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EXPANDING YOUR CAST OF PLAYERS

Will Stackman - (Somerville, MA) writes that he is ---- "Currently experimenting with scanned images and various paint programs to discover the best techniques for enlarging and modifying images. I've enclosed an early experiment using Timor the Tartar, found uncredited in a coffee table Toy Compendium. Printed at 100% enlargement using 24-pin dot matrix set for light strike. These samples were scanned monochrome; recently been working with a 16 shade grey-scale, which can be tweaked to give a finer image. I'm using a venerable Sharp 4x6 portable scanner, which is kinder to old books and easier to adjust since you look down through it. Also trying various half-tone settings which let larger black areas take a tint when colored over." 

I (Bob Burns) have used "cast expanding" techniques in one form or another for many years. 
Back in pre-historic (pre-Xerox?) days, tracing and turning over the tracing paper was the norm. Then photo-duplication arrived and made cut and paste a viable means for converting existing characters. Now we are in the age of scanners and printers and a new type of conversion has become possible. 


I believe that these possibilities are boundless as long as we don't get sloppy with how we recognize the existence of copyrights, etc. 

Page 4 has some examples of simple manipulations of individual figures that can help you assemble a proper cast of characters if you are putting together one of the multi-scenes plays. I've used these techniques in several productions and find that performing goes much more smoothly when the figure is not in some absurd pose for the action being portrayed (staring off to the right when offstage action is to the left, talking into the wings to another character who is standing behind the speakers back, etc.) 

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VOICES FROM THE TOY THEATER UNDERGROUND

 Bill Weber (Dunedin, FL) was kind enough to send me a copy of an audio recording of George Speaight performing "The Miller and His Men". He writes ----- "I'm happy to share the recording which I mentioned of George Speaight doing 'The Miller & Hls Men'. To give you a little background on this: Mr. & Mrs. Speaight were visiting their friends, the Alfred Nelsons, in Sarasota, FL in October 1988. 1 was invited to have dinner with them and following that about ten other guests arrived and Speaight had set up his theatre In the Nelson living room. Milton Halpert recorded this performance with a small cassette recorder set in front of the stage. I think it is wonderful to have this record of Mr. Speaight performing, and I hope you enjoy it"------ Fortunately I go back to the days of RADIO and have also done the Pollock version of M&M, so I am able to visualize it all when I hear how the 'Master' himself does the performance. For anyone who may have been spoiled by TV and can't visualize from the audio only, I say "Too Bad!". 
Bob Hawley (Hernando, FL) has been "puttering about with adapting various paper crafts to the toy theater (or vice versa)" and suggests several useful books: Origami in King Arthur's Court by Lew Rozelle, Small Stage Sets on Tour by James Hull Miller, How to make Super Pop- Ups by Joan Irvine, and Puppets, Jumping Jacks and Other Paper People by Michael Grater. I'm familiar with Miller's book and have used ideas in Grater's as a basis for figures in a version of "Saint George and the Dragon". The other two I will check out as soon as possible. 
Will Stackman (Somerville, MA) has sent a letter with far more information and tips than I can pass on in one newsletter. He has been using discarded aluminum offset plates as a backing for his figures and scenes. He suggests mounting with "good old cellulose wallpaper paste does seem to work best"... "Bow the paper onto the glued area and smooth with a 4" paste brush. ..a soft sponge rubber brayer for 'delicate' wallpaper, seems to work on bubbles....An unexpected advantage of using cellulose paste with Xerox paper is that the 
glue soaked paper becomes a better watercolor surface with more depth." 
Lettie Schubert Mill (Creek, CA) has been in England and visited the Victoria and Albert Theatre Museum. She reports "lots of tinseled portraits but no toy theaters." This is a pity since one of the more extensive collection of plates used to be at the V&A and I had hoped it might get some public exposure when the Theatre Museum took over. 
Mimi Crowley (Tucson, AZ) is currently using shadow shows in her work as a Library Media Specialist but is looking forward to doing her first toy theater production "next on my list!!" 
Alan Cook (Altadena CA) sends information about two TT articles in the August/September issue of Toy Making magazine (published in England but perhaps your public library??) Peter Baldwin has a short article featuring a large illustration of the 1946 Pollock's Regency Theatre, and there is a short review of Peter Jackson's new Elizabethan Theatre. This theatre is really worth a look at, in particular for the well thought out design and the "no cutting or gluing" assembly. I confess that I have already gone ahead with my customary "trimming and reinforcing" but still maintain the basic ease of assembly/ disassembly. The Toy Theatre Company (12401 Cambridge Blvd., Ocean Springs, MS 39564) had some copies for sale the last time I checked. 
Rick Shelley (Baltimore, MD) is doing some fascinating work with the 'Theatre Serenissima' which he founded in 1996. Quoting from some of the articles about the theatre..." In the basement of his home he shares with a caterer and a church organist, Shelley crafts clay cathedrals and glass tile mosaics, as well as the tiny Venetian furniture for the gold-colored, wooden theater.. ...Instead of glass and clay, Shelley is using lots of less 'Permanent' materials, such as cardboard and Styrofoam, to create the theater's scenery and props... Generally, the stories, which tend to be of the long- ago- and -far-away type, are presented as a series of tableaux rather than with puppets .... from the moment the tiny curtains are raised to reveal the beautifully painted sets, Theatre Serenissima's effect is absolutely magical, taking the reviewer far out of the everyday world." 
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VOICES FROM THE TOY THEATER UNDERGROUND

