The University of California Institute for Research in the Arts supports embedded arts research through critical exchange

UC San Diego Paper Theatre Festival & Exhibit August 9-10, 2014

August 9-10, 2014
12:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Geisel Library, Seuss Room, UC San Diego

Open to the public.

Paper theatre, also called table top theatre or toy theatre, dates back to the Victorian Era. A weekend-long exhibit (Saturday, August 9 and Sunday, August 10, both days from noon to 5 pm) in the Seuss Room of Geisel Library features replicas of Victorian Era paper theatres as well as modern versions of the toy. Live performances are featured each day that weekend.

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 drawings 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 table top at home.

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 much about scenic design, lighting effects, sound effects, music, acting, directing, choreography—all through this paper theatre toy, and many aspects of theatre were introduced to producers and performers of all ages.

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.

Exhibit and accompanying live events are free and open to the public. For more information: (858) 822-5758 or

For more information about this event please click here.

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