Fun stage dioramas at Paper Theatre Festival!

An example of a elaborate paper toy theater, a source of family entertainment in the 19th century.
An example of an elaborate paper toy theater, a source of family entertainment in the 19th century.

Today, just for fun, I headed up to the Paper Theatre Festival, which is held every year at UC San Diego.

Upon entering the Seuss Room at the Geisel Library, I couldn’t help smiling. Scattered about the room was a large collection of Victorian stage dioramas, character cut-outs, books and ephemera from the 19th century when paper toy theatre was a popular family entertainment.

All of the colorful artwork exhibited at the festival is part of an immense paper theatre collection assembled over the course of eighteen years by Scott Paulson. I listened to him talk to visitors young and old about his collection, and tried to absorb a bit of this unique art form’s history. I learned how in that bygone age, families would construct these paper theaters from kits, then act out plays with the included scripts and paper doll actors. The entertaining hobby encouraged people to learn about the operation of a real theater, including set design and stage lighting effects.

Walking about the Seuss Room, I bent over to peer into many highly ornate 3-dimensional dioramas. Slots at intervals on the stages allow different paper backdrops–scenery sheets–to be inserted, as you can see from my photos. Paper characters, which are often mounted at the ends of sticks, can be moved about on a stage as a dramatic performance demands.

The festival is geared toward kids, who are encouraged to handle these fun paper playhouses, learn about their history and create their own small dramas. The event continues Sunday and Monday. Click here to learn more!

Paper Theater - It's the smallest show on Earth! Historical amusements are on display at the Paper Theatre Festival at the UC San Diego Library.
Paper Theater – It’s the smallest show on Earth! Historical amusements are on display at the Paper Theatre Festival at the UC San Diego Library.
Objects on display include books, posters and materials to craft paper theaters.
Objects on display include books, posters and materials to create paper theaters.
A mirthful dance of magical characters!
A mirthful dance of magical characters!
A variety of paper toy theaters and related items are on display at the festival.
A variety of paper toy theaters and related items are on display at the annual festival.
A scenery sheet depicting a London street to be used in a play of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations.
A scenery sheet depicting a London street to be used in a play of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations.
Detail from one highly ornate paper stage.
Detail from one ornate paper stage.
These cut-out paper actors include dragons, knights and other fantastic characters.
These cut-out paper actors include dragons, knights and other fantastic characters.
Mr. Jackson's Elizabethan Theatre includes the characters and text for Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Mr. Jackson’s Elizabethan Theatre includes the characters and text for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
An example of a French paper theatre kit.
An example of a French paper theatre kit.
The exhibition includes a crazy MOV-I-GRAFF card. The outline of the face is a fine chain. The face's shape can be altered with a jiggle.
The exhibition includes a crazy MOV-I-GRAFF card. The outline of the face is a fine chain. The face’s shape can be altered with a jiggle.
This stage features a troupe of ballet dancers!
This stage features a troupe of dancers!
Edward Gorey's Dracula, a toy theatre!
Edward Gorey’s Dracula. Classic horror and toy theatre!
Teatro de Mexico. A folk art toy theater.
Teatro de Mexico. A folk art toy theater.
Benjamin Pollock's Toyshop. Hansel and Gretel. A model to cut out and make.
Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop. Hansel and Gretel. A model to cut out and make.
A fun Hansel and Gretel scene made of paper!
A fun, very colorful Hansel and Gretel scene made of paper!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

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Published by

Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

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