Monday, December 26, 2005

Toy Theatre in Retail

Charming toys of old are presented in a toy theatre setting; click the picture below to see the show...

Click me for the show!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Toy Theatres Go to the Movies


All toy theatre enthusiasts are aware of the roots of toy theatre, i.e., theatres and plays for the small stage based on actual plays and real theatres. However, some may not know that at least one well-known film based on a play was specifically adapted for the toy theatre - Lawrence Oliver's Hamlet...

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Toy Theatre Online Videos


There are two videos showing toy theatres online. One is a contemporary news item featuring Pollock's Toy Shop in Covent Garden with Peter Baldwin. The other is an early 20th century newsreel showing Mr. Pollock printing, cutting, and coloring toy theatres, as well as putting up a stage and demonstration. Off to the right is a woman assisting him - not sure if it is a family member, or perhaps M. Fawdry?

Influences


It is fun to see influences of toy theatre* in popular culture, such as this music video by the Dresden Dolls...



* Among other influences such as puppetry, cabaret, mime, etc.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Team Spirit

Show your "team spirit"; join the Toy Theatre Enthusiasts FRAPPR Group - a great way to network!

How to Build Your Own Toy Theater


There have been several questions brought up on toy theatre discussion groups lately on how to do this or that. Paul Weighall from the Pollock's Toy Museum in London gave me permission to post a great 'how-to' that he and Trevor Griffin co-wrote.

You can download the document here.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Webb Festival Highlights II

Laurie Webb at left, Peter Baldwin at right
Gigi Sandberg's Toy Theatre Information Center has a new area documenting their experience at the recent Webb Festival.

All I can say is, I wish I could have been a mouse in the corner for many of the performances. To see what they have to contend with 'behind the scenes' just tires me out to think of it. Bravo to one and all...

Puppeteer Map


I think it's a MARVELOUS idea!

Andrew, from Puppetvision has created a Frapper map that shows where fellow puppeteers (and associated arts such as toy theatre enthusiasts/performers) live around the world. Anyone can join the map and participate, thus sharing their basic information. A great networking tool, and information resource...

Friday, November 25, 2005

Toy Theatre Performance - SHORT NOTICE!

Apologies to one and all, but it has only now come to my attention that there is a wonderful opportunity to anyone that can get there, to attend a toy theatre production of "Bambi", performed by Harry and Tenika Oudekerk; they are coming "across the pond" to do this on Saturday, December 17th, at 1:30pm.

Location of the performance is:

Xavier High School
1600 W. Prospect Avenue
Appleton, WI 54914
(920)749-4915

For more information, you can contact Lynn Zetzman...

Friday, November 18, 2005

Printing & Theatre


"...an account of the relationship between the rise of printed drama and theatrical practice. It's absorbing reading, richly detailed and illustrated..."

- from a review of Theatre of the Book 1480-1880: Print, Text and Performance in Europe, by Julie Stone Peters

Printing first revolutionized the regular theatre before it begat the toy theatre. This book documents how that happened. Includes amazing illustrations and examples of theatre-related ephemera...

Monday, October 24, 2005

Webb Festival Highlights


Thanks to Hugo Brown, there is a wonderful highlights page sharing all about the recent Webb Toy Theatre Festival. The festival included performances as well as an exhibition. The image in this posting is of the cover of the exhibition catalogue, which you can order online here...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

'Heroes or Villains?' until November 6th

Corsican Brothers finaleI apologize for being a bit late on sharing this, but I only found out about it tonight. Thankfully, it runs until November 6th, so if you want to take it in, and you're lucky enough to be near London, you still have a chance...

The exhibition mentioned in the article below showcases some lovely toy theatres, making (what I consider) valid comparisons between children then and now. Some things don't change!
More than a century before the arrival of ultraviolent computer games such as Grand Theft Auto, in which it's run-of-the-mill to slash bystanders with a chainsaw before grabbing a burger, British children were enjoying toys that were technologically more simple but no less bloodthirsty.

An exhibition opening today at the Museum in Docklands charmingly illustrates this point. Devoted to the vogue for toy theatres that flourished in the 1820s and '30s, the show contains 35 pristine examples, including the cardboard cut-out above.

