Pauline Benton revolutionized American puppetry in the 1930’s with performances of the Red Gate Players: the first professional company to perform Chinese shadow theater in North America. Benton collected traditional shadow figures in Beijing, and also commissioned modern figures depicting contemporary lifestyles in urban China.
While she was never at the forefront of the American puppet scene, Benton’s studied and respectful approach to non-western puppet theater, gave many people on this continent their first taste of traditional Asian puppetry performance. Her pioneering work is echoed today in the cross-cultural productions of artists like Larry Reed, Tamara Fielding, Maria Bodman, Ping Chong, Lee Breuer and the Carter Family.
Chinese Theatre Works is now the steward for Pauline’s unique collection of over 600 antique shadow figures, stages, and scenic equipment. The Pauline Benton Collection has been presented as a featured exhibit at venues including The Ballard Institute & Museum of Puppetry, China Institute, and Flushing Town Hall.