Saturday, February 13, 2021

Save Pollock's Toy Museum Fundraiser

Pollock's Toy Museum, the oldest Toy Museum in the UK, dates back to the 1850s when the printer Benjamin Pollock created the famed printed toy theatres which have become our hallmark. Since the 1950s we have been an independent museum, now run by Eddy and Jack, the grandson and great-grandson of our founder, Marguerite Fawdry
They are working with the Pollock’s Toy Museum Trust and reaching out to new and existing supporters of their unique collection to help them to stay open!
The museum and our small toy shop have remained closed for most of the past year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We rely entirely on visitors to the museum and shop and have lost £15,000 in income over the last year. Therefore, our first target on this crowdfunder aims to recoup this loss! We have had to furlough our small staff and we are struggling to pay our bills. We are concerned that our overheads will go up (the return of business rates and staff coming off furlough) before healthy footfall returns. This amount will help us stay open for the next year until things stabilise after the pandemic.

The good news is that first target was realized quickly, and now they have an important additional goal:

Thursday, February 04, 2021

A Fair Like No Other

The Fantastical Fairground from Andre Gidoin on Vimeo.

Up higher than you’ve ever been, past the third cloud to the right and straight on towards the sun, lies a world of wonder and excitement – a place where young and old can play in the clouds, spinning and whooshing like never before. We hope you have fun and enjoy the rides!

Makerie Studio and Director André Gidoin have teamed up again to create a surreal world of paper wonder, this time high in an imaginary sky. The Fantastical Fairground is a fully functional set, created from a combination of paper and found vintage toys, which we injected with new life and fresh colours. Filmed over the course of yet another weekend in New York, the Fairground also features pieces brought to life by chains, cogs and old childhood favourites - Meccano motors.

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Animation: Diving into the Benjamin Pollock Archive

Benjamin Pollock's Toyshop in London has started a fun project:
I’m excited about a lockdown project that we can give you a taste of here. We let artist @keithkhanlondon into the archives of @benjamin_pollocks_toyshop and we can’t wait to see the results. Yes, animation is a slow process so we’ll have to be patient.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

New Play for the Small Stage: 2020 Meets 1918

Diamond’s Dream is a virtual puppet production that takes place on a CTA Red Line train traveling south through pandemic-era Chicago. Diamond, a pre-teen African-American boy, has fallen asleep on the train while on his way to visit his dying grandmother. When he awakes, time and reality have shifted, and he meets the ghost of a young African-American girl, a shape-shifting elder spirit who died of Spanish Flu 100 years ago to the date. Both are confronted with paranormal puppets and images representing society’s ills – ignorance, poverty and racism. While the spirit girl seeks only rest, Diamond comes to understand she must first be remembered in order to find it. 

Diamond’s Dream is the first new work to emerge from the Springboard Project, a new initiative launched in 2020 by Chicago Children’s Theatre to foster new works for young audiences by diverse local writers. The piece was created by Jerrell L. Henderson and Caitlin McLeod.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Simon Armitage Hansel and Gretel, Re-imagined

A "newish" book (published in 2019) from poet laureate Simon Armitage, in collaboration with artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins. 

Simon Armitage’s extended narrative poem uses the well-known framework of the Brothers Grimm tale but gives us a new contemporary interpretation and focus. This is a darker, glittering Hansel & Gretel fairy story for the 21st century, of refugees, bombed villages, homelessness, a landscape where nothing is quite as it seems, but of humanity, humour and hope too. 

The powerful story is illustrated by the visual creations of artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins. His compelling Hansel & Gretel characters have appeared as prints, and as a Toy Theatre for Benjamin Pollock's Toyshop and re-imagined here using the imagery of the toy box of mid-century wooden puppets, villages and building blocks in creating a unique, contemporary fairytale landscape.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Fun Online, Interactive 'Live' show!

Xavi is a little girl with a big imagination, stranded alone in her bedroom. When a mysterious visitor drops by looking for a missing part to fix his magical flying machine, they explore the hidden depths of her room and use the power of imagination to turn her isolation into an epic indoor voyage.  

