13th Annual Paper Theatre Festival & Exhibit

08/09/2014 - 08/10/2014 12:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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Geisel Library, Seuss Room


Paper theatre: it’s the smallest show on Earth! This scale-model educational toy is being re-discovered and celebrated at the UC San Diego Library.

Paper theatre, also called table top theatre or toy theatre, dates back to the Victorian Era. A weekend-long exhibit (Saturday, August 9 and Sunday, August 10, both days from noon to 5 pm) 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 each day that weekend.

paper theatre

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 drawings 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.

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, choreography—all through this paper theatre toy, and many aspects of theatre were introduced to producers and performers of all ages.

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 are free and open to the public. For more information: (858) 822-5758 or spaulson@ucsd.edu

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Categories: Comments: 4

4 comments for “13th Annual Paper Theatre Festival & Exhibit”

On September 29, 2014, 11:49 AM Jaslynn said:

Hello! This amazing and such a creative idea! I would love to know where I can get one of these made for a theatre. Please reply and let me know if you know where I may possibly be able to get this done! Thank you!

On October 1, 2014, 2:08 PM Young, Marlo said:

Hello! We’ve shared your question with the organizer of our Paper Theater Festival, Scott Paulson (spaulson@ucsd.edu), and he’ll follow-up with a detailed reply shortly. Thanks for the comment/question. 🙂

On October 6, 2014, 8:37 AM Scott Paulson said:

So glad you saw this listing! We’re big paper theatre fans here.

Please re-send your question directly to my e-mail at
and include more details (are you looking for a company that can provide commercial mass production?) I’m not in the position to give business advice via a public social media forum—but I am very happy to look through my notes for referrals or give advice in a more private correspondence setting.
or: do you merely want access to a template so that you can make one yourself?

On March 19, 2015, 7:00 PM Scarlet said:

hello~ i am Korean. i am interested in toy theatre, paper theatre, model theatre. i want more information about paper theatre and i wanna talk to you~~

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