About Us

AudiencePaul J. Mesner, Founder

Mesner Puppet Theater, celebrating its 30th performance season in 2017-2018, is a globally known professional puppet theatre company based in Kansas City, Missouri. The company performs a local season of plays as well as tours nationally and internationall to more than 30,000 audiences annually. 

A nonprofit 501 (c)(3) corporation, Mesner Puppet Theater operates on an annual half million dollar budget with over 50 percent of income from ticket sales  and performance fees. It is funded by the Theater League, the Missouri Arts Council, the ArtsKC Fund, the Neighborhood Tourism Fund of Kansas City and many more generous individuals and organizations.

Other major Linwood entrance photofunders have included the Hall Family Foundation, Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation, the John and Effie Speas Charitable Trust, the Francis Family Foundations, and the Flarsheim Charitable Foundation, among many others.

The company operates in a rehabilitated 6,000 square feet former hardware store in KC's Hyde Park neighborhood south of the KC Plaza. Here, the company performs in a studio space seating 200, and builds all of the puppets and scenery for every show. A display room of Mr. Mesner's extensive puppet collection doubles as a childrens workshop for making paper puppets after every show. Administrative offices are also located at this official address, 1006 E. Linwood Blvd, Kansas City, MO.

Mesner Puppet Theater is a member of the Theatre Communications Group (the national association of professional theatres), and a touring partner with the Mid-American Arts Alliance and the Missouri Arts Council.  


 Community Impact Statement: Theatrical experiences that encourage a sense of community and creates a place to explore feelings, thoughts, and ideas through artistic means. We present nearly 200 performances per year attracting an average of 30,000 audience members. Many of our attendees are experiencing theater for the first time.


Paul Mesner, Founder 

Paul - Little RedPaul Mesner, puppeteer, author and performer became interested in puppetry at an early age. As a teenager he studied with Lee Ridge in Lincoln, Nebraska before starting his own puppet theater in Omaha. He toured his shows throughout Minnesota before studying at the prestigious International Institute of Puppetry in Charleville-Mezier, France. After a move to Kansas City, in 1988 he lauched his first season of performances. His lively, humorous performances present classic stories recast in contemporary terms. Paul is taking a well-deserved time out from Mesner Puppet Theater for the next year as he pursues other projects.

Audiences across the United States have delighted in the precise craftsmanship, dynamic presentation and joyful blending of humor and education in all his productions. Paul Mesner believes wholeheartedly in entertaining his audiences and doesn’t mind including deeper meanings and life-lessons when no one is looking.

Paul Mesner regularly collaborates with local and national artists, musicians, fashion designers and crafts people to create puppetry that showcases his unique brand of humor. He presents performances using many different types of puppets, from simple finger puppets to rod and stick puppets, marionettes, shadow puppets, and even bigger than life-sized puppets worn by performers. 

Paul Mesner has appeared at numerous festivals all over the United States, including most recently as the sole artist invited to the Ishara International Puppet Festival in India. He has also appeared at the Henson International Festival of Puppetry in New York, Puppeteers of America National and Regional Festivals, Cultural Arts Festival at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Park City, Utah, the Orlando Puppet Festival and in Europe at the World Exposition in Seville, Spain in 1991. He has performed at the Great Arizona Puppet Theater in Phoenix, Northwest Puppet Theater in Seattle, Tears of Joy Puppet Theater in Portland, Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta as well as Tillis Center for the Performing Arts, Long Island, Detroit Institute of Arts, Children’s Fine Arts Series in San Antonio, Montalvo Arts Center in Sarasota, CA and many other theaters and museums across the globe.

His awards include two UNIMA-USA Citations for Excellence in Puppetry for Sleeping Beauty and Wiley & the Hairy Man and the Distinguished Service to Education Award from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Mike Horner, Artistic Director

anasi with mike onlyMike Horner has been a creative force with Mesner Puppets for more than 10 years. He is a principle puppeteer for the company as well as a puppet builder and designer. The puppetry bug hit Mike at an early age when his parents were part of a puppet ministry in Nebraska. He saw Paul Mesner perform for his second grade class, and his life long career choice was set. Before joining the company, he performed as a puppeteer and ventriloquist as a sideline to his work in graphic design.

As a puppeteer with Mesner Puppet Theater, Mike performs in over half of the season shows each year, and also tours around the country with productions of Anansi the Spider, Stinky Cheese Man, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Old Mother Hubbard. He recently created a brand new play, The Singalong Show, that he will be taking on tour in the upcoming season.

His creative activities extend beyond the Mesner stage. Mike's YouTube spoof of the Dr. Who television series, entitled Timey Wimey Puppet Show, was so popular that he was invited to the DragonCon in August 2013 in Atlanta. His live SRO performace received a standing ovation. He was featured in the October 2016 issue of American Theatre magazine for his puppet building skills for the prodution of Hand to God by Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City.


Alex Espy, Education DirectorAlex

Alex is the Education Director for MPT, providing educational workshops through our Puppets in Education program for a wide-range of groups and organizations throughout the United States. Alex has primarily worked in Theatre for Young Audiences as a producer, director, designer, actor, and teaching artist. His Kansas City directing credits include “Alice in Wonderland” for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and “Peter and the Wolf” for the Kansas City Symphony. 



Erika Lynnette Baker, Puppeteer

Erika Lynnette Baker is a local puppeteer, actress, improviser, writer, director and teaching artist. She received her Bachelor’s Degree for Theatre and Creative Writing in 2012 from Northwest Missouri State University and moved to Kansas City after to pursue her many interests around the city. She began her puppetry training while in school and began working with Mesner Puppet Theatre as a contract performer in 2012. She is delighted to now be a part of the full-time staff at Mesner Puppets where she is able to utilizer her many talents and interests with the passionate and hardworking staff. Currently, her original Children’s show, “Kingdom of One," is touring the KC Metro School District with Kansas City Young Audiences. 


Our Mission

Our mission is simple…Innovative storytelling that captures children’s imagination and inspires communities. We don’t just provide puppet shows, our storytelling reflects the gift of love, the impact of compassion, the result of good behavior and the art of empathy. Our workshops stimulate ideas and stir the imagination. We spread our reach to serve those who are first-time theater goers, live in underserved communities or are unaware how performing arts can impact lives. We are rich in creativity and abundantly giving in helping our community thrive and grow!

 Our Vision

Collaborative cultural ambassadors telling stories through theater with puppets to educate and enhance communities.