Saturday, August 29, 2015

World Puppetry Festival 2015

Still from production of "Blind" (DudaPaiva Company), premiering at the festival...

Every three years, a very special festival is held in Charleville-Mézières, France.  In 2015, it will be held there September 18-27th.

To find out more, check out their website...

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Coming Soon: Three Countries, One Great Show!

GREAT SMALL WORKS  &  FACTO TEATRO  perform together
gsw  facto1  iglesia  duraznos
Three countries meet on one small stage: Great Small Works members Trudi Cohen and John Bell are teaming up with Facto Teatro from Mexico City and Barbara Steinitz from Berlin to share a program of Paper Theater for venues across New England and New York City.

Facto Teatro's Don Chico con alas (Don Chico with Wings) is based on a story by the Mexican writer Eraclio Zepeda. To go from one village to another Don Chico must come down the mountain, cross the jungle, then the river and up the opposite hill. He decides he needs to build himself a pair of wings and fly, to reach the sky before national holidays.

Great Small Works' Living Newspaper, Episode Two: Sidewalk Ballet contemplates the life of the city, featuring Jane Jacobs, Robert Moses, a burning bush, and the sidewalk.

Where noted, Living Newspaper will be replaced by Great Small Works' Lyzer the Miser. Based on a story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, clever Todie teaches greedy Lyzer a lesson about generosity.

In Facto Teatro and Steinitz's collaboration Duraznos azules (Blue Peaches), Pedro asks his grandmother why the peaches in her garden are blue.

In Paper Theater, also known as Toy Theater, flat paper figures evoke grand worlds, as they did centuries ago in the living rooms of European homes. Through international Toy Theater Festivals in New York and Mexico City, performances around the world, and workshops for people of all ages and persuasions, Great Small Works and Facto Teatro have been responsible for a resurgence of interest in this accessible, inexpensive form. The grandest of tales with the simplest of means! And—you can do it yourself!


Sunday, August 30, 5:30 PM: Bread and Puppet Theater, Glover, VT. FREE.

Wednesday, Sept. 2, 7:30 PM: AS220, 95 Empire Street, Providence, RI. $15

Thursday, Sept. 3, 7:30 PM: Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, University of Connecticut, 1 Royce Circle, Storrs, CT. $12

Saturday, Sept. 5, 7:30 PM: Mayo Street Arts, 10 Mayo Street, Portland, ME. $12/advance, $15/door.

Sunday, Sept. 6, 7PM: Temple Stream Theater, Temple, ME. $10/general; $5/students and seniors; pay what you can

Tuesday, Sept. 8, 7PM: Pontine Theater, 959 Islington Street, Portsmouth, NH. $18.

Sunday, Sept. 13, 11AM and 3PM: Puppets in the Green Mountains Festival, Latchis Theater Ballroom, 50 Main Street, Brattleboro, VT. $10/general, $8/seniors and students. Bell and Cohen will present "Lyzer the Miser."

Tuesday, Sept. 15, 6:30 PM: Russell Library, 123 Broad Street, Middletown, CT. FREE. "Lyzer the Miser" will be performed.

Wednesday, Sept. 16, 6:30 PM: Fair Haven School, 164 Grand Avenue, Fair Haven, CT.  Sliding scale $5-$15, pay what you can.


Thursday, Sept. 17, 8 PM: Jalopy, 313 Columbia Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn, NY. $12/adults, $5/children. Facto Teatro and Steinitz only, with guest performance by Sam Wilson and Joseph Therrien.

Saturday, Sept. 19th, 3:00 PM: Teatro SEA, 107 Suffolk Street, New York, NY. $20/adults, FREE/children. Facto Teatro and Steinitz only -- en espanol!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

August 2015 National Puppetry Festival

At this year's National Puppetry Festival, there will be a toy theatre mini-festival.

Performers will be:

- Torry Bend (The Paper Hat Game)
- Clare Dolen & The Museum of Everyday Life (Elephant)
- EulenSpiegel Puppets (Finding Home)
- Great Small Works (Terror as Usual: Episode 13: Whistles & Leaks)
- Little Did Productions (Eli the Luthier)
- Microscope Toy Theater (Fisherman's Dream)

Video of Eli the Luthier (Little Did Productions)

Video of Fisherman's Dream (Microscope Toy Theatre)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

West End LIVE! Does Toy Theatre?!