 Bill O'Neil (Walnut Creek, CA)  cites the 1996 San Francisco Performing Arts Museum exhibit as rekindling an interest in TT that goes back to his precollege days and has been intermittently since the early seventies. Most recently he has been able to build a small theater with one of the Schreiber prosceniums and is currently piecing together several incomplete plays. 

ANYONE FOR THE INTERNET ??? 

For those of you who have access to the 
Internet, I urge you to check out the web 
site at: 
< www.datasync.com/~g sndbrg >

Glen and Gigi Sandberg have put together a page that has jumped the level of communication within the TT underground by at least an order of magnitude. More about this "soon". 

 

COLORING PENNY PLAIN SHEETS 

One of the more common questions about putting together a TT production has always been "How do you color the figures (or scenery, sets, whatever)?" My current answer is usually "watercolor", but I often use color marker pens for small details. Watercolor gives me the transparency I want to take full advantage of the black line work on the "penny plains". I think that markers are great for working quickly but sometimes they (particularly when new) tend to bleed when applied and can be a bit frustrating when they do. 
Bill O'Neil (Walnut Creek, CA) uses -- "Tombow colored markers to decorate penny plain sheets. They come in a large variety of colors. One end is a fine pointed pen and the other is a brush. Although they cost around two dollars apiece they are handy when you don't have easy access to water colors. They are not very good for large areas where a smooth flat area of color is desired. I especially like them for doing edges of sets or characters." 
Will Stackman (Somerville. MA) writes-- "There are an amazing range of fine point watercolor markers out at this time of year. I prefer them for scene design. (Not current practice, but mine own). I create washes or blends with sable brushes and very little water afterwards. The useful life of such markers can be extended by putting a drop of water in the cap before putting them away. Metallic paint markers used sparingly suggest tinseling. Mylar has possibilities." 
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TT TRICKS 

'There are times when you may want to use the same figure in more than one scene. Or you want a left-facing figure to be facing right. Or perhaps you want to have a mob-scene rather than a soliloquy.

1.  Start with the         2.  and flip it 
basic figure             horizontally

3.  or only flip        4.  and then the 
   the head               whole figure.

5.  You can reposition      6.  or the legs. 
the arms             

7.  Use a second figure.
Switch the legs around.

8.  Try flipping horizontally.
 

9.  Swap heads!  Have fun!!
Make a crowd!!!

 

All of these are possible using tracings, photo copying, or one of the computer graphics programs. 
 

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