Creative Adelphi student designs major around puppets

Sebastiano Ricci plans to pursue a profession as a puppeteer.

"My parents always said, 'Have a backup plan because it's competitive out there,'" Ricci said.

So when the sophomore learned Adelphi University in Garden City, Long Island, didn't have puppetry classes, Ricci decided to take matters into his own hands by making a major out of Muppets.

"When Sebastiano asked me to come to school with him I said, 'What are you kidding me? I haven't been to school in 30 years—this is ridiculous,'" puppet Gino Vino "said."

"I went to the dean of Adelphi and I pitched them my idea for television puppetry and showing them how it combined all of the different departments together," he said. "and they loved it."

"I've been here 10 years—this is definitely the first puppeteering student that we've had and I don't know if we'll have any in the next 10 years," Acting Dean Susan Briziarelli of the College of Arts and Sciences said. "But he's absolutely an exceptional, exceptional student."

Ricci was always fascinated by the mechanics of puppetry. The 19-year-old was also on the shy side, so hiding behind the art gave him a voice.

"A little fact about puppet tongues—a lot of times our tongues are shaped like hearts," the puppet Goober said. "It's a tongue and it's heart-shaped because we're so loving."

When Ricci is puppeteering, he is actually looking into a monitor to watch what his puppet is doing and saying. He said that is the most crucial part of the performance.

"You need to make sure the puppet is walking into the shot and make sure the puppet is looking into the camera," he said.

All of his puppets have names and personalities. Some of them are handmade. And no, he doesn't have a favorite. He showed us Kevin, the first puppet he built, and Angelo, Kevin's best friend, who is "super silly," and Joey Peppers, who is "super excited" all the time.

After school, Ricci dreams of becoming the next puppeteer on The Muppets or Sesame Street, two shows that inspired him.

"As long as I'm puppeteering and I'm making people happy, making kids smile, that's all I want," Ricci said. "That's what I want to do with my life."