Once again Benjamin Pollock's Toyshop is performing as part of the West End LIVE! event, performing today and tomorrow in Trafalgar Square.

Note that if you do attend, and post photos from the event on InstagramTwitter or Facebook with hashtag #pollockswestendlive, you will automatically have a chance to win a FREE toy theatre!

The cast having their costume fittings at the shop, and "getting into character"

We welcome you to Benjamin Pollock's Toyshop's West End LIVE! theatre...

Come see the beautiful stage, costumes, and very talented (and FUN!) performers...

Toy Theatre performers go Gangsta

Who are these two strangers, dressed in black?!

See you next year at West End LIVE!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Depict-O-Mat: Toy Theatre "Photo Booth"

Depict-O-Mat Kickstarter video from Depict-O-Mat on Vimeo.

A toy theatre-related fundraiser needs your help.  Yes, you!  I just got done donating $15 to them. They need about $400 more to reach their goal.  Let's help them get there!  [Read how, below...]

Created for event entertainment, Depict-O-Mat is modeled after a vintage photo booth and dispenses short, personalized stories.

Depict-O-Mat is a live machine that tells visual stories ABOUT you and STARRING you!

Combining nostalgia, improvisation and toy theater, Depict-O-Mat is a unique experience that will soon be available to rent for special events. It is modeled after the original photo booths. Imagine entering Depict-O-Mat, having a unique experience interacting with our Advanced Depict-O-Mat Technology, stepping out and getting to watch a tiny show inspired by you - starring YOU - that others get to enjoy!

You can help by providing a donation to our fundraising campaign.  Go here, and see what neat 'thank you' gifts you can receive with your gift...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Zach Dorn: Ordinary is Extraordinary

Tonight only, artist Zach Dorn deploys his Toy Theater show — 21st Century style — at Studio@620. In his An Excruciatingly Ordinary Toy Theater Show, Dorn - a recent grant recipient from the Jim Henson Foundation - moves digital cameras through toy-sized streets peopled with paper puppets, all to dramatize tales about a lonely puppeteer stalking the child of notorious celebrities, a ghost who bugs a little boy, and an opera-singing landlord who refuses to return a security deposit.

Dorn describes his tiny productions this way:  "Miniature Curiosa explores the underbelly of childhood nostalgia with the disappointed eyeballs of adulthood. Through low-fi technology, puppetry, toy theater, live-projection, and non-linear storytelling, Miniature Curiosa presents fast-moving, fast-talking, sometimes malfunctioning, live-action comic books. This is not the theater. This is the living room of an overzealous magician who doesn't know any tricks."

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

David Lewis Worobec Documentary

David Worobec's Enchanted World from Narratively on Vimeo.

Recently the amazing David Lewis Worobec was the subject of a short documentary.  For those of us who follow David from afar, it was the closest we've had yet to the "next best thing" to actually being there...

Earlier this year, David and his mother Polly were featured in a story on Maine Public Broadcasting...

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Rare Play Performance - First Time Since 1854

An exciting event for all toy theatre lovers! This coming Friday, March 13th at the British Museum...

Come to the exhibition Bonaparte and the British in Room 90 to see Regency-era toy theatre productions of The Battle of Waterloo (1824) and Bonaparte’s Invasion of Russia (1825). The origins of the English toy theatre date back to 1811 when William West published the 'first cheap theatrical print'. West’s versions of these plays, based on Astley’s Amphitheatre, have been unavailable and unperformed since West’s death in 1854, until now.
For more details, check here...

Friday, February 27, 2015

Benjamin Pollock's Grave

"...The popularity of the toy theatre declined and by 1937, when Mr. Pollock died, the shop and the Pollock family were struggling to pay their way.The Chingford Historical Society believes this is why he was buried in a common grave with no memorial stone." - The Chingford Guardian
When I read that this week, I thought, "This is a great shame and should be rectified..."

To that end, the Facebook toy theatre group has started a crowd-funding project to raise the necessary funds to buy a modest stone to mark Benjamin Pollock's grave.  Long overdue, Pollock1 was one of the giants of toy theatre sheet creators and printers, and should rightly be recognized within a proper memorial.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Pollock's Toy Museum & Eddy Fawdry

Awhile back a profile was done of the museum, by none other than Professor Ronald Hutton, which is lovely indeed for those of us halfway around the world who may never get to visit there in person. It is, in a limited sense, a virtual tour. Enjoy this clip from the program that featured the Pollock's Toy Museum...


