About Us

Peace on parade in the East Village, NYC


The Mettawee River Theatre Company has been dramatizing myths, folk tales and legends from diverse cultures for over 45 years. Our original theatre productions incorporate masks, puppets and giant figures with music, movement and text. Each summer, from 1975 to 2022, our step van was crowded with an array of creatures and characters, from sublime gossamer deities to heroic peasant women to scurrilous dragons, from wisecracking cockroaches to philosophical turtles. They eagerly spilled out onto public lawns, bringing our productions to rural communities of upstate New York and New England—where access to live professional theatre is limited—as well as making forays into New York City. The tours have come to a close, but Mettawee continues to appear at parades and other special events.

Artistic Direction/Ralph Lee

Under the Artistic Direction of mask maker, designer and director Ralph Lee, the Mettawee River Company experimented with means of presenting masks, puppetry, mythology and theater in ways that led an audience to experience the powerful relationship between human beings, their ancestry and the natural environment. In his design and direction, Ralph sought to create vivid theatrical moments with economy and elegance. This search for an evocative simplicity of image and Mettawee’s commitment to making theater accessible to the widest possible audience through its outdoor performances give this theater company its particular character. You can read more about Ralph’s work and professional life here, and read his obituary here.

Awards and Exhibitions

Two MaidsTwo Mettawee productions have received American Theatre Wing Design Awards: THE POPOL VUH PROJECT in 1995 and WICHIKAPACHE GOES WALKING in 1992; six Mettawee productions have been nominated for American Theatre Wing Design Awards. In 1991 Mettawee was the recipient of a Village Voice OBIE Award. The Company has received two Citations for Excellence from UNIMA, the international puppetry organization.

In 1996, Mettawee’s Artistic Director Ralph Lee received a New York State Governor’s Arts Award for his contributions to the artistic life of New York State. Also in 1996, Ralph Lee received a Dance Theater Workshop “Bessie” Award for sustained achievement. A retrospective exhibition of Lee’s work took place at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center in the winter/spring of 1998. The three-month exhibition attracted record-breaking crowds. Ralph Lee and Casey Compton received a 2022 Obie Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Outdoor Performances and Residencies

Mettawee’s outdoor performances take place in town parks, historic sites, hay fields and public lawns of upstate New York and New England. In addition, our productions have been presented at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, LaMama E.T.C., The Bowery Poetry Club, Central Park’s Summerstage, St. Mark’s in the Bowerie, the 1991 New York International Festival of the Arts, a four-week tour of Alaska, and residencies at Amherst College and Prescott Park in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In the fall of 2000, our production of Moliere’s PSYCHE was presented at the Henson International Festival of Puppet Theater and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.


The Mettawee River Company has received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts from 1980 to the present and the New York State Council on the Arts from 1978 to the present, with additional grants from the Bickford Foundation, Meet the Composer, the Henson Foundation, the Merck Family Fund, the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, the Agostino Foundation, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.