Ninth Annual Paper Theatre Festival

Our exhibit is up the whole month of August with two live performances: Sunday, August 29 at 2:00 p.m & Monday, August 30 at noon, free, but bring $$ for parking.

It’s the smallest show on Earth! This educational toy (paper theatre, also called table top theatre or toy theatre) dates back to the Victorian Era.  Originally designed as a souvenir promoting specific theatrical playhouses, it soon after blossomed into a popular educational toy.  The  exhibit here shows replicas of Victorian Era paper theatres as well as modern versions of the toy.

In the Victorian Era, theatrical playhouses printed fine posters showing architectural elements of their theatre.  Families and hobbyists would cut out the proscenium, the curtain, etc, to create a scale model of that specific theatre.

Theatrical playhouses used these paper theatre posters to promote their season and a particular play. Aspects of set design were shown on the posters along with drawings of actual actors of the era (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.

The paper theatre hobbyists, who cut and pasted, ended up learning much about scenic design, lighting effects, sound effects, music, acting, directing, choreography—through this paper theatre toy, all 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.