Sunday, April 30, 2006

Covent Garden Theatre Museum: Closing?

Theatre Museum in Covent Garden"Britain’s only national museum for the performing arts, Covent Garden’s Theatre Museum..." may close unless a way is found to finance it.

Save London Theatres Campaign, long at the forefront of theatre preservation, makes some very good points at why the Theatre Museum at Covent Garden should be preserved.

On the other hand, this thoughtful study shows that resources are being attempted to be put to best use, and that the online Theatre Project is meeting a great need at an economical cost. Meanwhile, the most important thing is that the collections are safe, and will be seen, albeit at different times and at different venues...

Times are definitely changing...

Saturday, April 29, 2006


If you want to see some amazing illustrations, of a timeless story, be sure and check out Illuminated Books' Pinocchio.

I discovered Illuminated Books thanks to another amazing site, Bibliodyssey...

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Spring Fair Features Toy Theatre

Louise Heard from Pollocks Toy Shop checked in today with a late - but in time, which is what counts! - announcement of a toy theatre exhibition and sale going on right now through this weekend at the Spring Decorative Arts & Textiles Fair...
It's a comprehensive exhibit with original scenery, model theatres and related history as well as theatrical portraits, tinsels some of which are for sale.

The show is on today until Sunday. We are also selling some theatres, cards and some original plays and portraits. Peter Baldwin will be there on Saturday and can sign copies of his book (selling at a special Fair price...)
Great news for lucky toy theatre enthusiasts in the UK!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Toy Theatre on DVD - UPDATE

From Paul J. Weighell (Pollocks Toy Theatres Limited), posted recently on the Toy Theatre list:
After much playing about with spreadsheets and costs I am afraid that I have been forced to abandon my plans for a toy theatre play DVD. The idea was OK and several helpful people, to whom I am most grateful, helped to flesh it out towards a decent product thought. However, the time and cost seems large whilst the potential audience seems all too small so it could not be self financing as I had hoped. Sorry. It was just not practical.

The toy theatre archive we are creating (Pollocks, Hugo Brown and I) is slowly growing and this year may have all the sheets finally catalogued and filed for public access (viewing by arrangement only to protect the material).Adding footage of live or animated performances to the archive would increase its usefulness and I am sure some toy theatre people would like their work to be seen.

So, if anyone has photographs, film, video tape, CD, DVD or images in any format whatsoever of their own or other people's toy theatre performances then I would love to arrange to acquire a copy for the museum archives if you would care to give a copy to us for posterity (or as much posterity as we can provide anyway!)
My response:

I was afraid cost would be the doom of such a project. Hopefully, those that have footage already will step forward, due to your request.

It's too bad no one thought of documenting Hugo and you as you've been doing this - filming you as you do the cataloguing, interviews, shots of the various sheets and theatres, the artifacts in the "bowels of Pollock's" (the plates, etc.) - the cost could have been covered by the BBC or similar organization. You guys are a national treasure in my book. Is it too late to do that, to approach them to cover the cost and capture some of this before it's too late...? [Maybe Peter Baldwin could be approached, use his contacts at the BBC, and have an influence to get this started...?]

What do you think?
Yes, everyone reading this - what do YOU think? If you can help make this happen, feel free to contact me, and I can put you in touch with Paul...

Sunday, April 16, 2006

In the Spirit of Easter...

Click to see larger version...If you have a twisted sense of humour (as I do), you'll appreciate these slightly bent adventures of marshmallow bunnies, some presented in a theatrical wrapping...

Friday, April 14, 2006

Commission Toy Theatre Update #2

Ann sent some tantalizing (and amusing) updates yesterday on the progress of the toy theatre she has been building for me...
I am about to go out and give your theatre the shellacking of it's life! Everything else is done except for a cover for the footlight hole. (Middle of the night last night, 'the voice' said - "you really ought to figure out how to put something in that hole until she gets footlights. It looks less spectacular than the rest of the thing.")

The Grrip glued worked wonderfully, the proscenium pieces went together just right. George figured out how to make the hasp gizmos work, so the proscenium comes apart and lays flat easily, and I figured out just how to attach the proscenium to the theatre base. The orchestra piece is covered in muslin, same as the front, and I put a back on the base "box". Pictures will be taken tonight. (And we will try very hard not to send such huge files. New camera, new software. Learning curve.)

