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Preview: Penny Plain, Twopence Colored

Penny Plain, Twopence Coloured

The adventures of a Toy Theatre novice...

Updated: 2018-03-02T23:03:09.557-08:00


House of Automata


In a wood in the far North of Scotland, there is a magical workshop where Maria and Micheal Start work preserving and restoring antique automata. With over 25 years experience, they painstakingly bring these pieces back to life...

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The House of Automata from Euan Myles on Vimeo.

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(BBC) - Automata in The Modern Age from Matthew Knight on Vimeo.
Matthew Knight, the filmmaker, says: 
"Automata are mechanical moving figures; throughout history their lifelike movements have fascinated such creative minds as Da Vinci and Faberge. 
"One century ago however, production fell silent. Now though, in a fortuitous twist, the computer age is turning the gears of an automata revival. Michael and Maria Start who run the House of Automata in Scotland are two of the world's foremost restorers of antique automata. 
"Here, they discuss their love for automata, and why more people are drawn to the craft."

Japanese Theatre Traditions to be Featured at Lincoln Center


On March 8th, Zach Dorn will join Julie Taymor in conversation regarding his experiences in Japan studying Edo Era mechanical puppetry and fusuma karakuri.  They will also be joined by the other 2018 fellows, Hector Flores Komatsu and Jesca Prudencio. The event is free! You can reserve tickets for the event here. Reservations are recommended! 

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Taymor World Theater Fellowship WRAP-UP 2018 from MINORapocalypse on Vimeo.

Enchanted Dolls


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I love making dolls because it allows me to work with several mediums at once. Making dolls is a creative process that combines the disciplines of industrial design, sculpting, ceramics, painting, engineering, drawing, engraving, jewelry making and textiles. It generates a whole that is greater and richer than the sum of each comprising medium put together. 
- Marina Bychkova

Mechanic of the Past


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Brittany Nicole Cox is one of the only antiquarian horologists in the world. She's basically a mechanic—a mechanic from the 17th century. Cox fixes old machines with watch or clock mechanisms inside them for a living. Often, these machines are missing parts that frequently no longer exist, so Cox fashions them herself. To visit her workshop is to see what the future looked like centuries ago, and while Cox's trade is laborious, time-consuming and incredibly intricate, she is preserving a magical part of humanity's past.


The Chelm Legend: Fool Moon


A theatrical adaptation based on the humorous stories of Chelem and Eastern European Jewish folklore. Leimech and Laizer set out on an adventure to find a new moon for the town of Chelem to replace the one that was stolen.

The plot unfolds via a pop-up book, combined with puppets and shadows and incorporating original klezmer...

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Galia Levy Grad has created a world of magic and beauty using the simplest, most minimalist techniques: the entire drama materializes out of a pop-up picture book. The visibility of the theatrical mechanism to the audience only serves to enhance the magic and liveliness of the two-dimensional figures. Galia has created exhilarating theatrical moments by means of inventive, aesthetic and highly imaginative elements. 
 - Comments by Judges’ Panel, 22nd Haifa International Children's Theatre Festival, 2012

A brilliant adaptation of the Chelm stories for paper theater, created jointly by Naomi Yoeli and Galia Levy Grad. (The latter is also the narrator and manipulates the characters, engaging in lively dialogue with them.) It’s impossible not to fall in love with Levy Grad, who brings to life the townspeople made of beautifully decorated papercuts; they appear, in fact, from an old book of tales, like pop-up postcards. The show reminds us of the true magic of theater and is an extraordinary glimpse at some wonderful stories from Jewish culture.
- Merav Yudilovitch, Ynet

A British Christmas Tradition: Pantomimes


Pages from printed programme for Robinson Crusoe pantomime performed at the Theatre  Royal, 
Drury Lane, December 1881, England.  (c) Victorian & Albert Museum, London

Pantomimes are a mainly British tradition, that has come to be performed almost exclusively in modern times around Christmas.

Being a type of theatre, pantomimes have of course, been adapted to the toy theatre.  The toy theatre versions originally came out during the Victorian age.  Victorian pantomime inspired today's versions, but were very much of their time.  The history of pantomimes goes back much further, however...

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Secret Life of Cats


On December 2nd, at the Sala CCB (Performing Arts Center) in Mexico City,  the company Huellas en Venus Teatro premiered a new toy theater show - "About the Secret Life of Cats". It will be performed there until March 2018, and after that they hope to travel it round the country.

