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New Toy Theatre exhibit at Puppetry Arts Institute, Kansas City MO

Gigi and Glen with Jacobsen's Danish Theatre.

By Diane Houk:   PAI now has a wonderful permanent exhibit of toy theaters that have been donated by Gigi Sandberg and her husband Glen. They arrived from Gulfport, Mississippi on February 12th for their first visit to the Institute. We worked on getting the exhibit set up and went over many more items to be added to the exhibit.

During their visit we toured the Miniature White House at the Truman Library and visited the Steamboat Arabia, as Gigi and Glen are interested in creating a book with a fold-out replica of the Goldenrod Showboat that retired in St. Charles, Missouri.

Then we continued working on the Toy Theater Exhibit, before going out to dinner to celebrate Gigi's 80th birthday. It was a busy two days and we have several truly beautiful antique toy theaters now on display.

The Danish Toy Theatre (above) created in 1880 by Alfred Jacobsen, has footlights, four rows of colored lights with dimmers, a trap door and a flying front curtain. Other countries represented are Spain, Germany, England and Sweden.
We have taken many photographs of these beautiful theaters and have made them available on our Web site:  Recently, three more boxes arrived with many other books and treasures so if you have the opportunity, please stop in and see the collection. PAI is so pleased to be able to have this unique exhibit and we thank Gigi and Glen for allowing us to share their collection with all our visitors.

I N   M E M O R I A M :

William B. Fosser

1928 - 2006

Creator of popular puppet opera

By Gerry Doyle
Tribune staff reporter
Published February 23, 2006

William B. Fosser discovered twin passions for opera and puppetry about the same time most kids are engrossed in cartoons, said his brothers, Tim and Tom.

"He started making his own puppets at a really young age," Tom Fosser said. "He used to put on shows for kids in the neighborhood. He'd charge a penny, two pennies."

He soon discovered that puppets and opera could make an enchanting combination. Later in life, after a distinguished career in set design for movies and theater, he created his own puppet opera theater, a longtime favorite in the Rolling Meadows Park District.

Mr. Fosser, 77, of Edison Park, creator of William B. Fosser's Opera in Focus, died of congestive heart failure and pneumonia Sunday, Feb. 19, in Resurrection Hospital.

Bill Fosser photo with award.

Born on Chicago's West Side, Mr. Fosser attended Austin High School. At age 14 he took a job at the Kungsholm Miniature Opera Theater, according to the Puppeteers of America.

"He lived for theater and in particular grand opera," said Tim Fosser. "That was his main focus. He loved it, like you love breathing."

For decades before he opened Opera in Focus, he worked in set decoration and design in the Chicago area. His craftsmanship appeared in countless theater productions, as well as movies such as "Ordinary People," "Home Alone," "Backdraft" and "Groundhog Day," according to his friend Judy Thomson.

Although he worked alongside famed directors and actors, befriending many, he never became star-struck, she said. Big names didn't make much of an impression.

"He told us he had just done a commercial with these two tall guys who played basketball," Thomson said. Mr. Fosser couldn't quite remember the stars of the commercial--who turned out to be Larry Bird and Michael Jordan.

The set work, although he enjoyed it, never was his primary focus, Thomson said.

"When he was able, he retired from the industry," she said. "Not that he didn't love it, but he wasn't passionate about it."

He was passionate about a puppet opera. When he had saved enough money, he created his show and raised the curtain on it in Rolling Meadows in 1993.

Opera in Focus used puppets to perform scenes and arias from popular operas. The puppets were Mr. Fosser's own design--he held a patent on them, his brothers said--and each was made from scratch. They were operated from below and acted in concert with recorded music.

Mr. Fosser was a devout Catholic and attended mass daily.

He was outgoing and generous and knew how to tell a good joke. But more than that, his brothers said, he was determined. "All his life he had a dream to have a show," said Tom Fosser. "And he did--he ended up with one."

Visitation will be held from 3 to 9 p.m. Thursday in M.J. Suerth Funeral Home, 6754 N. Northwest Highway, Chicago. Funeral services will be held at 9:30 a.m. Friday in the funeral home, and mass will be said at 10 a.m. in St. Juliana, 7201 N. Oketo Ave., Chicago.


HEADLINE!!     Graduate course-work currently being offered at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.    Northwestern has long been renowned for its theatrical department...When I (Gigi Sandberg)was studying there in the 40's, Charleton Heston, Patrician Neal, Cloris Leachman etc. were studying there as well!! (I was a math major).  The Toy Theatre Company was recently contacted by some of the students in the Seminar looking for the required textbook which is Arthur Gardner's Table Theatres.  I think this program is a FIRST in the US for Toy Theatre and I am SO proud of my Alma Mater for this major step forward.  The class was originally limited to 10 participants but I understand 13 were accepted anyway....which also indicates major growth in interest at high academic levels.  Anyone wishing more info on the program is invited to contact Stephanie Millar <>.  She is a Graduate Assistant at NU and is hoping to hear from some of you about her new interest in TT and participation in this program.   I have offered Toy Theatre Company assistance in any way possible....I certainly do wish them well!!!

