We are pursuing a radically divergent model of art making. If theater is a four-lane highway, we are off-roading in a buggy. 

We do not belong to one physical space, but believe in creating venues in unlikely locations, as well as revitalizing the historic, run-down, and defunct. We bring high-quality performances to people and places that have little or no access to live theater. 

We make work in conversation with our environment and community, building shows and events in response to the needs and particular culture and possibilities found in our small rural region. And sometimes we take our work on the road, and experiment with what works in other contexts. 

We are old-fashioned entertainers, and also civically-minded artists who have defied the limits of categorization for more than a decade.

Modern Times Theater has received grants from The Jim Henson Foundation, The Vermont Community Foundation, the Vermont Arts Council, and New England Foundation of the Arts. The theater is eligible for NEST (New England State Touring) grants, and is a member of Puppeteers of America.

Modern Times Theater has performed at the HOP Center at Dartmouth College; the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry; Governor’s Institute on the Arts, Vermont; Puppet Showplace Theater; Artistree’s Grange Theater; Shelburne Farm; the Caledonia County Fair; Paul Smith College; Sandglass Theater; The New World Festival; Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center;  Great Small Works’ International Toy Theater Festival; Montpelier Alive; the Festival of Fools; the Common Ground Fair, ME; and the Sinterklaas Festival.

Who we are


Rose Friedman has been working in theater since she was a young child. She studied at the Moscow Art Theater and New School University. She worked as a performer and workshop leader with Bread and Puppet Theater for over a decade, and holds a Masters degree in education, with a license in Early Childhood.  Rose is a founding member of Modern Times Theater and Vermont Vaudeville, and continues to work as a teaching artist for all ages. She sings and plays the ukulele.

Justin Lander is a comedian, puppeteer, musician, and auctioneer. He has toured puppet shows nationally and internationally since 2002 and has been a Professor of Mr. Punch since 2006. He is a co-founder of Modern Times Theater and the emcee of Vermont Vaudeville. Justin teaches workshops for kids and adults in puppetry, junk music and improv comedy, and is an alum of the Bread and Puppet. He also plays the musical bicycle pump.


“Watching Modern Times Theater founders Rose and Justin perform is inspiring on many fronts. They are confident and consummate professionals who know their art well. They are wonderfully creative—using their multiple skills to craft original content in their own inimitable style. They are hysterically historic—utilizing the traditional arts of puppetry, theater, vaudeville, mime, music, and storytelling with wry humor.”  (Rob Mermin, founder Circus Smirkus)

Puppets, Vaudeville and a Cow: Making It in Vermont Theater–VPR interview with Erica Heilman of Rumble Strip VT

State 14 review of The Saturday Storefront Puppet Show Series, March 2019

WCAX feature, March 2019

“The Saturday Storefront Puppet Series”, From the Times Argus

Home Grown Entertainment from KidsVT

No Ordinary Couple from the Caledonian Record

Bohemian Rap Sessions: Conversations with Parents Who Rock from KidsVT

Fools Rush in during Burlington Festival from Burlington Free Press

Urban Renewal? Hermann Hesse’s ‘the City’ with Puppets from WBUR Boston

“Artful, original and delightful”!   (11/12/14, Hardwick Gazette)

“Modern Times Theater a vaudevillian enterprise, part funny-serious puppets, part jaunty live 1920s band, part serious social critique, part shenanigans.” (2/14/13, WBUR Boston, Greg Cook)

“THANK YOU for these shows, you create wonderful, soul feeding, hilarious work.” (audience member)

“Thank you so much for your wonderful, hilarious Punch and Judy puppet show and an especially warm, open reception following. My grandchildren, their parents and I were delighted with the performance. There was humor for the whole family.” (audience member)

“By far our most fun, energetic and truly professional performance . . . You must, must see them in person!” (Toni Eubanks, Barton and Glover Librarian)

“When we attend the shows, the crowds are incredible—people of all ages, from many different parts of the community—all sitting, singing, making faces, shouting, and laughing side by side” (Sandra Scott, parent and small business owner)