Watch the creative process come alive, as the company brings this production to life!

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A behind-the-scenes trailer for the new toy theatre production (in Spanish):

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From an recent interview of the company:
The production, in paper theater format,  written by Gerardo Castillo and directed by Mauricio Martínez Martínez, tells a story that will uncover a legend about relationships between cats and humans. 
In this world full of magical and mysterious places, the audience will be able to meet characters like Lorenza, the little kitten of colossal proportions, Timotea, the colorful flying kitty and his loyal friend Rodolfo, the acrobat mouse, and, of course, the daring Sir Thomas Malory Tapioca.
The story arises from the need to explore the thousand-year-old figure of the cat, which has inspired from heroic legends to tales of terror. With a sense of humor, the project is immersed in its amazing stories and vicissitudes, the same that happens on the margin of the daily worries of the human beings. 
Miguel Ángel Morales, Mauricio Martínez Martínez and Ana Cordelia Aldama make up the cast of this work that proposes the fusion of paper theater with a contemporary expressiveness, in which the actors use the resource of oral narration, with masks and manipulation of objects.
That sounds amazing!  I hope anyone in Mexico who has the chance, definitely checks out this fantastic production...

Wilton's Music Hall & Toy Theatre


A mouse-themed 'Music Hall', (Storybox Collective exhibition/Wilton's Music Hall) - Note jumping baby mouse!Wilton's Music Hall has been hosting an exhibition that includes a very special toy theatre.  I will let the artist and creator of this toy theatre - Fann (Peeticha) Kongrit - tell you all about it...This project is called, Wilton's Mousy Hall.It began when I joined a group called The Storybox Collective. It is a group of ten designers and illustrators who have explored the potential of archival research in order to introduce their audience to a curious world of discovery and serendipity. Faan (Peeticha) Kongrit, the artistOur first group exhibition - ‘Storybox: Tales of Absence, “What ifs” and Salvation’ - was inspired by the archives of London’s celebrated Wilton’s Music Hall and we have interpreted the world of Wilton’s that was, that is and that could be through a series of new artwork.Archival collections present a vast wealth of opportunity for discovering creative inspiration and surprising revelations. The Wilton’s collection contains hints and clues to not just the history of the building and its environment, but to the many fascinating people who walked the hallways of the world’s oldest grand music hall. In this project, I took inspiration from The Music Hall building itself. When I saw the holes and faded paint, I realizes that there are memories recorded in the wall. So I wants to turn back in time and bring that former glory back by using the perspective of a little creature living in the wall.I imagined the families of mice living in the cracks and crevices. Watching the performances and passing the stories down through the generations. The result is a paper theatre, a miniature mousy version of Wilton's. Not just the architecture or the painting  [artwork used in the toy theatre] that was the inspiration, was  from the original building. I also researched the famous performers of Wilton's and change them into mice (see below...)In-progress:  The 'Music Hall' toy theatre sheets being created before assembly...In-progress:  The 'Music Hall' toy theatre sheets being created before assembly...Characters that inhabit the stage of the 'Music Hall' toy theatre...The proscenium, stage, main floor, and balcony seating of the 'Music Hall' toy theatre...Completed 'Music Hall' toy theatre:  Performers, Orchestra, and Audience...The 'Music Hall' toy theatre, on display, at the Wilton Music Hall's exhibition!The Storybox Collective:  Faan (Peeticha) Kongrit in the middle, wearing red beret...Speaking of which, the Les Enfants Terrible were at Wilton's Music Hall just last month. I wish I had known - they look amazing! I definitely would have shown them off and tooted the horns for them here, in advance!Les Enfants Terrible at Wilton's Music Hall in October 2017, also incorporate toy theatre in their performances... allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="375" src="" width="640">[...]

18th Century Mechanical Theatre


"An 18th-century mechanical theatre was a technology of tricks and devices..." - Read more.

On exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum through February 25, 2018...
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Driveway Follies


There is a very special place in Oakland, California, where a very special program is performed every October 30th and 31st.  It all started with an idea from the mind of Larry Schmidt...

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Below are some highlights from the show - excerpts that demonstrate the sharpness of wit,  skill of puppetry, and comic brilliance - that you'll be sure to enjoy.  First up, Mysterious Mose, followed by, The Skeleton and the Roundabout, and finally, Hanky Pank's T'ain't No Sin! Check them out...