"Toy theatres were incredibly popular with young teenagers," says curator Beverley Cook. The 2-D actors played out scenes from sensationalist plays of the period, featuring villainous folk heroes such as Dick Turpin and Blackbeard. "Children would come out of the London theatres and buy a recreation in flat form of the play they'd just seen," says Cook. "You could buy a single scene or, if you had enough money, the whole play, which might be up to 30 sheets. Often, the publishers printing these sheets were based near the theatres. It was merchandising - just as you can buy Star Wars figurines today."

This scene is the grim finale of The Corsican Brothers, adapted from a novel by Alexandre Dumas. The philandering Chteau-Renaud - you can make out his name on the strut connecting the duellists - skewers one brother with his sabre. The play was first staged in 1852, but this cut-out version didn't appear for nearly 25 years.

"Lots of these plays ended with a fight scene, a death or some kind of explosion," says Cook. "Violence was common, so the popularity of toy theatres doesn't surprise me at all. Boys have always played with swords and guns."

'Heroes or Villains?' is at the Museum in Docklands, London, until November 6.
From The Daily Telegraph, 16 July 2005.

Toy Theatre Memories: Cardboard Boxes

Those of you out there that have been toy theatre enthusiasts for some years, some maybe life-long, probably have similiar stories to tell as the one below. I hope you will consider sharing them with us here...
WE HAD a great toyshop at the end of our street when I was of Meccano and Plasticine age. Not that it sold either product. In fact the marvellous toyshop didn't sell toys at all, but it did stock a wide range of empty packing cases, cardboard boxes, wooden crates and suchlike grocer's debris, all of which were ours for the taking.

Thus, before they were snatched up for bonfire night, I took possession of the raw materials for a model theatre, a farm, an aerodrome, a battlefield, a village, and with the help of a little builder's sand, a seaside resort.

Nor was I the only one hard at it in Santa's cardboard workshop. Every year when the fair - or feast as we call it up there - came to town, we first of all squandered our pocket money on the dodgems and then set about constructing our own fairground out of cardboard boxes.

Roll- em- down stalls, flip-a- coin stalls, spinthe-wheel stalls (we didn't know the French for roulette) were the basic attractions. Marbles were brought into play, and the currency used was buttons snitched from workboxes or even, in desperation, clipped from school blazers and overcoats; but the principal ingredient was the humble cardboard box.

Thus when I learn from an academic outfit in Stockholm called the International Toy Research Centre that so- called educational toys are a waste of money and that children can learn just as much from playing with a cardboard box, I come out in favour of the cardboard box.

That model theatre I just mentioned was knocked up from half a dozen cornflake packets glued together, plus a strip of corrugated cardboard to form the proscenium arch.

It was, in rotation, a legitimate theatre, a music hall with cut- out crosstalk acts clipped from comic postcards, an opera house (the rights of my one-act operetta, Robin Hood, are still available) and even a military tattoo, with a cardboard Spitfire descending to the stage on a length of cotton.

And all handmade. My only concession to commercial interests was that I ran off the programmes on my John Bull printing outfit.

MY MODEL theatre (no one was allowed to call it a toy theatre) kept me enthralled until I was old enough to go to the grownup theatre. All this time I was learning my trade - or one of my trades. And not an educational toy in sight. And it all began with a cardboard box.
From "How Our Children can Box Clever", by Keith Waterhouse, Daily Mail, 29 September 2005.

Monday, October 17, 2005

This post is not toy theatre-related, but it is charming nonetheless. Someone in the toy theatre world shared it with me, and I adored the website design, as well as the creativity and passion of the work these people do that the site represents.

To anyone in the UK, if you attend one of the Insect Circus Museum performances, please let me know what you think...

Saturday, October 15, 2005

7th Annual Black Sheep Puppet Festival


Next week, for those of you in the eastern USA, there will be a puppet festival that includes toy theatre performance.

Sorry for the late heads-up, but I only found out about it myself!

And remember, anyone reading this that is attending the Webb Festival in the UK, please contact me - I'd love to put up some theatre and/or performance photos, and maybe some 'on-the-spot' reports...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Toy Theatre & Hurricanes

To anyone that have been part of Toy Theatre for awhile, they know the name of Gigi Sandberg. Gigi emailed the community recently to give an update on how they are after Hurricane Katrina, and a bit about their experiences during it. Gigi also has great news about where a core part of her theatre collection will be housed...safely, I might add!
September 29, 2005

Hello everybody.