HEADLINE!!    DVD's of Prominent Toy Theatre Performers now available from the Puppeteers of America  Audio/Visual Library.   For some  time now I have been videotaping &/or collecting tapes of  great examples of Toy Theatre performances and demonstrations of techniques.  These clips finally made it onto four DVDs which were recently donated to the organization.  All performers agreed to allow this taping with the understanding that the tapes would be placed in the P of A Archives and used only for educational purposes by members of that organization.

Until now there was nothing in the P of A Library about Toy Theatre and NOW we are to have our own special category...and I am hereby inviting others of you who have something appropriate to contribute to such a collection to send it to me or to Gary Busk to have it put on DVD and listed in the archives.

Here is a copy of a recent letter I received from the Board of Trustees of Puppeteers of America thanking me for this contribution..  Do look at it and then read on to see a listing of some of the performances included....These are all names you recognize....and plays that you wanted to see. 

P of A logo.

Ms. Gigi Sandberg
2514 19th Avenue
Gulfport, MS 39501

Dear Gigi,

The Board of the Puppeteers of America is indebted to you for your generous donation of numerous videotapes of Toy Theatre performances to the AV Archives. Gary Busk has told us that your gift has greatly expanded and improved the quality and variety of titles in the A V Archives. He is also looking forward to actually now being able to establish a separate category for Toy Theatre which we are also excited about since this area is increasing in popularity. Thank you again for your generosity.


The 2006 Board of the Puppeteers of America

( Signed: )

Paul Mesner

Karen Backes
Vice President

Marie Thompson

Matthew Bernier

Kathy Bolch

Mary Decker

Wayne Krefting

John Scollon

Jovanna Van Pelt

Tape 1:
1.  Barry Clarke...managed Pollocks Toy Theatre Museum in London.  This performance was taped in the upstairs room of the Museum.  Some children followed us upstairs and were in the audience!  Barry gives brief history of Toy Theatres and then performs "Blackbeard the Pirate"  June 2002
2.   Joe Gladwin performs "Beauty and the Beast" taped at the Pritish Puppetry and Model Theatre Guild Festival in Sutton, England in June of 2002.
3.  Robert Poulter taped at a visit to his home in Ramsgate England in 1998.  Performances of "8 1/2 -   The history of Opera in 8 1/2 minutes "  and "Konjectur . . a Study of Progress/Development /Conflict".
4.  Robert Poulter rehearsal of "Merry Margate"...taped himself in 2001.

Tape 2:  Brian Rogers performs his famous "Around the World in Eighty Days" for Ted Hawkins and gives explanation of some of the special effects he uses.

Tape 3:  Taped by Ted Hawkins in Blackpool England.  Includes performances by Peter Baldwin, Pauline Venables, Peter and Sylvia Peasgood, and then a wonderful section on Ted's award winning model theatre of the famous Buston Opera House and a performance by Ted and his grandaughter.

Tape 4:
1.  George Speaight gives what is probably his final performance of "The Miller and his Men" in Blackpool England in 2004.  He died in Dec. 2005 just a couple of weeks after his wife Mary (also a Toy Theatre enthusiast) died.
2.  Peter Baldwin performs "Black Eye'd Susan" at the International Toy Theatre Festival in Preetz Germany 2004
3.  Dirk Reimers does "The Fairie's Island" in the Preetz Festival 2004

HEADLINE!!   PERMANENT TOY THEATRE EXHIBIT OPENING FEBRUARY 12, 2006 AT PUPPETRY ARTS INSTITUE IN INDEPENDENCE, MISSOURI..  A major portion of my Antique Toy Theatre Collection is being moved out of the hurricane-prone coastal area of Mississippi to the safer, dryer and more densely propulated area of Kansas City, Missouri.  Included are several antique English Theatres and plays.  Popular Danish theatres and plays are to be featured well as German Toy Theatres.  Also included is a model of the State Theater in Stockholm, a Paluzzi theatre from Spain, and a Malaysian Toy Theatre.  Performances and workshops are being planned.  For more information, contact Diane Houk at <>

HEADLINE!!   TALENTED FRIEND OF TOY THEATRE U.K. DIED JAN. 23, 2006.  Brian Green, a talented Toy Theatre performer, and dear friend to all of us died  shortly after his participation in the Webb Festival at Broadstairs UK in October 2005.  Ted Hawkins phoned in this sad message shortly after Brian's passing and we do want to get the message out.   Brian apparently acquired a serious respiratory infection about the same time as the Festival....the illness was never completely diagnosed.  There will certainly be more details in the British Guild's newsletter..  Brian was one of the best friends those of us in Toy Theatre will ever have and there is no way to express the extent to which we will miss him.  Glen and I are so very glad that we went to the Webb Fest and were able to have that last great visit with Brian.

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