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The Rebel Puppeteers of Sudan


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Maker Spotlight: Studio Schaapman & Mouse Mansion!


Studio Schaapman is a family business, consisting of Karina Schaapman and her children, Tom, Ian, Manita, and Lili. They are the creators of the children’s book series, Mouse Mansion (translated into 25 languages).In the books, they use detailed miniature settings they build themselves that can now be admired at their Amsterdam Muizenhuis (or Mousehouse) shop. At the back of the shop is their studio where they create their mouse worlds, and where visitors can look inside. People often ask questions about the inspiration, design, and construction of the mouse mansions.In the Mouse Mansion shop & studio you can:Marvel at the Mouse Mansion sets built for the books, including the harbor, funfair, circus, and theatreSee how they are built and ask the makers questionsListen to audio books and read all the Mouse Mansion booksBrowse around the shop for Mouse Mansion goodiesChildren can color while parents can take a seat to read to their child allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">Studio Schaapman even provides video tutorials for those who want to build their own mouse houses![...]

Iconic Model Theatre Needs Good Home!


  Incredible infrastructure!  Wiring, controls, lighting, spotlights, fades - you name it, it has it...A few weeks ago I was contacted by email about a Model Theatre that is looking for a good home. The model is described as a Model Cinema/Theatre with revolving stage. Cine films can be shown through the back wall of the Model if required. There is only one theatre with a revolving stage that comes to mind, and that is the London Palladium. Although sadly, the revolve was removed some years ago when the Theatre was bought by the Really Useful Group owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber. I am not sure if this is a scale model of the Palladium itself. The gentleman who made it was a Mr. Sam Witham, from Reading. He was a member of the then, Reading Society of Model and Experimental Engineers. He won First Prize with his Model in 1951.Dimensions of the model are: Height 86cm. Width 50cm. Depth 75cm. Below are further photos, with contact information at bottom.One of the control boards as it was being constructedIf there are any Model Theatre enthusiasts who could give this iconic model a good home, then please contact Mr. Witham's grandson, Simon Gumm.His details are: 02380 436398 or mobile 07917 673934[...]

X-Men Wolverine as a Puppet



Australian star Hugh Jackman, well-known for his role as Wolverine, was recently in Taiwan to promote the film Logan. At a press conference there, he was given a Taiwanese glove puppet in the likeness of his X-Men character from the film company, 20th Century Fox. Jackman said he will treasure the amazing gift forever, and will have to find a way to keep it away from his children.

A Portrait of the Puppet Master as a Young Man


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Barnaby Dixon is a very talented young man, with an innate ability to create both visually (puppets) and orally (character voices), as well as write/ad lib some VERY funny stories for his puppets. Check his videos out to see for yourself...

A New Toy Theatre is Born: HAMILTON


The toy theatre includes a great example of pre-restoration (2013) interior architectural accuracy...[Photo Credit:  Kelli Kirk]Last week, one very lucky little boy received a rare Christmas gift nowadays:  A toy theatre. Not only was it a toy theatre, but it was an original, newly-conceived theatre based on the Richard Rodgers theatre in New York City.  On top of that, it was based on that theatre's current production - HAMILTON. Milo's mother, Kelli shares a bit more:For the past month, Mark and I have worked late at night after bedtime to build Milo a Victorian style "Toy Theater" of the play Hamilton: An American Musical - it includes a wooden stage, and all the players on tiny marionette wires. It was a Actual side marque that Milo's toytheatre was faithfully based upon...painstaking project with tremendous scope creep but it is faithful to the original Victorian style toy theater as we could muster, except in the LED lighting - executive prerogative.Toy Theater was a cultural phenomenon in the 19th century, a style of puppeteering that included a small stage and tiny 'marionette' style characters. Parents would go to the theater and bring home a toy version of the theater so the child could act out a play. When we visited London, puppeteers recommended we visit Pollock's Toy Museum which has a large collection. Pollock's was one of those quintessentially London places - tiny, many floors tall, higgledy-piggledy collections of amazing old toy theaters and childhood ephemera. Milo was completely captivated by them -- but they aren't really made today [at least not in the same way they once were - Note from Trish.]Milo has had a passion for puppetry ever since he can remember.  His Christmas gift of a toy theatre version of the Richard Rodgers Theatre, featuring a productionof "Hamilton", made at night in secret by his parents![Photo Credit:  Kelli Kirk]Our gift was a success and Milo declared, "Mom, this is the best present I ever got!" and quickly set about to acting out the Cabinet Battle.From an article called The Rise and Fall of Toy Theatre (in recent years, it is rising again):...A toy theatre was, as we will see, a tiny but complex structure—as intricate and lovingly assembled, in its way, as model railroads can be for today’s hobbyists. In its prime, it was not a nostalgic hobby but a breathless bulletin from the newly emerging world of mass communications and global celebrities—a chance for ordinary people to touch their heroes in person...I have it on good authority that Milo and his Mom are two of the very lucky people who have secured tickets to HAMILTON, and will be attending a performance in the new year, in the new future. When Milo comes back home, I have a feeling he will be even more excited about not only the theatre but putting on a performance.Welcome to the toy theatre family, Milo!Comparing the theatre's exterior front to the toy theatre's, you can see the amount of detail that Milo's parents, Kelli & Mark, put into recreating the Rodger's theatre on a miniature scale - a very fine job for their first time.[...]