This time last month Katrina was just landing with the eye of the storm going directly over our place...and this is the first time I have had access to the Internet to receive all your great messages. We don't have phone service yet and was told not to expect if before November 19th...so, of course, no internet either. So I will be answering you individually when I can get back to this machine again...when we make it back to Gulfport next time...but I do want to get out a brief message to thank you all for your concern for us. There were lots of great offers of assistance...and we are absolutely glowing over the number of invitations we got to adopt us!!!

Glen and I are fine...though a bit shaken. We "rode out the storm" in my puppet studio in Diamondhead...which is the highest point on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The mandatory evacuation notice for Diamondhead came so late that we got the car gassed up and then looked at the map for a destination...and the storm was so huge that we really couldn't find a place that was any better than where we were. The whole experience was very scary...and I can't even try to describe what we have (and don't have) left on the Gulf Coast. Nor can I describe the devastation here or the UTTER incompetence of FEMA to help us. They are just now setting up an office here. So we have been very dependent on the Red Cross and the good folks around the country who brought big trucks of food and other necessary supplies...and then stayed to help us.

Both of our houses here are still standing...though the one here in Gulfport (where I am now) got a good bit more damage then the one in Diamondhead. So I am still staying in the Diamondhead house...even without a phone and internet service. I do have a cell phone which is usable...though all the circuits are often busy. Getting around is still a problem as there is so much of a mess on the roads...and many bridges etc are gone altogether...and the supply of gas is limited and very high priced. We're just glad we came thru as well as we did...there were 2 known deaths in Diamondhead and a long list of missing people.

SOOO...since we made it through Katrina...followed by Rita...(and another one now in the Bahamas) our plan to go to London on the 9th of October is still in place. We hope to see many of you puppeteers at the Webb Fest...and then we plan to visit northern Scotland. We had hoped to visit Mike Bartley in Plymouth but were unable to get on that tour. We do SO look forward to this trip...We really need it! Wish I knew just the words to tell you how important you all are to us!! We needed to hear from caring folks...and you were all there!! Lots and lots of heartfelt thanks.

Oh yes, the Toy Theatres came thru just fine...but I have decided that collecting antique paper stuff in Coastal Mississippi is insane. Plan to place most of my collection in Kansas City at Diane Houk's Puppetry Arts Institute where more people will see them anyway...and just concentrate on doing models of prominent theatres in the U.S. So far we are concentrating on the Goldenrod Showboat and Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C.

All for now...more when I get back to Gulfport next time.

Much Love,
Gigi and Glen

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Preetz Paper Theater Festival

The Preetz Paper Theater Festival recently concluded in Germany. This annual festival began in 1988, and has become the largest international toy theatre gathering in Europe, perhaps the world.

See for yourself here - amazing shots of theatres and performers...

Thursday, September 22, 2005

"Pure Pleasure"

"Broadly then, what keeps adults from joining in children's games is, generally speaking, not that they have no pleasure in them; it is simply that they have no leisure for them. It is that they cannot afford the expenditure of toil and time and consideration for so grand and grave a scheme. I have been myself attempting for some time past to complete a play in a small toy theatre, the sort of toy theatre that used to be called Penny Plain and Twopence Coloured; only that I drew and coloured the figures and scenes myself. Hence I was free from the degrading obligation of having to pay either a penny or twopence; I only had to pay a shilling a sheet for good cardboard and a shilling a box for bad water colours. The kind of miniature stage I mean is probably familiar to everyone; it is never more than a development of the stage which Skelt made and Stevenson celebrated.

"But though I have worked much harder at the toy theatre than I ever worked at any tale or article, I cannot finish it; the work seems too heavy for me. I have to break off and betake myself to lighter employment; such as the biographies of great men. The play of 'St. George and the Dragon', over which I have burnt the midnight oil (you must colour the thing by lamplight because that is how it will be seen), still lacks, most conspicuously, alas two wings of the Sultan's Palace, and also some comprehensible and workable way of getting up the curtain.