Next step is to make a parts list, and instructions for you for putting the theatre all back together when it arrives. And I have to make a crate (only kidding, a box) in which to ship this creation. I have been debating whether to put a bottom on the theatre base, to give you a "right side up box" to store everything in. Or you could just use the shipping box. The plan is to use hardboard for the bottom, which will add to the shipping weight. What do you think?
Later in the day, she writes again...
More news as we get close to "done". Any statement like, "It shouldn't take long to shellac the parts of the theatre." is erroneous.

Sand, then wipe, then dilute the shellac, then brush it on, then it dries, and one sands, wipes and shellacs, undiluted, again. Took most of the day. All the pieces are hanging by their little bolt holes on hooks bent from wire coat hangers on our hand puppet stage frame. I would like to get a shot of that, if George gets close enough to getting the taxes done to swing free to take pictures.

Went down to the lumber store, and they cut me a piece of thin hardboard to the right size for the bottom, and cut our piece of luan for a new floor (we buy a big piece, and then take it back when we know what size we want cut, and they cut it for free!). I just wasn't satisfied with my cut of the curve for the front, and I would like the floor to overhang the back piece. So now I have to shape the floor once again. This time I WILL get it perfect. All of the instructions for you are written in long hand, I just have to type them into the computer. I can type fast enough. And there is a bit more little stuff, while the shellac dries on the new floor. (p.s., the lumber store would like to see the theatre before I ship it off. They are quite intriqued!)
Glad to hear you're writing me instructions, Ann...Lord knows I'll need it, greenhorn that I am!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Master Puppeteer Leaves the Stage

"...I learned from him that all is not foolishness in puppetry...that truly beautiful things are possible"

"Bill was one of the few people in our profession that truly deserved the title master puppeteer."

"Five generations of my family visited Kungsholm and Opera In Focus. Bill's dedication and love of making beautiful productions will live forever in our minds."

William B. Fosser has left the stage...

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Commission Toy Theatre Update

Ann showing the curved orchestra piece...Awhile back, I commissioned Ann Neff to build a traditional wooden toy theatre. I would have loved to have done it myself, but alas, I live in a wee apartment and no access to a shop.

I was thrilled when Ann accepted the job. She's been diligently working on the project as time has allowed, and recently began sharing some highlights of the experience of building a toy theatre, as well as some images of the theatre coming together...

March 28th - All right, progress continues. The orchestra piece is delightfully bowed, though I had to cut another orchestra piece and another floor to get it the way I wanted. (Don't worry, if we ever get the Reddington front, we will have all the pieces, "seconds", but usable.)

This last week has been dedicated to "glue trials". And I mean trials! The concept is that there is a luan plywood front (thin) which folds like the proscenium, to which you will paste the paper proscenium. The plan is to cover it with muslin, which makes the hinges, and gives you a good surface on which to glue. The luan will be sturdy, and easier to attach to the stage floor. I am "practicing", or perfecting the design, with a West paper proscenium that we had.

I was told to use wall paper paste. Didn't hold. The hardware store suggested starch(!) or kitchen and bath wallpaper paste. Yecch, still too easy to peal off. Then I tried wood glue. Too much glue, though it did hold. A fellow puppeteer tried some Grrrip she had on hand, which worked well, but we couldn't find it in stores. So I sent away for it, as well as small hinges. It was frustrating, day after day, waiting for tests to dry, only to find they didn't work! But we persevere.

March 15th - I was able to work all day on the theatre, and tried out the latest scheme to hold the wooden pieces of the proscenium in the 3D position. Actually, I got the idea for a wooden tongue, on which the top piece sits, from the pictures of the rear of the Urania theatre that was recently offered on eBay. And it all went together! I used hinges on the lower uprights, the ones next to the inside of the opening, that attach to the angled upper piece. I works, but it fights. The next time (for yours) I will use a homemade "hasp" made from a mending plate. So the prototype worked.

While I am waiting for the Grrrip glue to arrive I am rasping out the bevels on the wooden pieces for the final proscenium (yours) that "fold" backwards. George made me a jig with a 1/4" opening at a 60 degree angle in which I insert the luan piece, tighten it up in the vise, and rasp away. It beats free-handing it with the rasp and sand paper.

March 11th - I am please to report that your toy theatre/stage is well under way. I will send some pictures when the pieces go together. I've got all the parts done. The hardest part was conceptualizing the thing from the instructions I downloaded from your website.