry performance pieces using these vulture puppet characters. In the first video, I am pictured auditioning with one vulture. I am interested in this blend of puppetry and dance.

In the second video, I am rehearsing a solo piece developed at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center's National Puppetry Conference in 2019.

These are puzzle pieces to a larger idea I'm interested in developing. Exploring such symbolism of the vultures as figures of Mother Earth, Sky Burial, and Reincarnation, these puppets will activate to illustrate a story, wordlessly, with music accompaniment. I am interested in the power of ritual performance and how our perception of the world conveys responsibility for upholding a place on this planet in relationship with all creatures. The vultures perform a ritual themselves in completing our circle of life, consuming our dead. I am modifying and adapting bird skull masks from Birdland and the Anthropocene into vulture puppets to make six total vulture characters.

  • Voldie Vulture

    Materials: Coffee Filters, Glue, Wire, Fabric Photo By: Glenn Ricci
  • JessRassp_Puppet_Audition

    Song: Tra la la la (Peter's Aria), Humperdink's Hansel and Gretel (Provided by Old Trout Puppet Workshop), Voldie the Vulture: Jess Rassp, The Mastodon Bones: Francisco Benavides, Filming: Glenn Ricci, Location: The Peale Museum, Baltimore, MD
  • The Vultures Performance

    Workshop Performance at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center's National Puppetry Conference, 2019 Photo By: Richard Turmine
  • The Vultures Rehearsal

    Puppetry Designer and Puppeteer Eugene O'Neill National Puppetry Conference Participant Piece Rehearsal Flute Accompaniment by Patricia Julien Filming: Kali Therrien

Frankenstein

Frankenstein by Robert Kauzlaric
Cohesion Theatre Company
Directed By: Melissa LaMartina

This 7'6" tall Creature Puppet was operated by one actor and as many as six. Constructed from reed, muslin, burlap, coffee filters, and LED lights, this puppet was a particularly challenging in engineering because one-actor pupeteered solo for the first third of the show. Its bulk and positioning on the actor needed to align well enough to go up and down stairs onstage, and we took several attempts at rebuilding the legs. "Frankie" is also a lantern puppet, and in the show, as the Creature killed characters, they were added as puppeteers, and they also illuminated a new body part on the limb they were operating. These lanterns were key to the storytelling, and when the puppet first awakens, Victoria lights up its heart.

Cocollaborator: Chris Reuther
Photos By: Shealyn Jae

  • Frankenstein Creature

    Puppet Character in Cohesion Theatre Company's Production of Frankenstein by Robert Kauzlaric. Standing 7'6" tall, and constructed from reed, muslin, burlap, coffee filters, and LED lights, this puppet was operated by one puppeteer and as many as six. A mask can be more expressive than an animated face; gentle, subtle angles can convey such a spectrum of emotion. Photo By: Shealyn Jae
  • Frankenstein Creature 1

    One Puppeteer
  • Frankenstein Waltz

    Fully Illuminated Lantern Limbs
  • Frankenstein Heart

    Heart Lantern

Tornkid

Tornkid by Katelynn Kenney
Cohesion Theatre Company
Directed By: Cara Hinh

In Collaboration with Baltimore Asian Pasifika Arts Collective, Cohesion Theatre Company produced Tornkid, the story of a child torn between two identities. Unable to express their emotions, Tornkid gets frustrated and rips themselves in two. Their "Other Half" steals their voice and descends into a mystical land based on Pacific Island mythology. Tornkid pursues their other half to try and win their voice back, meeting some puppet characters along the way.

I was the scenery and puppetry designer for this piece, and I worked closely with the director and design team to steer our creative direciton and artistic expression. To me, everything in this show is magical and animated - the scenery itself was puppeteered as a wave crashing upon the stage, unfurling before the audience's eyes.

Masks By: Tara Cariaso
Costumes By: Elizabeth Ung
Scenic Painters: Sam Callanta, Ahn Caintic, Megan Suder
Photos By: Donna Ibae

  • Tornkid Stage Picture

    Top of show, scenery in wave, rocks scattered.
  • Tornkid Floor

    Handmade Area Rug - Muslin, Paint, Rubber Matt, Carpet Tape, Canvas
  • Tree Spirit

    Coffee Filters, Acrylic Paint, Muslin, Tinfoil, Tape
  • Old Fisherman

    Coffee Filters, Muslin, Acrylic Paint, Neoprene
  • Tornkid

    Tornkid, produced by Cohesion Theatre Company in collaboration with Baltimore Asian Pasifika Arts Collective featured puppetry in character, costume, and scenery. This magical world based on Pacific Island Mythology told the story of a child searching for their identity and their voice. As scenery and puppetry designer, I worked closely with the director and creative team to steer our artistic direction in aesthetic materials and puppetry movement. We presented this production in New York City as part of their LadyFest Theatre Festival featuring works by all women creative teams.
  • Giant Shadow

    UnderArmour Fabric
  • Old Fisherman Face

    Coffee Filters, Acrylic Paint, Gauze
  • Floor Design Sketch

    Design Sketch, Watercolor Pencil, Paper, Graphite
  • Preshow Sketch .jpg

    Design Sketch, Watercolor Pencil, Graphite, Paper

Birdland and the Anthropocene

Birdland and the Anthropocene curated by Lynne Parks at the Peale Musaeum, Baltimore, Maryland. This performance was part of Opening and Closing nights of the exhibition that focused on human impact on bird populations.

