Australian puppeteer, director and writer (not to be confused with L. Peter Wilson). Born Peter James Wilson, Peter J. Wilson trained as an accountant but also studied modern dance and mime, becoming a puppeteer in 1975. He was a founding member of Handspan Theatre Company in 1977 and initially worked as a puppeteer with Handspan, Polyglot Puppet Theatre and the Tasmanian Puppet Theatre. He performed in Nigel Triffitt’s Momma’s Little Horror Show (1976, see L. Peter Wilson) and in Secrets (1983) and won public recognition from theatregoers for his sensitive in-view manipulation of puppets interrelating with live actors in Cho Cho San (1987-1988), a restaging for Playbox Theatre of Melbourne of a 1984 Handspan production.
In 1987, Peter Wilson directed Almost a Dinosaur for Polyglot Puppet Theatre and in 1991-1992 he directed the puppets for a children’s television programme, “Lift Off”.
Between 1993 and 1998, he was Artistic Director of Skylark Puppet Theatre, founded in 1984 in Canberra, Australia’s capital. As a puppeteer in Skylark’s Wake Baby (1996), directed by Nigel Jamieson, he notably gave character to a piece of rope. In 1997, Skylark collaborated with Christine Anketell to produce The Hobbit, which had a sold-out season at the Sydney Opera House. Skylark ceased to function in 1998.
In 1998, Peter Wilson directed the puppetry for Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Fish, which played in New York in 2003. He was also associate director and puppeteer for The Theft of Sita, a large-screen shadow play inspired by Balinese wayang kulit which had a contemporary environmental message. It was commissioned by the 2000 Adelaide Festival, directed by Nigel Jamieson and included a Balinese dalang, I Made Sidia. It toured to Europe and New York in 2001.
In 2000, he directed puppetry segments for the opening of the Olympic Games in Sydney, and in 2006 for the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and the Asian Games in Doha. He has directed puppet productions in China, Malaysia, Japan and Indonesia.
In 2002, Peter Wilson was both a Senior Creative Fellow at the Victorian Arts Centre (Melbourne) and recipient of an Australia Council Fellowship. His contribution to the performing arts in Australia has been recognized by significant awards. The same year he organized the first National Puppetry and Animatronics Summit as part of the Melbourne International Festival of the Arts.
In 2004, Peter J. Wilson was the co-author with Geoffrey Milne of a book on contemporary Australian puppetry, The Space Between – The Art of Puppetry and Visual Theatre in Australia (Sydney, Currency Press, 2004). He pioneered the Post-Graduate Diploma and Masters in Puppetry course at the Victorian College for the Arts in Melbourne which operated from 2004 to 2009.
Between 2007-2009, Peter J. Wilson directed Colours of Malaysia. He directed Bali Agung (Bali Safari and Marine Park, Bali, 2010) and was director of puppetry for How to Train Your Dragon (Arena Spectacular – Global Creatures & DreamWorks Animation 2012), King Kong (Global Creatures, 2013), Cho Cho San (National Theatre China, Playking Productions and The Melbourne Arts Centre, 2013), and was director for the Cricket World Cup 2015 Opening Ceremony.