This online interactive experience borrows techniques of the Victorian toy theatre (like paper cutout characters) and combines them with contemporary style puppetry and original songs. Designed specifically for online viewing, it invites viewers to turn their cameras on to participate in select scenes. A post-show talkback after each performance invites them to meet the puppeteers, ask questions, and explore behind-the-scenes. Audience members will also receive a printable puppet template that they can make and color at home.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Robert Louis Stevenson in America

We are about ten minutes’ walk distant from the village and beautifully situated upon the river upon which we look down.” That is how Margaret Stevenson started describing her new surroundings from Baker’s, in Saranac Lake, to her sister Jane Balfour in Scotland.

The renowned pioneer Baker family, of Baker Mountain fame, had just rented most of their house, on very short notice, to the traveling Stevensons, who could show up unexpectedly, anytime, anywhere, and this time it was Saranac Lake for the winter of 1887-88. Their leader, Robert Louis Stevenson, the newly famous author of “Treasure Island” and the “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde,” was chronically ill and had been persuaded by a New York City doctor to go to the Adirondacks instead of Colorado to seek relief for his presumed case of tuberculosis. Less than a week later, they were here looking for a place to stay when they happened to meet Andrew Baker on Main Street, and the rest is history.

So altogether, the Bakers had five new tenants paying them rent — $50 monthly — to live in their home and use their furniture, too. Until spring, the Baker family, five in all, were just a few feet away in a separate wing of the house but “entirely shut off by double doors. Into our part you enter by the kitchen,” said Margaret, or “Maggie,” the author’s mother. Maggie was a new member of the Stevenson expedition, which had spent the last seven years migrating around Europe between health spas. She was a widow now, and this whole journey to the New World was just a reflex to the recent death of her husband Thomas Stevenson in May 1887. “Thomas Stevenson — Civil Engineer” is an essay RLS completed shortly before sailing for America with his wife Fanny, her son Lloyd Osbourne, their traveling Swiss servant Valentine Roch and now Margaret, who soon discovered that traveling with her celebrity son would be something new, like she wrote to Jane: “To be interviewed from morning to night as the mother of Robert Louis Stevenson is no joke, I assure you, however great an honour it may be!”

By Oct. 3, all had arrived safely at their new mountain home in Saranac Lake just when the annual bright colors of autumn were at their peak. Margaret had a preview on the way north, coming up the Hudson by riverboat, telling her sister that “The river scenery constantly reminded me of Scotland, but of course the autumn foliage is something wholly new to us both. Louis and I had always longed to see it and at last we are fully satisfied.” Two days later from Baker’s, Maggie is at it again: “The chief glory just now lies in the autumn colourings, which Louis declared are exactly like the Skelts’ theatre scenes, the ‘two pence coloured’ ones that we used to think so impossible!”

What are Skelts’ theater scenes? Nineteenth-century child’s play, that’s what they are. Said Graham Balfour in his book, a “Life of Robert Louis Stevenson,” “He had never made any affectation of abandoning a pursuit he was supposed to have outgrown. He clung to the colouring of prints and childish paintings long after most boys of his age have given up the diversions of the nursery.” When Louis was 6, he started hanging out with 9-year-old cousin Bob, a time when toy theaters were popular throughout Queen Victoria’s realm. A toy theater is a tabletop version of a real theater without the seats, just the stage. You could perform any play you wanted to with scripts, characters and scenery bought at certain shops. If you bought the pieces uncolored or “plain,” it was cheaper than the factory-made color versions that were “two-pence.” Louis and Bob liked to color their own pieces, and Skelts’ plays were their favorite brand name, hence Skelts’ theater scenes. Characters were cutouts attached to wands, by which they are moved around the stage according to their behavior in the script, which is spoken by the players, each with his particular character role.

Louis and cousin Bob had mastered the art of toy theater as boys. As a married man, age 30, in 1881, RLS was doing it again in Switzerland, after his stepson Lloyd Osbourne, age 11, had come into possession of a toy theater — “a superb affair costing upwards of 20 pounds that had been given me on the death of the poor lad who had whiled away his dying hours with it at the Belvedere,” a hotel in the health resort town of Davos. Lloyd continues: “He painted scenery for my toy theatre and helped me to give performances and slide the actors in and out of their tin stands, as well as imitating galloping horses, or screaming screams for the heroine in distress. My mother, usually the sole audience, would laugh till she had to be patted on the back, while I held up the play with much impatience for her recovery.”