"All this gives me a feeling touching the real meaning of immortality. In this world we cannot have pure pleasure. This is partly because pure pleasure would be dangerous to us and to our neighbours. But it is partly because pure pleasure is a great deal too much trouble. If I am ever in any other and better world, I hope that I shall have enough time to play with nothing but toy theatres; and I hope that I shall have enough divine and superhuman energy to act at least one play in them without a hitch..."
From On Lying in Bed & Other Essays by G.K. Chesterton

Tools



An amazing tool become available Tuesday. I tried it today, using 'toy theatre' as the search criteria, and these were the results - a wide range of references to toy theatre including essays. Fascinating!

It's called Google Print and it's highly contraversial with many in the publishing world, including authors themselves. However, publishers are cooperating with Google, and all parties are hammering out details to make it work. It will be beneficial to everyone either financially or information-wise.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

An Open Invitation...


For anyone that may not be aware, Laurie Webb is holding what sounds like a wonderful toy theatre festival next month - see details here...

I hereby invite anyone attending the festival, to let me know how the festival goes. All persons who write me about their experiences, whether the emails are about what they do, or what they see, about what they learn, or about what they think of this or that, will be put on the blog here as report(s) from the festival. It will help others that cannot attend (like myself), or those unfamiliar with toy theatre per se, learn about things they wouldn't otherwise get to, and hopefully get excited about toy theatre!

Feel free to pass this invitation on to anyone that will be attending, either performers or attendees. My invitation is open to all.

NOTE: I also would love to post photos from the festival, whether it is snaps of workshops, performances, or behind-the-scenes or after-hours.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Struwwelpeter

Shockheaded Peter is the gruesome, funny musical created by the eccentric British musical group The Tiger Lillies and experimental theatre mavens Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch.

Based on a 19th century children's book, it tells a collection of cautionary tales about "bad children" using puppetry, masks, toy theatre, and other theatrical devices.
By the way, for all of you who may want to see this production (myself included), there is a wonderful website put up by the New York production company, where you can sign up to be notified of the national tour dates, starting in 2006...

Monday, September 12, 2005

Great Small Works - What Makes Them Tick...


Great Small Works Interview


Interviewee: John Bell
Date: 09/11/2005

- Interest in Toy Theatre grew out of their background in puppetry, as well as their influences...

- "Political Theatre is O.K." : John sees Toy Theatre as a means to express political statements or ideas - "Toy theater is a fast, cheap, way of responding to mass- produced images and mass media, with flat cut-out tabletop figures on a proscenium stage. We have used the form to create The Toy Theater of Terror as Usual - a series of shows inspired by Walter Benjamin, Michael Taussig, John Heartfield, Jane Geiser and Edward Gordon Craig - which re-fashions images of mass-media news and entertainment into episodes of a toy theater epic commenting on the politics and culture of our time."

- In 2005, received Jim Henson Award for Innovation: JIM HENSON AWARD FOR INNOVATION recognizes innovation in puppetry that is technological, dramaturgical or collaborative in nature - Great Small Works is a puppet company created by a collaborative of extraordinary puppet artists from different backgrounds in New York City. They have worked steadily for years to make the art form of Toy Theatre something innovative and relevant to the world today. Toy theaters became popular in the early 19th century, as cardboard replicas of actual stages. The miniature, two-dimensional, mass-produced theaters became popular entertainment. Great Small has been successful in attracting many new devotees and inspired many puppeteers to experiment with the form. Their annual Toy Theatre Festival is a “must see” event for puppeteers and the public. Since 1993, at seven festivals, hundreds of artists from around the world (Jerusalem, Mexico City, Toronto,) around the county (California, Illinois, Vermont) and around New York, converge at a New York location for a ten-day celebration of the power of the miniature. The 7th festival held in 2005 was held in Brooklyn at St Ann’s Warehouse. Working with guest artists, they reinvent the nearly extinct tradition of Toy Theater for contemporary audiences. The venue is reconfigured to house small-scale performance spaces where dramatic spectacles unfold, often simultaneously, alongside a grand toy theater exhibition! - From http://www.puppeteers.org/awards.html

- GSW works with schools, jails, and other community groups holding threatre workshops, which includes the use of toy theatre...

