16th Annual Paper Theatre Festival: It’s the Smallest Show on Earth!

This Scale Model Educational Toy is Being Rediscovered and Celebrated at the UC San Diego Library

Festival Dates:
Saturday, February 10 • Noon to 5 p.m.
Sunday, February 11 • Noon to 5 p.m.
(impromptu performances throughout the day both Saturday and Sunday)

Monday, February 12 • 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
(special premiere performance from alumna Lily Huang at noon)
Geisel Library, Seuss Room

This three-day exhibit in the Seuss Room of Geisel Library features replicas of Victorian Era paper theatres as well as modern versions of the toy. Live performances are featured throughout each day.

In the Victorian Era, theatrical playhouses printed fine souvenir posters showing architectural elements of their theatre. Aspects of set design were shown on the posters along with representations of actual actors of the company (shown in costume from a specific production). Condensed scripts were included in these poster kits and paper doll players were soon seen in lively productions on a table top at home, with many aspects of theatre arts being introduced to producers and performers of all ages.

From these posters, families and hobbyists would cut out the proscenium, the curtain, etc., to create a scale model of that specific theatre. These paper theatre hobbyists ended up learning much about scenic design, lighting effects, sound effects, music, acting, directing, blocking—all through this paper theatre toy. Theatre-goers often bought these paper theatre posters as souvenirs promoting an actual production they saw. Those living far from the theatre district ordered paper theatres from a catalog and had them delivered to their small town as an educational toy for the household. A lot of cutting and pasting was involved but hours of educational fun and artistic exploration would follow. The many two-dimensional layers of a paper theatre add up to something with surprising depth and charm.

Exhibit and accompanying live events of this Paper Theatre Festival are free and open to the public. For more information Contact Scott Paulson via email at spaulson@ucsd.edu or by phone at (858) 822-5758.

For information about accessible parking on campus, click here.

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