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Our Founder

Tova Ackerman

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


In her memory, we carry on her legacy and contributions to the educational community in New York City.

Dr. Tova Ackerman (1942 - 2019) - Founder

Meet Our Team

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Michael Perreca 

Executive Director


Michael Perreca has served as Producing Director of Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Mass.; Managing Director of Making Books Sing in NYC; and Artistic Director of Bristol Valley Theater in Naples, N.Y. He was Director of Advancement for LEAP, Director of External Relations for the York Theatre Co. and Development Director of TADA! Youth Theater. He has directed productions throughout the U.S. and NYC.

At Brooklyn College, he teaches “Performing Arts Techniques for the Classroom Teacher."


Jason Leinwand 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 is an Adjunct in the Early Childhood Education Department as well as the Childhood, Bilingual and Special Education Department at Brooklyn College.

Jason Leinwand

Education Director

Xun Ye

Xun Ye came to PiP from Hangzhou in China, where he was a master flour dough sculptor--an ancient art handed down to him by his grandfather, a famous flour figurine artist. At PiP, he develops three-dimensional stages and designs, as well as conducts residencies in Chinese folk arts in New York schools. His residencies help children explore the rich cultural history of China and its arts. As Art Director, Xun oversees many of the art programs PiP has to offer.

Xun Ye

Art Director

Angelo Decesare
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, published by PiP. His current programs focus on exploring New York through paper engineering and toy theater.

Luciano Cohen
Luciano Cohen

Early Childhood Specialist


Luciano Cohen is a storyteller-puppeteer and a native of Argentina, specializing in young audiences since 1999. After studying script writing, Luciano started his career in Buenos Aires, where he developed interactive puppet shows for children. In 2006, Luciano moved to the U.S. and expanded his horizons into the educational field. At PiP he develops interactive puppet performances for early childhood classes.

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Nadine Grisar previously taught pre-K, and she directed and choreographed musicals at PS 217 in Ditmas Park. A member of the Jalopy Chorus, she has performed at museums, libraries, schools and community centers. As an interactive storyteller for children and family audiences, her stories include music, song and puppetry. She is a faculty member of the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, where she teaches in the Music Partners Program. At PiP, she specializes in storytelling, music and movement.

Early Childhood Specialist

Nadine Grisar

Andrew Murdock is an interdisciplinary theater artist and educator. His work often integrates puppetry and video projection in a highly collaborative process. He designs, directs and performs. In schools he teaches puppetry, animation, video and anything in between.

Puppetry & New Media Specialist

Andrew Murdock

Georga Accola served for many years as a New York City DOE pre-K and kindergarten teacher and received a Master's in Early Childhood Education from NYU and a Bachelor's in Speech and Theater Education from Iowa State University. She has a diverse performance background, including being a trained mime in the Lecoq method and clowning in the Ringling tradition. She has a certification in Drama Therapy from the New School and has worked in educational, theatrical and cultural institutions throughout New York City.

Early Childhood Specialist

Georga Accola
Azriel Wallace

Dance Specialist


Brooklyn born with island roots from St. Vincent & The Grenadines, Azriel Wallace fell in love with the arts, especially dance, at an early age. She studied under the late Eleo Pomare. She has worked with artists such as Shaggy, Bruck Up and Jencarlos Canela, and was a featured dancer/model for G-Shock and BET's Rip the Runway. She experienced the joy of performing with the Queen of Soca music, Alison Hinds, has opened for Machel Montano and choreographed/danced for Kerwin Du Bois. She's dedicated years to spreading Soca dance culture to the masses. She is the artistic director of the dance company The Bacchanalists.


Miriam Strasberg has been a longtime classroom teacher throughout the NYC school system and a working artist. She has explored traditional folktales and original stories in English and French in schools, libraries and museums, including the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Staten Island Zoo and Bank Street College of Education. An accomplished quilt maker, she even turns quilt making into an integrated arts activity for children. She's a highly diversified educator who also has been an adjunct at Brooklyn College as well as a school librarian.

Early Childhood Specialist

Miriam Strasberg
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Puppetry Specialist

Joe Therrien

Joe Therrien is a professional puppeteer and theater artist who received his MFA in puppetry from The University of Connecticut.  He has worked extensively in schools in New York City with students of all ages.  When not teaching, Joe is usually performing with The Bread and Puppet Theater or his own theater: The Boxcutter Collective.


Alicia Gerstein is a Brooklyn-based teaching artist, puppeteer and performer. She has been working in the NYC public schools as an arts educator since 2008.  Her teaching spans all forms of visual art-making, puppet-making, parading, and circus arts. As a puppeteer, she has performed and taught workshops in various parts of the U.S.,  as well as Mexico, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic.

Alicia Gerstein

Puppetry Specialist

Puppetry Specialist

Liz Oakley

Liz Oakley is a puppetry specialist working in a variety of media. She is a graduate of Brown University with a degree in Spatial Studies. In 2018 she received a UNIMA-USA Scholarship to study puppetry at the Théâtre Aux Mains Nues in Paris. She also works as a teaching artist at the Children's Museum of the Arts and Wingspan Arts, and as a puppeteer at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre in Central Park.

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Performance Specialist

Gabrielle Schutz

Gabrielle Schutz is a New York City-based theatre-maker and teaching artist. Their teaching and creative practice often engages multiple disciplines of performance, including dance, puppetry and new media exploration. They hold an MFA in Theatre from Sarah Lawrence College. 


Visual Arts Specialist

Ellie Bell

Ellie Bell (they/them) is a Brooklyn-based theatre and puppetry educator originally from Wisconsin. They received their BFA in Drama from NYU with minors in Applied Theatre and Linguistics and are currently in their final year in CUNY SPS's MA in Applied Theatre program. When not teaching, Ellie can be found walking their old dog, reading or biking to new places.



Eve Kummer-Landau is a theater artist and Jewish educator hailing from Brooklyn. She loves finding magic in the mundane—specializing in transforming ordinary objects into fantastical masterpieces!


Eve Kummer-Landau

Storytelling and Theater Specialist

Tech Specialist / Web Designer

Isaac Simchon

Isaac Simchon is an IT professional with experience in hardware design, networking, web development and support. For PiP, Isaac serves as a web designer and IT specialist; maintaining all of PiP's social media and web content. Isaac has been a part of PiP since 2009. He has provided computer and video editing training, as well as animation and puppetry workshops for preschoolers, elementary and high school students throughout NYC public schools.


Judy Schwartz has always been an artist. 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, "Zoo Hullabaloo" and "Alphabet Zoop." Judy creates puppets for PiP’s pre-K performances.

Puppet Creator

Judy Schwartz


Tau Bennett is a Brooklyn-based puppeteer, puppet builder, writer and comedian. He's worked on “Sesame Street”, “Helpsters” and PBS Kids’ “Donkey Hodie,” as well as stage productions at HERE Arts Center and the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. He builds puppets and produces his own independent projects, like "Cold Sober" and the musical short film “What Danko Do.”


Tau Bennett

Puppetry Specialist



Esther Boesche is a visual artist and designer from Europe. She came to New York for her MFA in photography at ICP-Bard College, and fell in love with the city’s diversity. A former international teacher and youth educator specializing in diversity and cultural awareness, Esther taught art and social activism in NYC. She works with students in puppetry, animation, photography, social activism art, murals, typography, printmaking, nature drawing and painting.


Esther Boesche

Visual Arts Specialist

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