Make a Toy
Theater and create a "Petit Puppet Play"
a story from history, literature, or life
MATERIALS: for the theater
and puppet characters.
puppets and scenery are small, scaled to the size of the box (theater).
You do not need all of these materials, this is a suggested list.
"Less is More", select a few basic materials so that the
people constructing the puppets and scenery can focus on the problem
not be overwhelmed by the supplies.
To make the theater:
To make the characters:
Select just a few materials for each group.
- A BOX ABOUT 18" X 24" - or any size- Suggestion: use a computer
paper box –including the top
- A small light source to light the acting space: a clamp on lamp,
a shop light , a flashlight
- Utility Knife and sharp blades to cut the box…Exacto knife and
blades … for adult use only
- Material / fabric for drapes for the stage, decorative materials
for the exterior of the stage / theater
- Light weight cardboard or poster board - cereal box
cardboard weight-. for puppets and scenery
- White glue, hot glue and glue sticks, glue brushes
- Paint, magic markers
- Balsa wood, or other light weight wood
- Paper clips, gold fasteners, straws
- Cloth of various colors and textures, various sizes of pom
poms, pipe cleaners, wire
- For hair and decoration: yarn, fake fur, cotton balls,
polyester fill, etc.
- Paper of various colors, weight, and texture, wallpaper
- Clothes pins, small pieces of wood, knobs, caps from
bottles, etc. to make puppets
- Thin dowels, skewers, tongue depressors, Popsicle sticks,
etc.- to move puppets
- String or fishing line to make simple rod marionettes
This stage is in the style of a book -
there are no sides or top to the theater.
The pages drop forward.
- Other interesting materials which could be used to make miniature
puppets and props are small toys or objects such as doll house dolls
furniture, objects which resemble something or somebody in your story…
WHERE TO BEGIN
Plan the play - This may be
done by one person or in small groups.
- Begin by thinking of what story you want to tell. Is it a tale
from history, literature, life, etc.
- Decide on how many scenes your story will have - Where does each part of the story
- Decide Who the
will be, what do they look like? what kind of clothes do they wear? …
- Decide What happens in
each scene. The Plot.
- Think this through very carefully.
- Make a PRODUCTION CHART -
plan out each scene, step by step. Make a clear PLAN or outline.
- Where does the scene take
- Who is the first person
enter the scene, who enters next, list in order of appearance
- What happens in each
scene, step by step. Think and talk through what you think each
character would say as he or she enters. REMEMBER the audience does not know
your story so it is important to have the characters give a lot of
information. Think about how the characters can tell the story in dialogue. Add your own ideas and
details; the audience came for a good show so be sure the characters
clear, realistic, and believable.
Do not worry about a script, the script will be developed as you
begin to act out the story, or improvise the story. Once you have acted
out the story, then tape record or write down the script. This method
developing a script generates expressive vibrant language flow and is a
cooperative effort with each actor adding his/her creativity to the
Select a box that will become the theater. The box can be any size,
but a box that contains computer paper is a good starting size and it
has a cover. There are no rules about the size of the box which will
become the theater, but all of the puppets and scenery must be scaled
the size of the box theater.
- If the box has a cover, place the box on top of the cover with
the open part of the box down. Cut a large opening in the top of the
so that you can reach down to manipulate the puppets, and cut large
openings in both sides of the box to form the Wings of the theater
the actors enter and exit.
- Cut an opening in the front of the box to make the Proscenium or
front of the stage. This front can be decorated. When cutting the front
opening, consider cutting it so that it can flap up to form a large
panel above the stage or a piece may be added to the top to mask your
hands and make the front more decorative.
- Once you have a box with an open front, openings at the side,
open top, and a cardboard frame sitting on top of the cover of the box
(if the box had a cover), you are ready to think about the STORY,
Characters, and Scenery!
- Now- you can make variations on this basic stage. See photo
you have a PLAN
- Cast the play. Decide who will play each part,
- Decide what materials you will use for the puppets and
scenery, from the suggested list above.
Construct your Puppets, Scenery and
- Look carefully at the size of the stage. Sit in front
of the stage and measure how large you can make the puppets and props
that they can be seen clearly.
Grade 5 students presented stories
about Exp;lorers with Petit Puppet
plays in Toy Theaters.
- To start, it is best to use simple materials. When making a
puppet always think about how it will move. Try to make at least
one jointed or moving part so that it will become mort lifelike.
Some ways to make the puppets move
Act out the story
- Attach a stick (small rod) to the top of the puppet so that the
stick reaches above the opening in theater
- Attach a stick or string to the side of the puppets; it should
reach to the side opening of the theater so that you can make them move
from outside the acting area
- Attach a stick with a hook to the top of the puppet and slip a
string through the hook. Tie each end of the string to one of the
hands, like a rod marionette. When you pull the string the arms will
- Attach the puppets to a piece of wood and push the wood from
place to place-
- Experiment: find a way to make the puppets come to life and to
Animate the Inanimate.
- Start at the very beginning and move slowly from scene 1 to the
last scene, the conclusion.
- Add props, music, sound effects, lights…
- Once you have acted out the story, THINK about it and decide how
you could make it better
- Rehearse it again and ask someone to watch it and give you some
feedback. What did he/she like? Is the story clear? Is the dialogue
realistic? Are the characters believable? Is the story interesting? Is
there any humor? Are the puppeteers speaking loudly? Are there any
suggestions on how the story could be made better? Ask for positive,
constructive comments. Then listen to what you have been told and think
about your play again and begin to POLISH the play for the REAL
Toy Theater is doing a play in
miniature, a "Petit Puppet Play". It includes all the elements
of a play on a large stage, but everything is small. If students have
made a DIORAMA this project makes the diorama come to life. Students
must think about what happened in the scene, who was there and what did
they say? Toy Theater combines language, processing information and
reusing the information in a dramatic way.
Transform the toy theater into a
shadow puppet theater
Turn the proscenium theater into a Shadow puppet stage by
making a front proscenium opening with extended side wings. Eliminate
all side pieces so that there is just an opening and wings…Cut heavy
poster board or cardboard so that it fits snugly into the proscenium
opening. Cut a square in the cardboard that is a little smaller than
proscenium opening and tape newsprint or muslin tightly on the back of
the cardboard to make a screen. Use the same clamp light behind the
screen and use small shadow puppets scaled to the size of the theater.
It is easy and fun
Toy Theater turned into a shadow theater.