We Are Here-Miniature Play Places


Miniature Play Places

Toy Theatres Depicting Favorite Neighborhood Places to Play

An initiative of “We Are Here”-  a mapping project for the South Hill and Sunset Neighborhoods; a project of the 3-Year Incubator Residency at Moberly Arts & Cultural Centre

Something Collective member Maggie Winston (Puppet Theatre Artist) worked and played with 30 Grade 4 students from Ms. Dana Soga’s Moberly Elementary School class. The style of puppetry the students engaged with is called “Toy Theatre”.

Toy theater, also called paper theater and model theater, is a form of miniature theater dating back to the early 19th century in Europe. Toy theaters were often printed on paperboard sheets and sold as kits at the concession stand of an opera house, playhouse, or vaudeville theater. Toy theaters were assembled at home and performed for family members and guests, sometimes with live musical accompaniment. Toy theater saw a drastic decline in popularity with a shift towards realism on the European stage in the late 19th century, and again with the arrival of television after World War II. Toy theater has seen a resurgence in recent years among many puppeteers, authors and filmmakers and there are numerous international toy theater festivals throughout the Americas and Europe.

Example of Toy Theatre from 19th Century Europe

Students were paired into groups and invited to decide where they most enjoyed playing in our neighborhood. Together, they sketched designs from memory of their favorite playgrounds, backyards, parks, alleyways, ice rinks, and living rooms.

Drawing of Moberly Park by Grade 4 Students at Moberly Elementary School

They realized these drawings in 3 dimensions and in miniature by using a variety of recycled materials including cardboard, plastic containers, toilet paper rolls, fabric, plastics, foam balls, and many more found objects.

Students working with Found Materials

The final stage of the project involved photographing each student and recreating themselves in miniature, as 2-D puppets to be animated in the miniature worlds. Each group wrote a script and filmed their miniature scenes which will be archived in our online interactive community map. Eventually, anyone will be able to see their Toy Theatre plays by clicking on an icon where the play places are located.