Robert Louis Stevenson held onto his fascination with toy theater. When he went to London, he discovered the shops of Webb and Pollock, who made and pedaled the goods, and became a regular at B. Pollock’s Juvenile Theatrical Print Publishers, 73 Haxton St. RLS befriended the proprietor, Ben Pollock, with whom he talked toy theaters by the hour. Ben Pollock got to live a lot longer than his skinny customer Louis, of whom Pollock said, “His hands were so thin you could almost see through them.” By 1924, Ben was a member of the Stevenson Society of America in Saranac Lake and wrote them a letter along with other items from his shop. He said, “His visits to my shop seemed interesting to him as he had a good look around at all the plays etc. which I keep in boxes.”

Stevenson wasn’t Pollock’s only interesting customer. G.K. Chesterton’s passion for the hobby rivalled Stevenson’s. Chesterton saw the toy theater as a microcosm of the cosmos, where everything can be examined under the spotlight of a miniature stage, where good and evil are starkly contrasted in bright colors and dramatic scripts. Winston Churchill was a big fan of the little stage, too. He bought his stuff at H.J. Webb, an offshoot of Pollock’s. One of Winston’s favorite plays was “The Miller and His Men,” and in the final scene, Grindoff is cornered by Count Fribourg and his soldiers. Fribourg tells him to surrender. “Surrender?” says Grindoff. “Never! I have sworn never to descend from this spot alive!” Winston Churchill would say, “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and the streets, we shall fight in the hills — we shall never surrender!”

Toy theaters are still around. Thanks to Gary LeFebvre of Onchiota, an example is on display in Maggie’s old room at Baker’s, also known as the Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Cottage. Mr. LeFebvre was intrigued by a kit he saw on the market, a “penny plain” kit. He bought it, colored it and built it before he came across Stevenson’s essay on the subject, called “A Penny Plain and Two Pence Coloured.” So when Gary was done playing with his theater, he suggested giving it a home in the Stevenson Cottage. So far, there have been no objections.

From September 3, 2020 edition of the...

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Saturday, September 05, 2020

The Greatest Exhibition

The Greatest Exhibition (Illustration for visual narrative, March 2017, Acrylic on tracing paper mixed on acetate)

Artist & Illustrator, Fann Peeti
[See her mouse toy theatre HERE...]

In this project, I created a replica of The Crystal Palace, the building in The Great Exhibition of 1851. This artwork shows ten (10) innovations that changed the world. 

Also, it tells the viewer that the most incredible creation is themselves, hopefully to increase viewer's self esteem.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

PUNCH Kamikaze!

Puppets Come Home! & Drama of Works present...

-- PUNCH Kamikaze: Punch & Judy --

When: Thursday, August 13th, 8pm ET
Who: Adults Only

An assortment of puppeteers perform various scenes from the 358-year-old traditional English puppet show, Punch & Judy.

- Drama of Works (Brooklyn, NY)
- Connor Hopkins, Artistic Director and Janitor, Trouble Puppet Theater Company Workshop (Austin, TX)
- Deborah Hunt, Jorge Díaz and musician Agustín Muñoz (San Juan, PR)
- Jeghetto's Entertainment, LLC (Asheville, NC)
- Sarah Nolen, Resident Artist at Puppet Showplace Theater (Boston, MA)
- Noisy Oyster (Somerset, UK)
- Brendan Schweda/Puppets Come Home! (Brooklyn, NY)
- Tooth and Nail Cabaret = Elle Love, Caitlin Ross and Marcus Fioravante (all over the place)
- Amy Trompetter/Redwing Blackbird Theater (Rosendale, NY)

* * * * * * * * * * *
Once upon a time in Coney Island, there were so many Punch & Judy shows happening, that "Punch and Judy together with [their cohorts] the devil, the priest and the hangman could be viewed on almost any part of the beach..." - Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 10 Jun 1878

For the first time in PUNCH puppet slam’s history (it’s been around in some form since 2005) we are taking on our namesake! Artists who already had a tradition of doing Punch & Judy shows were asked to share a snippet of their piece with us or create a new scene for this event - and it’s going to be EPIC!!!