- Contemporary design and production of new toy theatre are being done by: Jon Bankert; Robert Poulter; Alain LeCucq; Jane Geiser; Susan Simpson, and Blair Thomas

- In early GSW festivals, they spread the word among the puppet and theatre community there was a 'revival' in Toy Theatre; actually, there wasn't...yet - there is now, partially due to their proactive efforts. Part of the annual festival is the 'Temporary Toy Theatre Museum', an exhibit that is never meant to be permanent; it is exhibited to showcase what toy theatre was, is, and can be into the future...

Friday, September 09, 2005

Newly-Published Toy Theatre

Louise at Pollock's Toyshop in Covent Garden (UK), wrote to say that there is a new toy theatre* that has been recently published, and it is available through their website.

* - "A model of Bury St Edmunds theatre...a very rare Georgian theatre, which has managed to survive without significant alteration from its opening in 1819."

NOTE: The theatre this model is based on will be closing it's doors on September 18th for eighteen months for a long-deserved restoration to it's original glory. How exciting!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Preview

This weekend, I'll be interviewing founders and members of Great Small Works, a wonderful group of people who love, among other things, toy theatre.

Many of you are generally aware of them because of their annual festival. However, many if not most of us don't know who the people behind the festival are, or why they do what they do.

To provide those answers, and as a special treat for those of us who cannot attend the festival, I approached the group through email this week to see if they'd be willing to share with us. I am delighted to say, they were.

Stay tuned - Sometime early next week, in this space, I'll be posting the interview. In the meantime, here is an article one of the members wrote about Toy Theatre...

Cleavin: Theatres of War

From an upcoming book* on New Zealand printermaker Barry Cleavin:


Cleavin: Theatres of War (2004).
Printed paper sculptures. Collection of the artist.

Notes: At first glance these works might recall children's pop-up books or the juvenile cut-out toy theatres of Pollocks of London originating in Victorian times and referred to by R.L. Stevenson in 'Memories and Portraits', chapter xiii. A Penny Plain and Twopence Coloured. These inexpensive paper cut-outs reproduced famous and favourite writings and could be coloured in and cut-out by children who could then act out the various stories and dramas.

In Cleavin's cut-out theatres strange dramas are played out. In these pictorial-cum-moral peep shows modern and archaic elements, in various scales, are brought into dramatic collision. Such compositions reject established rules of representation (including perspective) developed since the Renaissance and deliberately employ anachronistic imagery and scale reminiscent of medieval and primitive painters (who varied the size of their figures according to their importance). Cleavin uses such anachronisms to unsettle expectations and raise questions about the actions and relations dramatised. The concept behind them, their composition and titles, indicate that Cleavin considers continual acts of war and aggression unjustifiable and here invites audiences to look to the causes of such persistent patterns.

The 'Theatres of War' (2004), together with work by Nigel Buxton, Ralph Hotere, Marian Maguire, John Pule and John Reynolds, were part of an anti-war exhibition held at Papergraphica in Christchurch. This show, in many respects, repeated the concerns addressed by Cleavin and others in an exhibition titled, 'Artists for Peace' (1984), at The Robert McDougall Art Gallery, Christchurch.



Cleavin: Theatres of War (2004).
Printed paper sculptures. Collection of the artist.

Presented in the language of children's pop-up picture books or Benjamin Pollock's cut-out theatres, the casts of Cleavin's 'Theatres' include skeletal and ecorche figures, soldiers and arms, dinosaurs and popular cartoon figures.[6] These worlds of mixed visual events challenge not only warring powers, but also their analogues, the 'official' media and their versions of the various conflicts so often culpable of lionising war. These 'Theatres' also challenge us, an audience capable of participations of a different kind from those dramatised. Irrespective of the surreal pictorial idiom, these theatres of war images clearly relate to the Disasters of War' series by Callot and Goya, or the 'dumb shows' and stages of cruelty by Hogarth. They ask us if we assent to the events visualised.
* Meditations on a Magpie: the Work of Barry Cleavin, Printmaker, by Dr. Cassandra Fusco, a freelance writer from Christchurch, New Zealand; publisher will be the University of Canterbury's Canterbury Press

Monday, September 05, 2005

Enthusiast checks in after Hurricane


I received a voice mail today from Gigi Sandberg to let the toy theatre community know that she and her husband Glen were doing alright and are OK after Hurricane Katrina.

