Starring the Pendeflex Players
Country: England/France, although they were used all over Europe during the Victorian period
Books: Three Sacks of Truth by Eric A. Kimmel
Age Group: The theater needs to be made by an adult or teen. This may be used as a storytelling technique. Younger children can create puppets using coloring book characters or clip art. Older children can create their own puppets, backgrounds, scripts, and stories. Teens can adapt their favorite stories for storytelling.
Toy Theater consists of a miniature proscenium stage that uses small stick puppets to act out “theatrical works.” A popular and simple means of staging dramatic spectacles in the Victorian living room, Toy Theater was the rage in homes across Europe.
It was common practice to make puppets from theater programs and other pre-printed materials featuring the popular actors or stars of the day. The puppeteers could then act out their own mini-dramas, often spoofing popular leading men and ladies.
Toy Theaters can be very complex in design and often include lighting and a mini “fly” system for bringing in backdrops. We simplified the process by creating a Pendeflex Theater. This theater uses a Pendeflex file frame, the type used in file drawers and simple curtains. The backdrops are created on Pendeflex folders, which hang on the frame. The paper puppets are glued on file folders, cut out, and attached to chop sticks so they can be moved around the set. The puppets can then be put inside the folders for storage when the show is over.
Children can create their own tiny theatrical productions by designing or cutting from magazines their own paper doll puppets, scripts, and set pieces.
The directions are in three sections: the theater, the puppets, and the sets.
For ideas and information about Toy Theaters (including the Toy Theater Festival) check out these Web sites!
Materials for Toy Theater
- Pendeflex folder frame available at office supply stories. They come two in a box for about $6.
- Material for curtains such as black and red velveteen
- Black electrical tape
- Pendeflex folder for measurement
- Sewing machine, stapler, or Wonder Under (Wonder Under is a product that bonds fabric to fabric, or any porous surface, including wood and cardboard.)
- Optional: gold rope and small tassels
Directions for Toy Theater
The Pendeflex frame comes with two rectangular end pieces, which are normally the front of the frame, and two metal bars, which are normally the side of the frame.
- Use the Pendeflex rectangular pieces for the sides and the bars for the front and back of your theater.
- Use the Pendeflex folder to measure where your bars will attach. The folder should hang on the rectangular pieces. The bars will extend past the rectangular sides; try to make them even.
- The bars on the back of the frame can be snapped off or cut with wire cutters to make them even with the sides; they’re designed to do this.
- Leave the front bar alone. The overhanging sections will become your wings.
- Cut the material so that it will hang to the bottom of the frame when attached to the bar. Leave about one inch to fold over and sew at the top for a pocket. Using the metal bar removed from the frame as a guide, sew a pocket that the bar will fit through to create curtains. You can also staple or Wonder Under the material around the bar.
- Attach a small gold tassel to the gold rope and tie them around the curtains.
- Your folders might not hang well when the theater is on a table. You can rectify this by creating “feet” at the bottom of the frame. Wrap black electrical tape around the four corners, building it up until the theater is raised about ½ inch off the floor.
Use the folder seen in light gray as a guide to measure fabric.
The examples show the wings from the black material and curtains from the red material.