“Toy Theater: Worlds in Miniature”

by Christine Cariati

Toy Theatres: Worlds in Miniature is now on exhibit at San Francisco’s Museum of Performance & Design.

The exhibition is a wonderful display of 21 rare toy theaters from the United States, England, France, Germany, Spain, Denmark and Mexico—they date from the 18th century up to the present. In addition to the theaters, the walls are filled with colorful printed sheets of scenery and costumed characters.

Venetian Red has previously written extensively about toy theaters, so this post is merely a reminder to anyone in the Bay Area to go see this delightful show. Perhaps it will inspire a toy theater festival like the one Great Small Works hosts annually in New York!

Wider Connections

The Play’s the Thing: A History of Toy Theater in Three Acts
Great Small Works
Peter Baldwin, Toy Theatres of the World
Benjamin Pollock’s Toy Shop, London


6 Responses to ““Toy Theater: Worlds in Miniature””

  1. Lovely blog – love your design…just beautiful! A friend turned me on to your coverage of the toy theatre festival in San Francisco…

    • Christine Cariati Says:

      It is a nice exhibit. In addition to the theaters they had lots of framed costume and set sheets, some really lovely ones.

  2. Thanks for covering this show. I took some toy theater pictures at the exhibit I was in at the recent Toy Theater Festival in DUMBO, Brooklyn. I was hoping San Francisco did a catalog but there isn’t any in their online store. Most of what I did at the festival went on Trish Lewis’s blog: Penny Plain, Two Pence Colored. I also have some video of the parade on my YouTube channel (tesselliott1). I love the interest in these things. Never saw one in my life until I went into a daze, looking through the window of a closed antiques store in Rome and saw a carved wood Model theater with magnificent paper sets. Never got into that store, and couldn’t get a good picture, but it changed me and my own toy theaters have elements of what I saw. It seems to currently occupy it’s own little niche in fringe theater, though the traditional performances I saw were very wonderful to watch. I love my Peter Baldwin book.
    Thanks for covering it. Will go back and read your archives again.

    • Christine Cariati Says:

      Yes, unfortunately, there is no catalog for the San Francisco show. They didn’t allow photographs—I had hoped to post post some. Several of the theaters looked familiar, maybe I have seen them in Baldwin’s book.

      I’ve been to several of the GSW festivals, missed the latest one, so I will check out the images on Trish Lewis’s blog.

      Nine years ago, the Frick collection had a wonderful show of Victorian fairy painting, which included a toy theater. That was the first time I’d seen one and I was anxious to see more. Imagine my delight when I flipped through Time Out New York and saw an announcement for the first annual toy theater festival which was opening that very night.

      It would be great if the show in San Francisco inspired a west coast version of the GSW festival. The Performing Arts Museum has many treasures and a great library, but it is small and probably doesn’t attract many people. The opening was well attended and there were definitely at least a few toy theater enthusiasts, so maybe the show will attract the attention it deserves.

  3. Annalisa Says:

    I am a naughty girl !! I took video of the whole small exhibit in SF before I realized that it was not allowed.. let me know if you want to see it.

  4. Thanks for sharing this information, seems really beautiful exhibition, lucky people of San Francisco to visit this event.

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