20th Annual Paper Theatre Festival

Aug 17, 2021
12:00 PM–1:00 PM

The smallest show on Earth is returning this summer via Facebook Premiere! The Library’s 20th Annual Paper Theatre Festival will feature replicas of Victorian Era paper theatres as well as modern, experimental versions of this re-emerging form of miniature entertainment.

No registration required. Simply visit the Library’s Facebook page at noon on August 17 and enjoy the show! Stick around for live Q&A with the players and designers after the premiere (an access link will be shared in the comments section). To ask a question, all you have to do is comment on the video at any time during the premiere or Q&A between noon and 1 p.m. 

Attendees will meet the makers of these functional miniature stages during the video premiere and hear from playwrights involved with these family-friendly theatre art pursuits. Items showcased represent 20 years of work from UC San Diego students, staff and alumni. Look forward to scenes from our past two decades of Festival repertoire! 

We encourage you to watch this short documentary celebrating paper theatre filmed by UCSD-TV for the Library’s Channel to get a better sense of what to expect at this family-friendly virtual event, which is free and open to the public.

About Paper Theatre

In the Victorian Era, London’s 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 tabletop 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 miniature model of that specific theatre. These paper theatre hobbyists ended up learning a great deal about scenic design, lighting effects, sound effects, musical underscoring, acting, directing — 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.

Scott Paulson