Learn more about Penny and the Puppettes!
Jane "Nini" Stratten and Merissa "Sessa" Morin and the the rest of the gang!
Jane "Nini" Stratten, co-creator
Jane is not only creator of Penny and the Puppettes®, but also Merissa and Chloe's mom (see below)! Having been a legend for over a decade in South Florida as an entertainer and educator, Jane's move to New York after popular demand allowed the expansion of her one-woman show, "Jane Stratten's Musical Puppets," to become the company that is Penny and the Puppettes! Jane is a graduate of Syracuse University and an accomplished musician who has performed as a cabaret singer and band leader. Her bands performed in New England and South Florida and opened for Richie Havens and the Pointer Sisters. Strongly influenced by her dad, Jane picked up where he left off with writing songs and musicals for children.
In 2004, Jane took the children's music world by storm with her critically acclaimed album, Uh Oh, There's Something Underneath My Bed. ** She just finished recording tracks for the company album Penny and the Puppettes®. Jane is currently completely immersed in the development of The Puppettes' first full length musical Island Girls (to hit the stage in 2016). Read more on Jane at janestratten.com. Her CD is available on iTunes, Rhapsody, and Napster.
** CD available in hundreds of libraries nationwide.
Merissa "Sessa" Morin, co-creator
Co-creator of Penny and the Puppettes® and graduate of New York University's Musical Theater program at Tisch School of the Arts (CAP21). Her adult acting career includes: guest starring as a murderer (what?!) on Law & Order: SVU, co-starring as an obnoxious yet lovable aspiring actress in the film One Night with Melissa Leo and Frankie Shaw, co-starring as a fellow rehab patient opposite Robert Iler on The Sopranos, the assistant to Aasif Mandvi in Today's Special, as well as starring in the independent shorts Pretty, The Graveyard Shift, Scheherazade, and Tackle Girl.
Merissa is currently developing a short film (this one's for the adults out there who enjoy wacky, sometimes over-the-top comedies) that is loosely based off of the outrageous, often embarrassing antics that only one who operates a family owned children's company involving puppets could possibly write about. She also writes music on the guitar, piano, and ukulele and gigs out in Manhattan and Brooklyn music venues. She is the third generation in a family of children's entertainers (see more below about her grandfather Bob Munstedt), and is thrilled to be continuing in the family tradition.
Her vocals are featured on Jane's album, Uh Oh, There's Something Underneath My Bed, in the songs "Stand" and "Get that Big Beak Outta My Face!" The company album Penny and the Puppettes® will be released in 2016!
"Growing up, there was always music. We loved going to mom's shows and watching the audience from backstage, and going into the studio with her to record background vocals for an album. It really shaped what I wanted to do with my life."
Chloe "Zenni" Morin
Chloe is Merissa's younger sister and Rosie's (aka Penny) guardian. She studied at New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study to pursue her love of music, acting, and early child development. She taught Merissa how to play the guitar and the djembe drum, and continues to write music with Merissa and the gang! Her lead vocals can be found on Jane's album Uh Oh There's Something Underneath My Bed in the song "Because I'm Small."
"What's more fun than singing, dancing, jamming-out, and laughing your head off?!"
Rosie "Penny" Morin
Rosie is our dear and sweet family dog who inspired Penny the Puppet.
Rosie, like so many NYC dogs, was a rescue dog from the woods in Tennessee before becoming the newest member of our family! She especially loves romping in the dog park with her fellow Brooklyn pals, balancing a stick in her mouth while at the same time howling triumphantly. Rosie and Chloe are best buds!
It All Started With Bob Münstedt :-)
Bob was Merissa and Chloe's grandfather, Jane's dad, and the original children's entertainer in the family. He arrived on Ellis Island at age 13 from Bern, Switzerland already a puppet builder and storyteller.
Throughout his life, he was a musician, comedian, and puppeteer who performed in the 1940s -1970s as "Mr. Bob". He frequently appeared on Boston area television shows such as Big Brother Bob Emory, Major Mudd, The Rex Trailer Show, and once on Johnny Carson. During World War II, Bob worked closely with the renowned Bob Hope (as seen in photo) keeping the troops and their families entertained.
Bob started and directed the renowned Boston boy's (and later girl's) band, The Bunker Hillbillies, which flourished over decades (and still lives on). Bob taught the kids how to play a variety of instruments (such as the banjo, washboard, guitar, and kazoo), and gave them the courage to perform at countless events and television broadcasts, including twice at the White House for two different presidents.
Our Friends and Fellow Performers:
Nikita "Benny" Burdein
Nikita Burdein is also a graduate of New York University's Film program at Tisch School of the Arts. Nikita, Merissa, and James (see below) all met while at school, and started their collaboration from there. Nikita has previously worked as a co-editor on HBO's "The Knick", at the CBBC (Children's British Broadcasting Corporation) & wrote for the children's show "XChange" (1998-2006), a live studio kids show that encouraged the youth of England to get out and get active. Nikita directs, writes, edits, and co-stars in Penny and the Puppettes® videos and episodes, including one of our favorites, the "Count to 10! Freeze Dance". He also is on several improv teams around NYC, including musical improv at Magnet Theater. He is currently working on the pilot episode of Penny and the Puppettes®!
"For many kids, Penny and the Puppettes is their first exposure to live theater, and that's so exciting for me. They get the chance not only to see the puppets, but to engage with them, to learn how a puppet works. It's hands on. It's minds-on."
James "Lenny" LaRosa
James LaRosa also graduated from New York University's Musical Theater program at Tisch School of the Arts, where he studied in class with Merissa and quickly became close friends. His adult acting career includes appearing in HMS Pinafore at New York's City Center and performing at Alice Tully Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, The Metropolitan Room and Rose's Turn. His credits include; Off Broadway: Dial 'N' for Negress (Clurman Theatre), Sleeping Beauty & the Beast (York Theatre). Select Regional: Altar Boyz (FST), The Scarlet Pimpernel (Barter), Gypsy (Arkansas Rep), West Side Story (Allenberry), Next to Normal, and Working (Di Capo). Film / Television: The Fugitive Chronicles, Drama Queenz : The Series and Honor.
"I love looking out and finding the parents enjoying themselves as much as the kids."
Penny and the Puppettes are committed to being a green company, and caring for this earth and everyone on it in the way they hope generations to come will. Recycled products were used in the making of puppets, business cards, postcards, the puppet theater, and more.