Eddy Fawdry (and his wee dog Haggis) preside over this strange secret world of vintage toys, which he inherited from his grandparents and they from the Hoxton-based Pollock family, which made famous toy theaters. In room after creaky room, history stares back at you with doll’s eyes: puppets, Gollywogs, the 1921 forerunner to G.I. Joe (Swiss Action Man), doll’s houses, mechanical cast-iron banks, 1950s rocket toys, a board game based on the Falkland Islands invasion that was banned for being in poor taste. Stories are everywhere and the kitsch factor is through the roof, which brings us to the quirky, spirited building, which has been left leaning and unrestored since its erection in the 1780s (but received a new roof after the Luftwaffe blew off the original one). The ground-floor shop stocks unusual, hard-to-find toys that don’t cost much, including handmade items and cardboard theaters—the original inspiration for this one-of-a-kind time warp.

- Jason Cochran (Frommer's)

Friday, December 26, 2014

Cat, Mouse with a Brick, and Cop: The Eternal Triangle

In the UK in 1996, a three-minute pilot was created in hopes of launching a new Krazy Kat cartoon series.  It was directed by Derek Mogford and produced by Spitting Image Productions.
Krazy Kat had been animated often before, and always in long-running and successful series. There were theatrical Krazy Kat cartoons in some form or another running from 1916 to the end of the thirties, and in the sixties the character was brought back for a television series.

So what makes this 1996 Krazy Kat cartoon so interesting if the strip has been animated so many times before? The difference is that, apart from being British, was that it was the first (and so far only) time the characters of Krazy Kat had been brought to life using stop-motion animation. The pilot was produced by Spitting Image Productions and directed by Derek Mogford, an animator who had previously directed several stop-motion children shows including Postman Pat and Bertha.

Sadly, the pilot was never aired and did not lead to a series.

- Credit: Smart Than the Average!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Toy Theatre Salon

Painting by Jill Hoy

Jill Hoy created an extraordinary painting of a real-life event.  It shows a toy theatre performance that took place in a private home to a group of invited guests.  In fact, it was a full-blown dinner theatre.  A quite rare event, so a very special occasion to all those in attendance.

I recently spoke to Jill to ask her how the painting came to be.  She shared with me how "...the salons are a very rich environment for everyone - the diverse mix of people, including professors and artists who are friends of the family and invited to a dinner theatre in their home."  A dinner theatre of the small.  "It's total magic!  All the different voices for all the play's characters, all the songs sung, all done by David."

That would be David Lewis Worobec, the man behind it all.

Jill Hoy wanted to create a painting that captured the camaraderie of one of these events, all held in David's home.  The focal point of the painting is David.  He is in mid-performance far right in the back, the lights from the stage illuminating him from below.  Joy herself can be seen doing some sketching of the scene before her - sketches that she would later paint - just below the figure of David.  "The owl is a symbol of David's mother," Jill added.

I asked David to share what the salons have meant to him.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Pollock's Toy Museum: A Magical Mystery Tour

Do not be fooled, this beautiful house and its neighbour have more to pose than this dancing jester. If you approach, do so with caution. The sheer unimaginable excellence of this rare collection of exhibited, ingenious and engaging articles, lost in time, is undoubtedly a worthy and untamed match for J.K.Rowling’s ‘Diagon Alley’.
Take a magical mystery tour with Eddy Fawdry, of Pollock's Toy Museum1 - a place like no other, in the world...

1 - Children lured by the colourful shop window of Pollocks Toy Museum to explore inside, whether at 44 Monmouth Street, in Covent Garden, central London, or, after 1969, at 1 Scala Street, were likely to meet the museum's founder, Marguerite Fawdry, and to be drawn by her, with a delicious sense of complicity, into the arcane world of Victorian melodramas performed with cardboard figures three inches high.

If they visited with any regularity they might find themselves put to work in the basement collating sets of plays from packets of printed sheets unopened since the 1890s, with a paper bag of special treasures to take home at the end of the day. This eccentric private museum with its associated shop selling model theatres and unusual toys has been an enduring feature of the West End since the 1950s. It was a pioneering venture in conservation, taste and way of life.

She was born Marguerite Desnieres in 1912, the daughter of a Breton father killed two years later in defence of his country and an English mother, and was educated at the Lycee in South Kensington, west London, and at the University of Lille. In 1935 she joined the theatre studio of Michel St Denis but worked in journalism before the Second World War took her into the French Section of the BBC and the Press Office of General de Gaulle.