Performed by: “The Flock”
Common Yellowthroat – E’tonia Ford
Downy Woodpecker – Lisi Stoessel
Mountain Quail – Lynne Parks
Belted Kingfisher – Jess Rassp
Carolina Parakeet – Kristen Faber
Summer Tanager – Claire Wayner

Choreography, Costume, and Mask Fabrication: Jess Rassp

I am interested in the power of ritual performance and how our perception of the world conveys responsibility for upholding a place on this planet in relationship with all creatures.

This piece is meant to embody the looming possibility of extinction. Six distinct birds come together to form a Flock that celebrates their vibrancy and life in this world. However, one in the group is already extinct, and they are the first to fall. The others may follow…

My goal in making these costumes is to mimic the shimmering and multifaceted effect of feathers through layering fabric textures. Each bird is distinct in their character and coloring, and their vibrancy is the focal point. In contrast, the skull mask paired with the costume evokes the symbol of extinction. Once the mask is worn, the bird is lost to time.

Photos By: Glenn Ricci and Randall Cornowich

Scenic Painting

This is a collection of scenic painting designs I have made. I am interested in building my reputation as a floor painter. To me, the floor is all you need in order to define a space and evoke an environment.

I am also interested in geometry and using math in cobination with painting to create these designs. I would like to someday develop the curriculum for a scenic painting math class to show children the depth of connections between subjects.

  • Here We Are Floor

    16' Diameter, Latex Paint Here We Are, Interrobang Theatre Company, Fells Point Corner Theatre, 2019
  • Here We Are Performance

    Here We Are by Jen Diamond, Interrobang Theatre Company, Fells Point Corner Theatre, 2019 Photo By: Kiirstn Pagan
  • The Orphan Sea Floor

    20' Diameter, Latex Paint The Orphan Sea, Cohesion Theatre Company, 2018
  • Orphan Sea Performance

    The Orphan Sea by Ceridad Svitch, Cohesion Theatre Company, 2018
  • Tornkid Floor

    On Muslin
  • The Goodies

    The Goodies, Iron Crow Theatre, Baltimore Theatre Project, 2017 Photo By: Rob Clatterbuck
  • Forever Plaid

    16'x16', Latex Paint Forever Plaid, CCBC Essex, 2016
  • Lear Scenic Painting

    Lear by Young Jean Lee, Single Carrot Theatre, 2017 Scenic Design By: Allison Campbell Lighting Design By: Helen Garcia-Alton

The Bear

The Winter's Tale
Chesapeake Shakespeare Company
Directed By: Isabelle Anderson

I fabricated this Bear Puppet and trained three puppeteers in its operation. The stage direction "exit, persued by a bear." is so iconic. I put over 100 hours into this bear because of my process. I start with a chicken wire frame in the size scale I'm looking for. Then, I use tin foil to make a rough sculpture of features, such as the teeth, nose, and eyes. I seal the tin foil sculpture with tape and wood glue - and now I have the proper size and fit that will work for the frame. I could proceed here and use the tinfoil-tape sculpture as a finished product, but I take a few steps further. I lay oil-based clay over the tinfoil-tape structure and sculpt more detail. Then, once the clay sculpture is complete, I decoupage in coffee filters to make a positive mold. I pull the coffee filters off the sculpture and seal it with glue, then gesso, and then it's ready to integrate into the chicken wire frame. I layer in the fabric textures, paint the features and seal with a gloss medium that gives the appearance of wetness. These details are accentuated by stage lights and add an extra hint of magic for me.

MASS/RABBLE

MASS/RABBLE
Submersive Productions
Directed By: Lisi Stoessel and Yuko Kaseki

This was an immersive, wordless movement piece performed at the Baltimore War Memorial. I was in the Core Ensemble of ten with the large ensemble reaching over 30 members. Our dramaturgical research focused on crowd dynamics, displacement, the refugee crisis, natural disaster and weather patterns, and militaristic processing. Through the leadership of visiting Butoh Artist, Yuko Kaseki, we inhabited the physicality of elements, animals, extreme tension, isolated shaking, marching, and creating a tsunami. The masks in this show were used rather minimally, but provided great impact in stripping away our identities.

All maks were made based off the design of Lisi Stoessel. We (Me, Lisi Stoessel, Tara Cariaso, Ursula Marcum) sculpted in clay, cast in plaster, and poured 8 masks each to total 32 maks for the ensemble.

Photos By: Glenn Ricci

  • Mass/Rabble Mask

    Mask Fabrication and Performance in Core Ensemble with Submersive Productions on Mass/Rabble. Materials: Neoprene, Acrylic Paint. Movement direction by Lisi Stoessel and Yuko Kaseki. Photo By: Glenn Ricci
  • Masks

    Four Masks Design By: Lisi Stoessel Fabrications By: Lisi Stoessel, Tara Cariaso, Ursula Marcum, Jess Rassp
  • M/R Mask

    Neoprene, Acrylic Paint

Midlife

Midlife By Ben Iver
Single Carrot Theatre
Directed By: Kellie McCleary

This world of hand-dyed gauze created an environment and creature's of a woman's dreams. All puppets were constructed with embroidery hoops, chicken wire, and gauze. The dog puppet is a favorite among my friends.

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