Great Small Works, the Obie Award-winning theatre company, are presenting their Fourth Annual Toy Theatre Festival, Nov. 5-22 at NY's Los Kabayitos Puppet Theatre.
Luminaries like Ingmar Bergman, Oscar Wilde, and Orson Welles all grew up and honed their artistic expression with toy theatres -- small, proceniums theatres which allowed children in the 19th and early 20th century to direct and write their own dramas, enacting them with small cutout characters for their families and friends.
The advances of technology, specifically film, radio and television, led to the decline in popularity of what was widely considered children's entertainment. Great Small Works is one of the few international companies seeking to save this medium from the obscurity of history books.
In past years, the New York-based Annual Toy Theatre Festival has presented work by avant-garde director Robert Wilson, Stuart Sherman, and Dan Hurlin. In fact, last year's festival featured Susan Vitucci's Love's Fowl , which played at the New York Theatre Workshop this past summer.
Highlights of this year's festival include:
€ Great Small Works will produce two works of their own: B.B. in L.A., created from the journals of Bertolt Brecht, with music by Hanns Eisler and Kurt Weill, and Terror as Usual, Episode 10, the latest installment of the group's surreal news-based series. € Susan Vitucci presents Yellow Bird - where it's 1964 in Guantanamo Bay, and a young girl fights with her new step mother.
€ Chinese Theatre Workshop will present Peony Pavilion, a 16th-century Chinese Opera classic, which caused controversy earlier this year when the Chinese Government prohibited a production from leaving the country. The production was supposed to be the centerpiece of this year's Lincoln Center Festival.
€ Downtown-puppet artist, Erik Blanc presents his latest, The Tiger's Dilemma. Blanc's stunning work is akin to watching the small child of a philosopher playing with his toys. Blanc's work addresses basic philosophical questions, utilizing whimisical humor with toy replicas of whales, buildings and assorted animals.
For a full schedule or more information on the The Fourth Annual Toy Theatre Festival, Nov. 5-22, at the Los Kabayitos Puppet Theatre (at the CSV Cultural Center, 107 Suffolk Street), call (212) 260-4080, ext 14.
-- By Sean McGrath