Annual Paper Theatre Festival: It’s the Smallest Show on Earth!

This three-day exhibit features replicas of Victorian Era paper theatres as well as modern versions of the toy. Live performances will be featured throughout each day.

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 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 scale model of that specific theatre. These paper theatre hobbyists ended up learning a great amount about scenic design, lighting effects, sound effects, music, acting, directing, blocking — 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.

Watch this short documentary celebrating paper theatre filmed by UCSD-TV for the Library’s Channel!

Drop in for impromptu performances and build & take home colorful paper optical toys. This family-friendly event is free and open to the public.

Festival Dates: July 13, 14, 15
Time: Saturday hours: 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday hours: Noon-3 p.m.
Monday hours: 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (with a special noon premiere)
Location: Geisel Library, Seuss Room

Photo Credit: Eduardo Contreras/ San Diego Union-Tribune