Rebel Red & The Wolf


Red encounters the Wolf



Sunday, January 8, 2017
[See Details by clicking on poster on the right]

Rebel Red lives with her mum Penny and her dad Will  in the a sleepy country village. Penny runs the community shop, Will is the forest ranger. Family life is disrupted when Granny Bake-Off’s herbal medicines get mixed up, and Grandpa Jack spots a huge wolf near their home...

This is a family show adapted by Joe Gladwin from the traditional LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD story

Help arrives in the nick of time!

Mouse Shops by Anonymouse


"Am I too late?" Mr. Mouse wonders.  It looks like he is - the door is locked, the lights are out, and no one answers..."Mrs. Mouse will be very disappointed," Mr. Mouse mutters to himself as he leaves...The mouse shop in-the-making.  The creative process and attention to detail are amazing!You may think you’re a nice, considerate person.But ask yourself: have you ever considered the appalling lack of shopping centres for tiny mice?No. We didn’t think so.Thankfully, some artists have made it their mission to give mice the shopping opportunities they’ve been desperately waiting for.Anonymouse is an anonymous collective of artists. We do not know much about them, other than the fact that they’ve now spent quite some time creating very small shops for mice around Sweden.The shop is about to open after an early morning rain...The shops are all perfectly mouse-sized, and are decorated with mouse-friendly meals, posters advertising upcoming mouse concerts, tiny chairs for customers to perch on, and all other forms of mouse-related delights.‘For us the main point with the little scenes are to spread a bit of joy, so the question of our identities seems quite irrelevant,’ Anonymouse told when asked to reveal their true selves.‘The scene is there for its own sake so shifting focus to us just seems unnecessary.’The attention to detail is amazing; nods to other rodentia works is amusing. The tiny labels, the country-of-origin all adds to the "reality of the small"!Anonymouse told us that the idea for shops for mice started over a year ago in Paris.‘We are obviously fond of miniatures,’ they said.‘We like to imagine a world where mice lives parallel to ours but just slightly out of sight. It was also a bit of a fun challenge to look at a “human” object and consider what a mouse would do with it.’They started to create the shops in March, and now work on making new ones occasionally, as the need arises.The two mouse shops are located on a busy street corner, tucked away into a window well.A customer's bike, a menu on the wall, and a credit card list on the door - who knew mice used credit cards?!When asked if there’s a deeper meaning to the work other than providing mice with shops, Anonymouse said: ‘Nope. Only if you want it to be.’Deep.Banksy Mouse?Anyway, the whole thing is lovely, and mice finally have a place to buy tiny croissants. Hooray.If you’d like to keep up to date on all mouse-focused building works, follow Anonymouse on Instagram.Source:  MetroUK[...]

Toy Theatre Aficionado: Ulrich Chmel


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A wonderful video of a toy theatre production by Ulrich Chmel of Vienna, Austria...

Here we see Ulrich with a nifty idea - a wearable toy theatre!  He appears to be doing some audio effects with a tambourine/drum and singing.  I think he is doing a demonstration of toy theatre at a school, from the context on his blog I found this image at.  It is all in German, and not very friendly to translation programs.

We find toy theatre enthusiasts around the world.  It is fun to meet others who love the same thing we do, even if all we can do and smile and nod!

Great Small Works: NEW SHOW!