The Sandbergs live in Gulfport, Mississippi, which is not all that far from New Orleans itself. Gigi said things "...were a mess..." - I can only imagine, but being through several floods myself in my lifetime, I can imagine pretty good.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Sandbergs and all those affected.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Pollock's Toy Museum Update

From Paul Weighall today, comes this exciting update on what's going on at Pollock's Toy Museum:
Hi All,

I thought some of you may be interested in what we are doing at Pollock's toy theatres...

About 15:00 today Hugo Brown and I finished examining and cataloguing every original toy theatre printing plate stored here. There are many hundreds of these and over the past 6 months we have spent a number of Saturdays sitting in a basement for hours cleaning off decades of old packaging and trying to read 150 year old imprints through various levels and types of protective coating. Sadly many of the plates were made of zinc and a lot of these have been corroded beyond use but the rest, in fact the majority, are copper and have survived very well. Hugo is updating our database of these plates and will no doubt add this interesting list to his website anon.

The plates were all hand engraved of course and seeing the original source for the familiar, and some not so familiar, scenes from the plays has been a real treat. We now plan to start slowly cleaning and re-protecting them over the next 2 years or so. The larger plates used to print whole theatre fronts are particular exciting and the largest is a hand engraved copper for an entire 4d Redington proscenium. Hugo has also located the earliest Green theatre front plate engraved by his great, great, great, grandfather. Given time we hope to make some real prints from these and where we have good quality plates of characters, scenes wings etc,. we will no doubt try and get some new impressions from the copper. As far as we are aware this plate collection is the largest in the world.

The next and much larger task is to collate, sort and catalogue the tens of thousands of original printed sheets that wound up at Pollocks as we acquired each major publisher's catalogue and stock over the years. Hugo and I are maybe just 20% of our way through the entire collection and in a year or two we think we will have completed cataloguing all the sheets we have currently. Where we have duplicates we select the best examples as masters and we store one of each different print impression in colour and plain where we have them both. We intend to scan and archive all these and make them available for study at the museum. The Green publication files alone now take up about 1 meter of shelf space. As far as we are aware the sheet collection is the largest in the world and much of it was very generously donated by John Fawdry, who had kept it in France until this summer when it was merged with the vast collection already at the museum.

We have also collated and sorted about 125 different play texts, e.g. the written words for the plays produced in little books and that collection is now being catalogued and stored with the sheet collection for the relevant plays. These will also be scanned and made available for study.

If and when I next surface with any eyesight left blinking into the daylight from examining about a zillion paper toy theatre sheets then I will keep you all informed of our progress in preserving and charting the archaeology of toy theatre.

Paul J. Weighell
Pollock's Toy Theatres Limited
London

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Turk & the Mechanical Theatre


I'm reading a book right now entitled, "The Turk", about an amazing 18th century automaton, and it's journey through history. At one point, it is owned and shown by a man named Maelzel. Towards the end of Maelzel's career (and as it turned out, the Turk's, also...), he was exhibiting the automaton in New York once again. This time, he also had other exhibits being shown in conjunction, one of them being a mechanical theatre "...purposely introduced for the gratification of the Juvenile Visitors."

Monday, August 29, 2005

Why?

Why do you like toy theatre? What are your memories? Tell us...

NOTE: Click on COMMENTS at the end of this post will let you type in your responses

Monday, August 22, 2005

"Webber Brothers present..."

Around 1959, Andrew Lloyd Webber published his first composition - "The Toy Theatre Suite".

Upon doing a little research, I found this information behind the choice of subject...
In 1959, Andrew composed from 6 short pieces already existing - the "Toy Theatre Suite" - as opus 1, "The Toy Theatre"; excerpts were published in a British music magazine...Building their own toy theatre, Andrew wrote and directed, while his brother Julian moved, under Andrew's direction, the characters. Andrew at the same time, played music written by him. His love for the theatre was stimulated by his Aunt Viola Johnstone Crosby, an actress, who took along the young Andrew regularly to the London theatre's West End...

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Toy Theatre Sighting



Now that I am aware of toy theatre, I'm more sensitive to noticing it wherever it may appear.

Today, I was indulging in another passion of mine - comics. I was visiting a website of a favorite author and artist, Bryan Talbot, and discovered he's in the midst of working on a new story entitled "Alice in Sunderland". Within the story - complex and fascinating as his stories always are - is a page showing a child performing with a puppet on a small stage...

