Manteo Family Sicilian Marionette Theater



Jo Ann Cavallo, The Sicilian Puppet Theater of Agrippino Manteo (1884-1947): The Paladins of France in America. Anthem Press, 2023. Currently available as hardcover and ebook.
This book reconstructs the history of the Manteo family marionette theater in New York City across seven decades and three generations, provides translations of eight selected plays and 270 extant summaries, and offers comparative analyses uncovering how Agrippino Manteo’s scripts creatively adapt Italian Renaissance chivalric poems and nineteenth-century prose compilations.


Video from the October 25, 2023, presentation of the book, with panelists Barbara Faedda, Jhumpa Lahiri, Anna Lomax Wood, and Konstantina Zanou, at Columbia University’s Heyman Center.




PALADINI NONCHÉ GINEVRA  A photocopy of one of Agrippino Manteo’s notebooks with plays from the cycle of the Paladins of France based on Giusto Lodico’s Storia dei paladini di Francia (or, more precisely, on Giuseppe Leggio’s expanded version). The 63 pages contain 14 plays, serate 173 to 186, dramatizing episodes ultimately derived from Matteo Maria Boiardo’s Orlando Innamorato and Lodovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso. The original notebook is privately owned.


The Manteo family performs in a brief scene from Godfather II (1974):

A Mafia boss walking through the streets of New York City’s Little Italy looks upon an outdoor puppet theater performance and remarks that the action of two knights wielding swords is too violent for him. Short videoclip of the scene.



Still shot from “Here Come the Puppets” documentary based on the 1980 World Puppetry Festival, Washington, D.C.:



Backstage view of the bridge as Mike Manteo (bottom left) improvises the dialogue:


Papa Manteo’s Sicilian Marionettes Facebook group


Tony De Nonno’s documentary It’s One Family: Knock on Wood (1982) features Agrippino’s son Mike Manteo both on stage and in the workshop along with his son Pino and sister Ida.  The 24 minute DVD is available through WWW.DENONNOPRODINC.COM. An interview that Tony De Nonno did with Mike and Ida can be found on youtube.


Greg Pellone recently restored a Manteo puppet from 1921,  #3 Christian captain, now in the Pellone/Barrett Puppet Collection. His restoration notes (with detailed photographs) document the process. Download pdf.



Select articles (by date):

Susan Kalcik. “Old Ways in the New World.” Festival of American Folklife. Washington, D.C., 1976.

Lois Adler. “The Manteo Family’s Sicilian Puppets.” The Drama Review: TDR, Vol. 20, No. 2, American Theatre Issue (June, 1976), pp. 25-30.

Mark Singer. “Opera dei Pupi.” The New Yorker. September 17, 1979.

Eleanor Blau. “Renaissance of Puppet Shows for Grown-Ups.” New York Times. May 14, 1982.

NEA National Heritage Fellowhips: Mike Manteo, Sicilian Marionettist.” 1983.

Donna Lauren Gold. “Manteo Marionettes: Valiant Knights of Wood and Metal.” Smithsonian. August 1983. 68-73.

Nancy Lohman Staub. “The Manteo Family Sicilian Marionette Theatre Finds a Home.” Puppetry Journal 40.2 (1988): 3-4. Cover. Page 3. Page 4.

“‘Pappa Mike’ Manteo, 80, led theater for marionettes.” Staten Island Advance. September 14, 1989. Obituary.

Jonathan Mandell. “Soap Opera of the Dolls. A Legacy of Wood and Blood.” New York Newsday. August 7, 1991, pp. 49, 56-57, 73.

Laura Caparrotti. “La dinastia dei pupari d’America.” Oggi. March 17, 1997. p. 27. Part of a larger article “Pupi a Manhattan.”


Jo Ann Cavallo. Literary Encyclopedia article on Agrippino Manteo. 2012.


Other Sicilian puppet theaters in New York City:

Star Theater (article in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. New York. December 3, 1899, p. 7)