“Kamikaze” is a term Drama of Works uses for its themed puppet slams, based around one story/event/play. A multitude of puppet artists are given sections of the story to reinterpret and create with wild abandon. Then it is presented in order. No one knows how it will come together until the night of the show.

Puppets Come Home at Coney Island is a series designed to celebrate Coney Island's 150-year legacy of puppetry & provide a platform for contemporary cutting-edge puppeteers. Produced in collaboration with Coney Island USA.

Suggested Donation - A link will be provided during the show to support the artists, and a portion of the proceeds will go to the Domestic Violence Project at the Urban Justice Center.

PUNCH Kamikaze is made possible in part through the generosity of The Puppet Slam Network.

Great Small Works holds Benefit

Art, Justice, and Pasta: A Benefit for Building Stories

Join Brooklyn-based theater company Great Small Works on Friday, August 14 at 7:30 Eastern Time for a free, online version of the company's long-standing Spaghetti Dinners, entitled Art, Justice, and Pasta: A Benefit for Building Stories. This exciting array of over a dozen new activist performances, puppet shows, films, and music (as well as a live cooking show revealing the secrets of Great Small Works' beloved spaghetti recipe) will feature performers including: Great Small WorksBoxCutter CollectiveThe People's Puppets of Occupy Wall StreetChinese Theatre Works, the Inanimate Intimists, Nathan Leigh, Raphael Mishler, Marina Tsaplina, Jacqueline Wade, and chef Roberto Rossi.

Viewers can connect to Art, Justice, and Pasta via the Great Small Works facebook video page:

Opportunities to make contributions to Building Stories will be available during and after the event. Donation link is here:

Since 2017 Great Small Works has shared space, projects, and enthusiasm with Building Stories, LLC, a Brooklyn-based community of artists, teachers, builders, designers, writers, filmmakers, organizers, performers, and thinkers who collaborate with organizations working toward economic and racial justice, environmental protections, labor equity, prison reform and immigrant rights. The Building Stories shared studio in Gowanus is a design, construction, and rehearsal space for multiple overlapping projects involving puppets, masks, banners, costumes, and signs, as well as film and video editing.

Art, Justice, and PastaA Benefit for Building Stories will include performances by the following Building Stories members:

Marina Tsaplina and Alexandra Zevin, who will present their short video
  • What is Building Stories?, a you-are-there tour of the Building Stories workshop and studio in Gowanus.
People's Puppets of Occupy Wall Street, founded in Zuccotti Park in the first two weeks of the 2011 Occupation of New York City, is a collective that helps other activists build beautiful and effective visuals for actions. People's Puppets will present:
  • Masque of the Red Death: 2020, by Alexandra Zevin, a digital adaptation of a work by Edgar Allen Poe, in which the rich are partying during a pandemic, and a fracking executive steps away from the masquerade ball.
  • Surviving the Storm: A Shadow Puppet Show, Kim Fraczek’s video about a mourning dove protecting her nest eggs in the tree outside Kim’s window in Brookly during a day filled with violent winds and rain; the dove’s resilience and tenacity recall the story told by 1,000-year-old Redwood tree named Luna to her protector.
  • The Luxury You Deserve, Alexandra Zevin and Morgan Jenness's video reconciling anger and panic in response to recent political events, with an understanding of economic structures that influence history: we are living in the grips of settler colonial histories and a corporate takeover of the living world. Where are we going?
BoxCutter Collective, an extended family (Sam Wilson, Jason, Hicks, Tom Cunningham, and Joseph Therrien) of puppeteers, painters, performers, builders, educators, workers, union organizers, and mischief makers who have been working together in various forms for the last 15 years. They will perform:
  • A Series of Questions for Those Not Yet in Favor of Police and Prison Abolition, a picture performance by Tom Cunningham.
  • How to Overthrow a Statue, a how-to toy-theater instruction video by Jason Hicks.
Chinese Theatre Works, co-founded by Kuang-Yu Fong and Stephen Kaplin, who have collaborated together on dozens of theatrical productions that fuse Chinese opera with Western puppetry practice, will perform:
  • The Warrior, based on a Japanese Zen parable, as interpreted by the great, late, master storyteller Ken Feit.
Great Small Works, a collective of six theater artists–John Bell, Trudi Cohen, Stephen Kaplin, Jenny Romaine, Roberto Rossi and Mark Sussman–who create original performances aiming to keep theater at the heart of social life, drawing on folk, avant-garde and popular theater traditions, will present:
  • What Kind of Bear am I?, a video conceived and directed by Jenny Romaine, based on a song by Geoff Berner, and part of a larger production, The Revival of the Uzda Gravediggers, about life in the "mostly ordinary town" of Uzda in Belorusia before the rise of a nation-state.
The Inanimate Intimists (Ali Goss and Liz Oakley), who animate objects in order to explore their inner thoughts and desires, and have performed on their fire escape, from inside a bathtub, on their stove, and on their stoop, will perform:
  • The Future of Pigs, a hand-puppet lecture by Professor Pig about the violent history and imagined future of the humans giving pigs a bad name: the police.
Nathan Leigh, a member of People's Puppets of Occupy Wall Street, will present:
  • I Know What It Means To Be Free, a video animation created in collaboration with Israel Adeyemi Adeniji, who spent 190 days in ICE detention, and the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund's "Let My People Go" campaign to release our immigrant neighbors in detention; and
  • The Immortan Joe Memorial Highway, a stop-motion animation video Leigh made for a tune by his band Nathan Leigh and the Crisis Actors.
Raphael Mishler, a visual designer for New York theater productions, will present:
  • Quarantine Stroll, a collage crankie based on walks through the artist's neighborhood during the beginning of social distancing.
Jacqueline Wade, a professional hybrid filmmaker/storyteller/actress/puppeteer/fabricator/activist, and graduate student in the MFA Integrated Media Arts Program at Hunter College, will present
  • A Slice of History, a multi-media triptych perspective on Human Zoos, Teddy Roosevelt, and the Young Lords, created, written, directed, and edited by Jacqueline Wade.
Marina Tsaplina, a transdisciplinary performing artist, disability advocate, and scholar in the medical/health humanities, will present:
  • Body Poem #1: That Place of Freedom, a short meditation; an exploration of body, place, breath, sound, and image.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Pop-up Theater Course!

A unique opportunity to learn, study, meet, and collaboratively work with artists from all over the world from your chair at home...
  • Course title: Pop-Up Methods and Techniques as a Basis for Theater.
  • Puppets for Pop-Up Stages.
  • The last lesson will be dedicated to personal counseling and watching the works.
Opens on Thursday 20.8 at 8 pm Israel time; the course will be held weekly for five consecutive weeks - 20.8, 27.8, 3.9, 10.9, 17.9

The course will be in English and includes personalized online guidance.
Number of participants, about 15, and each lesson will last 2-3 academic hours.

Price: US $ 100, payment via PayPal or Western Union Service)

For more details, contact Galia Levy-Grad

Friday, July 17, 2020

Gepetto: Extraordinary Extremities

La MaMa in association with Concrete Temple Theatre and Bridge Street Theatre presents
Geppetto: Extraordinary Extremities

Thursday, July 30, 2020 at 2 PM – 3 PM EDT; to join this live event, go to

We are deeply honored at this time to be able to present a live streamed performance of Geppetto!

Geppetto: Extraordinary Extremities is a tale of resilience, adaptation and ingenuity that tells the story of puppet-maker Geppetto, who is attempting to perform — all by himself for the first time ever — the grand mythical love story of Perseus, who slays a sea monster to save his beloved Andromeda. During the show things begin to go haywire, and Geppetto finds himself desperately improvising to overcome the challenges of performing solo while at the same time scrambling to devise new story lines, new characters, and even new limbs.

Geppetto: Extraordinary Extremities was inspired by a NPR story on Hugh Herr, whose legs were amputated after a climbing accident and who now designs technologically advanced artificial limbs.
“The play focuses on a longing for magic, a wish for a transformative power…A compelling performance, enhanced by haunting cello music…It celebrates human ingenuity.” – New York Times 
“It’s romantic in an old-fashioned way…lovely music…Carlo Adinolfi’s performance is charming.” – New Yorker
We dedicate this performance to anyone who has lost a loved one during the Covid-19 pandemic.