Friday, August 19, 2005

Pollock Memories: David Vaughan

For my tenth birthday, seventy years ago, he took me to H.J. Webb's shop in Old Street, where I bought my first set of scenes and characters, for Robin Hood. That shop closed soon afterward, but Benjamin Pollock's shop in Hoxton continued to sell plays published by him. It was the kind of shop that sold licorice and bootlaces, hairpins and stationery, but in the back there were still the lithograph stones from which the sheets were printed, and they were still hand-painted by the Misses Pollock, the late Mr. Pollock's daughters, and sold at the same price of "a penny plain, and twopence coloured."
David Vaughan recalls how his "Uncle Cecil" introduced him to the world of Toy Theatre, and how it has followed him down through his life even to this day. One enthusiast's perspective and insights makes fascinating reading...

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Innovative Modern Toy Theatre

The Tiny Ninja Theatre carries on the tradition of bringing great works of the theatre, to the theatre of the small...

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Magic of Joseph Hope-Williams


Upon my journey in toy theatre education, I recently stumbled across the site of Joseph Hope-Williams, one of only a handful of people alive who still know the art of creating a tinsel print by hand. I decided I had to have one!

I chose the "Black Brandon" print, placed my order, and anxiously awaited. A mere few weeks later, it recently arrived, and I was amazed! Looking at the back was as interesting as looking at the front. I had no idea, truly, what goes into making such a creation. The time and skill involved, let alone the patience. My hats off to Mr. Hope-Williams, and thank you for sharing your gift of making the past alive in the present...

Saturday, August 06, 2005

For Your Viewing Pleasure...


From Green's "The Silver Palace, or The Golden Poppy", here is an online flash performance of Act One, Act Two, Intermission, and Act Three...

Mentor

I have been blessed with several mentors since discovering toy theatre. One of them is Gigi Sandberg, who runs an amazing website called the Toy/Model Theatre Information Center. It's chuck full of information for those starting out, for reference purposes, or for finding out contact information if you want to network with fellow enthusiasts.

Gigi and I have been corresponding for the past few weeks, and I thought I'd post a few excerpts from the emails that others might find useful...

Gigi: Here are a couple of tips for you.....I often mount my figures and even my theatres on aluminum (like you can get from some printers for free)....They are more durable, easier to cut the detail with scissors AND I can bend the edges slightly to give a bit of a dimensional quality. While water color is traditional, I use Prismacolor Pencils and a blending pencil and my scenes turn out to look like oil paintings. You can get great unusual effects with layering the colors....and the whole project is so tremendously portable...

Later...

Trish: I was able to get sheet aluminum from a local printer, 2 30"x40" sheets - your tip was good! Didn't cost me a cent. I'll be trying the technique out eventually.

Gigi: One quick thought...I use wall paper paste (there is a great new liquidy kind that really holds. Then just use ordinary small scissors to cut....it is easier than cardboard...

Trish: So you paste the paper theatre directly onto the sheet metal? Interesting.

What kind of scissors can cut through both the paper and the metal? I would think it would have to be something special to cut through both...?

If I don't want to put the theatre onto a wood frame, how else are the individual pieces 'constructed'? Or is a wood frame essential? Living in an apartment like I do, I don't have a wood shop handy!

Gigi: Try it!!! Just cut a small piece of paper and paste it (flour & water or glue stick might even do for an experiment) on a small piece of your aluminum and cut it out. Actually it is easier to cut through both ...particularly if "detail" is important...like when you are doing the performers etc. I don't have a wood shop either and wouldn't know what to do with it if I did....but I do have a small band saw and some Dremel tools. Plan to get a Dremel scroll saw sometime. I belong to the Miniatures club here and they have good small tools to work with small objects too. You just mostly use your own ingenuity and mess with stuff....that is one reason why your blog where people can exchange "messes" would be so much more valuable than our "enthusiasts" section.

Well, hopefully people find their way here and take advantage of the ability to post comments here to communicate with each other in this forum.

Speaking of which, at the bottom of this entry, you'll see 'Comments' - just click on it (it's a link) and you'll be able to comment on this post, or on toy theatre in general. Feel free to use it any way you wish - comments, questions, suggestions, whatever. You do NOT have to have an account to post - anonymous posts are allowed...

