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James Ortiz ’10

Based in New York City, James Ortiz is a director, actor, writer, designer, and puppeteer.

“‘Ortiz is ‘a hidden treasure of the American theatre,’ says director of Public Works Laurie Woolery, who worked with him on three world premieres. ‘James is a passionate and innovative theatremaker. He is the perfect collaborator because he possesses a reassuring ‘anything is possible’ attitude… coupled with the talent and ingenuity to turn a dream into reality.’”

—”Six Theatre Workers You Should Know”

The puppet he created to play the role of Milky White in the 2022–23 Broadway revival of Into the Woods garnered critical acclaim. 

Milky White puppet designed by James Ortiz '10 for the 2022 revival of Into the Woods (with actor...

“He knows how to leave just that right amount of space for the actor’s imagination, the puppeteer’s imagination and the audience’s imagination to combine and lift that object into this whole other stratosphere of meaning and play.”

—Director Lear deBessonet, The New York Time
She’ll Have You at Moo: Milky White and the Power of Puppetry“ 

He won the 2022 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Puppet Design for the dinosaurs he created for Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth at the Lincoln Center Theater, his Broadway debut.

He was the recipient of the 2016 Obie Award for Puppet Design for his critically acclaimed Off-Broadway show, The Woodsman.

Ortiz’s gigantic puppet designs graced central park’s Delacorte’s stage in the Disney/PublicWorks production of Hercules.

Previous credits include The Public Theatre, Yale Rep, Carnegie Melon University, Dallas Theatre Center, Theatre for a New Audience, Tectonic Theatre Co, Shakespeare Theatre of DC, Oriental Theatre Chicago, Opera Saratoga, Soho Rep, Naked Angels, Skylight Music Theater, New World Stages, Ars Nova, and 59e59.

Ortiz was the 2017 Eugene O’Neill residency recipient, 2015 and 2019 Jim Henson Foundation Grant awardee, and Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of the devised theatre group, Strangemen & Co.

As an actor, his credits include The Woodsman (New World Stages), El Gato Con Botas (Tectonic Theatre Co.), On the Head of a Pin (Strangemen), Rhinoceros (UglyRhino Theatre Co.), Wanda’s Monster (Making Books Sing). As of 2020, James is set to debut his adaptation of Leonard Bernstein’s CANDIDE for Skylight Music Theatre in Wisconsin, tentatively slated for its 2021-2022 season.

The Woodsman used spectacular life-size puppetry and original music to present an inventive take on one of America’s original fairy tales. The Woodsman (which featured nine Purchase alums) was produced at 59E59 Theaters in 2014 and 2015 and at New World Stages in 2016, where it concluded its critically lauded Off-Broadway run. The Woodsman was produced by Strangemen & Company, founded in 2010 by graduates of the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Purchase, where Ortiz was co-artistic director.

A taping was made for PBS of The Woodsman, which is currently available for streaming on Amazon Prime via BroadwayHD.

He continues to develop several original and adapted works that incorporate his particular blend of theatricality, movement theatre, and puppetry.