We are delighted to announce that La MaMa, in association with Great Small Works, presents our newest show,  Muntergang and Other Cheerful Downfalls From October 28th through November 6th, 2016. Please come, invite your friends, and support this exciting project!Did we say we are delighted?Yes, indeed!And we are also struggling to find the funds to make these performances possible. Any donation will go a long way toward paying our artists -- keeping flavorful modernist Yiddish alive! Asking useful questions in tough times! Laughing at jokes our ancestors laughed at (still funny and in translation!)        WE THANK YOU!Great Small Works revisits the work of radical 20th-century New York City puppeteers Zuni Maud and Yosl Cutler. In a bilingual Yiddish-English play that uses Maud and Cutler's satirical puppet scripts and original graphics, together with Great Small Works' own puppets and projections, and appearances by demented dybbuks and Mae West, Muntergang is a meditation on historical models for changing power relationships.Created in collaboration with the archive of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research by Great Small Works members John Bell, Trudi Cohen, Stephen Kaplin, Jenny Romaine and Roberto Rossi.With puppeteers Joseph Therrien and Sam WilsonMusic by Jessica Lurie and Hannah TempleLights by Meredith Holch; sound by Akeyjoa AndoScript by Jenny RomaineNourish your queer political desire today. Enjoy this limitless non-normalized,  very open utopian vision of what's possible...Buy tickets hereMake a donation here[...]

The Gnomist


Deep in the forest of Overland Park, KS, little gnomes made a home. But how did they get there? This is the story of paying it forward, one little house at a time. A Great Big collaboration with filmmaker Sharon Liese and CNN Films, present The Gnomist...

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Ma'agalim (Circles) / Jane Bordeaux (Artist)


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Jane Bordeaux, a band based in Tel Aviv, has launched a Hebrew language music video for “Ma’agalim”, using a rotating penny arcade entertainment machine to explore the concept of cycles. A wooden doll, stuck in place and time, is overtaken by every-day life scenarios. Finally the clockwork behind the scenes comes to a breaking point, sending the doll and all the characters into a new dimension. 
- From the Inspiration Room
Life certainly does seem like a matter of just going in circles day after day, especially as you get older. This delightful animation also has a deeper more melancholy message. The lyrics are translated, below...

Translated from Hebrew

Nights turns into days
Days turn into years
And inside them I am going
Fast and in circles
Winds are blowing at me
Blowing down my neck
Everything seems too far
Oversizing me

It’s not me that’s progressing
It’s just the time that’s moving on
It’s just another passing train
It’s a further tightening rope

Sunrises sinking fast
Seasons passing more
And I am the same
while the time is cutting short

West End Live: Pollock's Life-Size Alice!


As they do every year, Pollock's Toy Shop has set up a stage right along with the big guys they were originally modeled after (pun intended) at West End Live! all this weekend.

On their Instagram, they posted that, "We'll be down at Trafalgar Square all weekend with our giant life size #AliceinWonderland extravaganza - come and be photographed down the rabbit hole..."

The Mad Hatter strikes a pose during a break in the tea party...
[Source:  Benjamin Pollock's Toyshop Instagram]

"I'll be 'mother', shall I?" asks the Mad Hatter...
[Source:  Benjamin Pollock's Toyshop Instagram]

Tunnel Book: Zombifying a Classic


When watching a recent film entitled, Pride + Prejudice + Zombies, I was enchanted by its opening prologue...

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In keeping with Regency-era authenticity, the prologue unfolds through a tunnel book, providing a theatrical stage for the fictional narrative to take place. Working with satirical newspaper cartoonist Martin Rowson, Ben and team transformed hand drawn illustrations into 3D animations, intricately rendered and paced to the prologue’s voice over narration...Pride + Prejudice + Zombies was all done in 3D, the team worked hard to recreate the visceral and dusty reality of a regency tunnel book, they added creases, paper texture, flickering candle light, jerky animation, lens distortion and depth. - The Mill
A wonderful article about the "world-building mashup".

Life-Size Dolls/Puppets Wander About London


The incredibly realistic 4' 7” high living dolls were played by two models who spent over three hours
being transformed by a top team of stylists, costume designers, make-up artists, and dressers.
[Photo Credit:  Tim Anderson/Taylor Herring]

A publicity stunt for a decidedly unique theme park ride - part of the world’s first psychological theme park - utilized life-sized dolls that resembled string-less, multi-jointed marionette puppets.

They wandered around London in December, in anticipation of the opening of the new ride some time this spring.

[Photo Credit:  Tim Anderson/Taylor Herring]