Little Blue Moon Theatre


Little Blue Moon Theatre specializes in intimate performances that have been characterized as

"bright, sparkling, witty, clever, sophisticated and very, very adult."

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Paper Theatre Festival in Preetz, Germany

Widow & the Devil from "The Widow" - See more of Little Blue Moon Theatre's adult repertoire

By Michael Nelson, Little Blue Moon Theatre

Note: This article was written for the San Francisco Bay Area Puppeteers Guild Newsletter, October, 2005

Toy or Paper Theatre is a theatre form that evolved in the mid 1800s as a printed model theatre that could be purchased, colored and assembled. Children (and adults) could then perform small productions in their living rooms or parlors for friends and family. Themes could be classic plays, fairytales, scripts written for the paper theatre, or then-current productions from the legitimate theatre, including depictions of the actual prosceniums, sets and even likenesses of the popular actors of the day. Today toy or paper theatre is enjoying a renaissance as experienced and professional performers take the roles once relegated to amateurs. As to the relationship of paper theatre to puppet theatre, it probably is at least a close relative if not a subset of puppet theatre. In paper theatre a human (puppeteer?) manipulates the paper actors generally by sliding them across the stage, doing voices for them and telling the story. Occasionally the figures may be articulated and have controls to move an arm or other part, but more often they are static. Of note is that Great Britain’s Puppet and Model Theatre Guild (their equivalent of our Puppeteers of America) was originally the Model Theatre Guild, and then was expanded to include puppets. So which is a subset of which might be up to interpretation.

On the second weekend in September a group of dedicated paper theatre performers, collectors and fans gathered for three days of tiny theatre performances. This year marked the 18th annual occurrence of the Preetzer Papier Theater Treffen. The performances are Lilliputian, with some performers (the paper ones) standing only 3-6 inches tall. The event takes place in a school building, where classrooms are converted into small auditoriums (25 seats), with each of the fourteen paper theatre companies moving into their classrooms and setting up their stages for the duration of the 3 day event, performing between one and three times a day according to a complicated schedule that allows audience members and performers to wander from class to class, seeing up to twelve performances over the course of the weekend. In addition to the German companies, performers traveled from Sweden, the Netherlands, France, Denmark, Great Britain and the United States (your truly) to perform, and audience members came from all over Europe and the U.S. as well, to watch shows and purchase the large variety of new and antique paper or toy theatre items offered for sale at the temporary store as well as at the live auction (well attended with some very lively bidding!)

With five repetitions of our own show to perform, we only had the opportunity to see seven other performances, which we took full advantage of. As one would imagine the shows varied widely, although more strict, traditional interpretations of paper theatre held sway here as compared with the Great Small Works Toy Theatre Festival which we performed at in June in NYC. Shows ranged from plays written for paper theatre and performed with strictly traditional images (several of the performers were preparing for a British Webb Toy Theatre Festival (October 10-23 in Broadstairs, Kent, GB.) where all shows had to be use original Webb images, stages and scripts) to the abstract original works (Frits Grimmelikhuizen from the Netherlands used colors and shapes beautifully set to original music to create a dreamy journey for his audiences.) Some performances were for adults, some for children, with titles that would be familiar to many. Hamberger Altpapier did Goethe’s “Faust” (a standard in Germany), Robert Poulter’s New Model Theatre did “William Tell,” Bode’s Koffertheater did “Around the World in 80 Days,” Vischmarkt Papieren Theater did “Bambi” (not the Disney version, but the original), and Svalegangens Dukketeater did “The Little Mermaid.” Incidently, Svalegangens Dukketeater from Denmark has had the Queen of Denmark as designer (she is a wonderful artist) for their productions! Other performers wrote and created original works, or adapted lesser know stories. There were also various workshops for children, and it was a delight to have some big eyed, curly headed pixie encouraging me in German to hurry and come because the children’s shows were beginning.

Valerie and I (in the guise of Little Blue Moon Theatre) did a double bill with “Tango for Tarzan” and “The Widow,” both created by us for toy theatre. Although newcomers to this form of theatre, we were pleased and fortunate that our show became the buzz of the festival and the local paper listed it as a “must-see.” The transition from arriving and have the organizer worried about low ticket sales for our performances to having standing room only in all shows after our first (and an extra command performance of “The Widow” for all at the end of the Treffen) was exhilarating and gratifying.

During the three day event, performers were put up in local inns and ate together in a small dining area at the school where the performances took place. This allowed for much sharing and friendship among performers who basically hung out together and chatted about each others shows, techniques, and other festivals. After hours everyone would gather across the street at the local pub, eating and drinking and chatting in numerous languages (mostly English and German) until the wee hours. We quickly became an ad hoc family, and after the weekend a number of performers (and some audience members) stayed on for the annual, lovely breakfast at Dirk and Barbara Reimers’ home (Dirk has been involved in organizing the Treffen since the beginning, and, in addition to his and Barbara’s Papiertheater Pollidor, they also have a magical toy theatre store in Preetz which you can find on the internet at (the actual store is much better.)) Several of us hung around Preetz for a few days after, and the wonderful festival staff, headed admirably by Treffen newcomer Marlis Sennewald, arranged sight seeing and dinners for us.

The Treffen has a wonderful website, and days after the event already had pictures from the shows up. The website is mostly in Germany, but non-German speakers should be able to find their way through, and the dozens of photos are worth many thousands of words. Photos of shows (A Warning: some of the shows contain images of nudity and sexual situations and may not be deemed suitable for children by some parents):

Pictures of festival (mostly candids):

The Preetzer Papier Theater Treffen was very well run, had a wonderful feeling about it, and seemed to be enjoyed by all. It is a long way to travel, but, I think, worth every minute.

Little Blue Moon Theatre presents shows that are of interest to adult audiences and contain mature themes. To go to Little Blue Moon Theatre's website, click HERE.

For family fare, click HERE to go to Magical Moonshine Theatre's home page, or to go to the Kids Project Pages where you can learn to make puppets and masks, click HERE.


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