The Questionnaire in Volume 00
1. Do you own a Toy Theater? What kind?
Almost all of you already own at least one (and in several cases, many) toy theaters. The most familiar name is Pollock's ( ten of you have at least one ), which isn't unexpected. Over the last 50 years, distribution of English toy theaters has been carried on out of Pollock's on Monmouth Street, Scala Street, and more recently by the shop in Covent Garden.
The MDE ( Michael D. Everett, of Sheffield, UK ) plays and theaters are owned by four respondents who report that they have at least one. Considering Everett's productivity and the number of plays and theaters that he has printed over the last few years I expect that this will become a much more familiar source of both new and republished plays and theaters.
The Danish "Dukketeater" is the most popular of the non-English TTs, but Pellerin (some original, some reprints), Schreiber (antique sheets), "some kind of a Czech Theater",and a collection of "American, Spanish, Dutch, and German" theaters and sheets are also noted.
Almost all of us are interested in "collecting"
which can cover everything from antique sheets collected as paper ephemera,
to collecting any and all Toy Theater material that appears on the market.
About half of us checked off an interest in "model building". My original interest in theater preceded my awareness of TT. I built a model stage when I was in high school and several puppet stages during and after college. But it was a 1952 visit to London that led to discovery of TT and the Pollock sheets. Since then I have "built" several dozen stages, in many sizes, based principally on the English and Danish TTs.
Only three of us expressed an interest in "producing". Perhaps the absence of a definition of what I had in mind biased the response. I consider "producing" to be the overall "putting together" of a play. In that respect anyone who has gone into cutting, coloring, pasting, etc. is involved in "producing". The reason for asking on the questionnaire was that conventional wisdom has been that this is where most TT enthusiasts stop -- somewhere short of actually putting on a performance.
Consequently, the most interesting response is that all but two of you checked off an interest in performing. There could be some bias here since many of you are members of Puppeteers of America or heard about the TT News at one of the regional festivals. But so be it! It is particularly encouraging because it implies that interest in TT is not limited to collecting and archiving but involves working at several levels, all leading to actual performance of a play. This may represent a change in how we are treating the TT. Over many years I have found that there are a fair number of collectors, a few "producers" (who colored, cut out, assembled, etc.) but practically zero performers.
Although I have worked up full-production versions of many plays I've performed very few complete plays ( Timour the Tartar, St. George and the Dragon, Blackbeard ). On the other hand, for workshops and demonstrations I've often used individual scenes to demonstrate some of the unique aspects of TT. For example, from "The Miller and His Men", the first scene to show the several layered perspective with the millers rowing across the lake, or the final scene as a spectacular example of TT transformations. Also, the final scene from Pollock's Othello as an example of the use of multiple individual figures to portray different aspects of the same character. 3. What are your special interests?
Several of you are using toy theaters
in some aspect of teaching. In Seattle, Rob Witmer is working with
preschool children, and Roger Stephens is teaching English to foreign
exchange students and finds TT is "..a great tool in breaking down shyness
From Hernando, Florida, Robert Hawley notes that he is a "sennachie" using toy theater as part of story telling. For several years Don Ifert in Pendleton, Indiana has been performing a Dukketeater version of "The Nutcracker" as part of an annual TT exhibit for the local library system.
December is the time for TT in Seattle. Clay Martin will be performning an expanded version of "Jack the Giantkiller" at several city and county libraries. Also, my T-cubed Theater will have a small exhibit of TT at the Northwest Puppet Center during December.
If we are to generate a useful exchange of news about what's going on with TT, there will have to be some feedback. I know that this is a standard plea from all editors, but without your input I suspect you will quickly tire of "All the news that's fit to print about the T-cubed Theater". Tell us what you are doing with TT, don't be bashful if you are a recent convert, just share the enthusiasm and the magic. And, remember that stamps (I have a huge supply of paper, envelopes, and mailing labels) will help me pay off the post office.
Some Useful Books
I've just received a copy of Table Theatres by Arthur Gardner. Not devoted to the classical TT but it is loaded with ideas and information about table top theaters in general. This was originally published in UK but a US edition can be obtained from Toy Theatre Company, 12401 Cambridge blvd., Ocean Springs. MS 39564.
1 can also vouch for two relatively recent books, both from UK. I got my copies from Ray DaSilva, 63 Kennedy Road, Bicester, OX6 8BE, UK.
Poulter, Robert Model Theatre, An Easy Step-by-step Guide on How to Make Your Own Theatres & Productions, Natl. Council for Educational Technology,1993 ( ISBN 1 85379 249 7)
Wright, Lyndie Toy Theatres, a step-by-step introduction, Franklin Watts,1993 ( ISBN 0 7496 1473 0)
What are your thoughts about circulating addresses?? ... phone numbers??..e-mail ?? I would be happy do put together such a list, but I am always cautious about circulating mailing lists. For those of you who are interested the price is your consent to be on it, and a promise not to use it except for business on the TT network.
When you are using a copy machine constructively ( and aren't abusing the copyright laws ) try copying some of your "Penny Plain" sheets onto some really quality watercolor paper. Those of you who are colorists already know what good paper can do for otherwise ordinary watercolorists. But if you haven't tried it, you owe it to your creative urges to give it a try. Your figures (and scenes) will have more zip and some will tempt you to frame them and make another set for your production.
Speaking of copyright --- what about it ?? Comparing notes on any experiences or ideas you may have about making and modifying TT materials in order to perform?? I'm not talking about copying and selling recently published and/or copyrighted material, but what about Xerox and/or computer modifications-- scale changes, reversals, and even major cut & paste on figures and scenery ??
Who knows anything about the present (or recent) activities of the Ninth Street Theater and "New York's First Toy Theater Festival" that was held early in 1993? 1 believe something may have been repeated in 1994. Has this continued??
The next time you are getting your performers ready, try "edge-painting" the cut out figures. This eliminates any light reflection from the cut edges. Yes! I know it sounds a bit fussy, but try it and decide for yourself. I use india ink by dipping a toothpick and then running and rolling it along the cut edges. Try doing one figure and then compare its appearance onstage next to one that has untreated edges. I'm sold on this and figure it only adds about a minute a figure to the overall time to prepare a production.
It would be very helpful if you could start sending me information about where you bought (or are buying) your TTs, books, newspaper articles, exhibits (temporary or permanent), performances, etc. I already have a start but can use your input and can distribute this with future Newsletters.