In 1942 she married Kenneth Fawdry, a schoolmaster, whom she had first met on a train from Florence to Rome. They shared radical politics, unconventional attitudes and a strong sense of missionary purpose. Their son John was born during the war and in 1951 Marguerite left the BBC, which Kenneth had by then joined, to write scripts for language-teaching broadcasts. It was into this fertile seedbed of education, parenthood and the stage that the germ of toy theatre fell almost by accident in 1952.

Benjamin Pollock of Hoxton, whose name is commemorated in the museum, died in 1937. In 1944 his stock of copperplates and lithographic prints for traditional English toy theatre, dating back to the 1830s, was acquired from his daughters by Alan Keen, a bookseller who revived the business with more flair than the post-war austerity years could support.

Click above to see inside Pollock's Toy Museum...

The Fawdrys, enthusiasts for many kind of popular arts including the naive paintings of Mr Bucket of Battersea, had been among his customers, but Marguerite was dismayed to discover that the business had gone into receivership in 1954, when she wanted some of the wire slides (twopence each) for pushing the tiny figures on to the stage. The accountant whom she traced gave a provocative response, "I believe there are hundreds of thousands in the warehouse, madam, but there's no one who could look them out for you. Of course, you could, I suppose, buy the whole lot if you wanted them."

This is what she did, with help from Kenneth's father, and started business from the attic in Monmouth Street, encouraged by other visionaries such as George Speaight, author of Juvenile Drama (1946), and the photographer Edwin Smith, and enlisting the first generation of helpers for whom, down the years, shared enthusiasm substituted for earnings.

The museum began as a complementary attraction, gradually filling all floors of the house with a shop on the ground floor and the stock divided between the Dickensian basement and the Fawdrys' house at Wrotham, in Kent. Marguerite's friend Jacques Brunius, Surrealist and film-maker, lent and ultimately bequeathed his collection of optical toys. The museum displays were cunningly devised by the toymaker Yootha Rose and the display style was (and remains) a tightly packed cabinet of curiosities with strongly coloured backgrounds.

Marguerite Fawdry had an excellent eye and a lifelong curiosity about other cultures, reflected in the museum and the shop which was stocked with finds from the Fawdrys' long summer holidays in Italy, Yugoslavia and elsewhere.

Almost equal to the discovery of the Pollock stock was the chance find of a barn in the Dolomites full of wooden Dutch dolls packed in brown paper parcels for dispatch to a vanished pre-1914 toy market. Pollocks bought the lot and some of the dolls found themselves dressed in Pearly costume by a genuine Pearly Queen. There were toy-theatre sheets from Copenhagen, Epinal and Barcelona, American cast-iron automata banks and Japanese paper carp.

In the 1960s shopkeeping became a performing art and Marguerite Fawdry excelled in it. In George Speaight's words, "the shop became a mecca for parents in search of unusual toys and decorations; boutique owners in swinging Britain of the Sixties flocked to Monmouth Street in search of `with-it' stock for their shelves".

Fawdry's cosmopolitan outlook inspired her to produce brightly coloured reprints of simplified Victorian plays in multi-language European editions and in New York she and Kenneth, an equally compelling figure, did impromptu demonstrations for the buyers at Maceys and Bloomingdales. Pollocks catalogues were designed with witty graphics.

Having begun the fashionable revival of the Covent Garden area, Pollocks moved north to Fitzrovia. Marguerite was able to buy two adjacent houses on the corner of Whitfield Street and Scala Street for a larger museum, now a charitable trust, held exhibitions, including one on Chinese toys, on which she wrote one of her several entertaining and scholarly books. In 1980 Pollocks opened a shop in the newly refurbished Covent Garden Market, now devolved to its manager Peter Baldwin.

In his retirement, Kenneth Fawdry helped the business to flourish. His death in 1986 was a blow but Marguerite continued to run Scala Street with John Fawdry despite declining health, remarking recently, by way of explaining its business philosophy, that "no one in their right mind would have reprinted The Siege of Troy", the grandiose romantic play reissued in 1985.

Marguerite Desnieres, museum curator, writer, entrepreneur: born Bexleyheath, Kent 14 May 1912; married 1942 Kenneth Fawdry (died 1986; one son); died London 15 September 1995.

[Marguerite Fawdry Obituary, The Independent]