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Ready, Set...GO!

Sheet aluminum (Check)
Cutting mat (Check)
X-Acto knife (Check)
Magnifying light (Check)
Watercolor markers (Check)
Prismacolor pencils (Check)
PCV glue (Check)
...oh, and...
Character & Theatre sheets (Check)

I think I'm just about ready to try my hand at making a toy theatre. I have no idea what I'm doing, but I love to learn. I'll be back to tell you how things go, and show you the results. Wish me luck, fellow toy theatre enthusiasts!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Toy Theatre Group

I believe in networking and getting to know people interested in what you are interested in. It's the best way to learn more about your passion including resources, as well as find friends that share an interest.

For toy theatre enthusiasts, one newer resource out there to do just that is the Toy Theatre Yahoo group. If you're interested in learning more about toy theatres, or are already passionate about them, I encourage you to join.

Note: For those unfamiliar with Yahoo groups, they are simply a group you join where you can post messages and share information, ask questions, etc. Many groups, including this one, also provide links, text files, image files, etc. (members can contribute to these areas...)

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Here is a printing press located in the heart of Pollock's Toy Museum. It may be very old, but it still works well. It's fun to see how the actual sheets are created! Posted by Picasa

In the Bowels of Pollock's Toy Museum

Eddy Fawdry, grandson of the museum's creator, stands by as Hugo Brown the great, great, great, grandson of John Kilby Green, the legendary, and some say original, toy theatre publisher, holds the original copper printing plate, engraved by his ancestor, for the most famous scene for the most famous toy theatre play of them all, 'The Miller and his Men'.
Eddy Fawdry on the left, Hugo Green on the right here...in the bowels of Pollock's doing inventory. Now, to some, that might look like their idea of hell. To me, it would be my idea of heaven! If the walls could only talk... (Watch out for your head there, Eddy!) Posted by Picasa

Inventorying History


Eddy Fawdry, owner of Pollock's Toy Museum in London, is on the right here. Mr. Fawdry has been conducting an extensive inventory of the museum's contents. From what I've been told, the goal is ambitous, considering the holdings number in the thousands, some of which have not been inventoried in some time! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Christmas in July

I have received several packages in the mail this past week from very kind, very generous, fellow toy theatre fans. They've sent me penny plains, coloured, how-to booklets, article excerpts, and more. It will take time to fully digest all the content and appreciate it all, but it will be a joy, and an education.

I think I shall and find a good magnifier light; it's obvious my eyes will not be sufficient onto themselves working with such small cutting areas. I also need a good self-healing, composite cutting mat...

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Tiny Steps

Today I bought my first tools. X-Acto knife, glues, watercolors. I have a penny plain sheet (thanks to Gigi...) that I will be trying my hand at coloring as soon as I can spare a few minutes.

But first, tomorrow I go on a field trip. I will be visiting the Institute for Regional Studies at NDSU, which is here where I live. While part of my goals tomorrow involve an ongoing family genealogy project, another main objective is to find out anything I can about local toy theatre history.

Fargo is a college town. With several universities and colleges, I've decided to take another approach in my research by contacting each of the schools' theatre departments, as well as local community theatre groups. So far, I have been able to ascertain at least one person who at one time collected and used toy theatre, and am currently awaiting a response on further contact information with their descendent(s).

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Movable Books: Cousins to the Toy Theater?

Could some pop-up books be considered toy theatre?

Take a look at this example, currently up for bid on EBay - it is a reproduction of an pop-up book original published in the Victorian age, by someone named Lothar Meggendorder (1847-1925) "the father of the pop-up book"...

Your Assistance is Requested...

I started a Toy Theatre 'stub' on Wikipedia. I invite more knowledgeable toy theatre afficiados to contribute to the entry.

The goal? To help educate the public as well as provide a resource online at this much-consulted site, for our past time.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Smitten

I've been smitten by the toy theatre bug. I am as green as freshly mown hay, but am willing to learn. Part of my learning is to do what I can to share with others, thus the website and this blog.

Right now, I'm trying to figure out how to get down to Puppet Fest 2005. It's literally in my backyard in two weeks, and I can't figure out how to make it happen...yet.

Let me see...clone myself, and skip paying rent this month...yes...that'll work...!