Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Call for Festival Performances


Throwing reason to the winds (and wind is something mighty familiar to us these days), Great Small Works is embarking on its Tenth International Toy Theater Festival and Temporary Toy Theater Museum, which will take place June 14th through 23rd 2013, at St. Ann's Warehouse in its new temporary space at 29 Jay Street in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood.  The warehouse will offer new opportunities and challenges for exploring design and programming ideas, and we are grateful to St. Ann’s for the return invitation.

As in previous years, we strive to juxtapose performances which embrace paper theater’s classical, historic style with contemporary experimentations with the form.  We want to include young artists searching for their creative voices as well as seasoned puppeteers.  We seek diversity of all kinds—stylistic, cultural, technical, and thematic. 

We are writing now to request your proposals.  There are a limited number of performance slots available, but we want to involve as many people as possible; our goal, as always, is to create a diverse, inclusive and colossal event!  In the festival context, 20-minute pieces are ideal.  Each show will be presented twice, and will be part of a program with other shows.  Although the format is small, we encourage big ideas!

For this festival, we will not be able to construct multiple theaters for simultaneous performances, but will have a main stage with multiple shows in each program.  This means that we will be especially inclined to accept pieces which are relatively easy to take on and off the stage.  We are also hoping to build a couple of small venues, for no more than 25 people, where individual shows can be presented in a truly intimate way.  And, we hope that very small and very short pieces can be presented in and around the exhibit as we’ve done in the past, so do let us know if you have a 5-minute-or-less mini-show you’d like to perform.

Although fundraising efforts are ongoing, as of now we have no money for artist fees.  We will certainly let you know if and when the financial picture improves.  As a minimum, we commit to pay travel expenses and provide housing for those of you who are not in New York City.

Have you done Toy Theater before?  Have you been doing Toy Theater for the past 50 years?  Are you an actor, cartoonist, visual artist, animator, photographer, musician?  Have you always wanted to play with paper?  Have you just arrived in New York City and seek ways to express your deepest passions?  Do you live in Albuquerque and need a change of scenery?
Please send us the following information:

            What is your show?
            What does it look like? (images/video appreciated, on DVD/CDs or online links)
            Have you performed it before?  Where and when?
How long is it?  How many performers are involved? 
Is it suitable for family audiences? 
Maximum audience possible?
            Any special technical requirements? 
            Date limitations?  Economic limitations?

Please send information by February 15th to either
Snail mail:            Great Small Works
                            c/o Trudi Cohen
                            100 Jackson Street
                            Cambridge, MA 02140


Include a SASE if you send any materials you’d like returned.  If you're not sure how to respond, we’re glad to answer questions, offer encouragement and enthusiasm and resource materials, or invite you for tea.  Please feel free to distribute this as widely as you like.  We look forward to hearing from you!

from Trudi Cohen, Lake Simons, Erin Orr (programming committee) for Great Small Works

Toy Theater (also called Paper Theater) was the rage in parlors across Europe and the Americas in the 19th century, a popular means of staging dramatic spectacles at home.  But just as revolutions in print technology had brought Toy Theater into 19th-century homes, 20th-century advances in electronic media and mass culture led to the virtual extinction of this inexpensive family entertainment.The small box used to stage sumptuous dances, battles and stories in the parlor was replaced by an all-too-familiar box in the modern living room.  Fantastic in scope, easily affordable and open to any imaginable content, Toy Theater begs to be rescued from obscurity and re-invented in a wide variety of contemporary styles.  Join Great Small Works in this exciting revival!

Is an award-winning collective of theater artists who draw on folk, avant-garde and popular theater traditions to address contemporary issues. Its members are: John Bell, Trudi Cohen, Stephen Kaplin, Jenny Romaine, Roberto Rossi and Mark Sussman. The company has produced nine Toy Theater festivals in NYC since 1993. 

Look us up at

EXTRA—we will be having a Museum opening celebration on Sunday, June 15th, which will include, for the second time ever, the Greatest Smallest Parade with miniature floats and a giant brass band.  We encourage you and everyone you know to make little sculptures that can be pushed or pulled down the sidewalks of DUMBO!  You can contact us about the parade at

Monday, January 7, 2013

Open Meeting to Plan the Giant Purim Bash

3... 2... 1...
It's The Purim Content Launch Farbrengen!!!
Please join the Aftselokhes Spectacle Committee and JFREJ on Sunday Jan 13th for a workshop/scheming/political education to begin creating this year's Purim Extravaganza!

(what is a farbrengen? a joyous gathering of allies and comrades and rabble rousers)

... This is the event that kicks the annual Aftselokhis Purim Party into action. What will we do?

We make the show.
We educate each other about the political content that ties it all together.
We eat food.
We sing songs.
We tell stories.

Expect The Whole Megilah (yes).

This farbrengen is open to all! Please invite, forward, and tell your friends!
This year's Purim will center on the issue of policing in NYC, from stop & frisk to Islamophobic surveillance. It is guaranteed to feature amazing live music, extravagant theater, and razor-sharp political education.

The creation process begins this Sunday Jan 13
Nosh at 1:30, meeting from 2pm (sharp) to 6.

The Great Small Works Studio
20 Jay St, #214
DUMBO, Brooklyn
Accessible by elevator, though nearby F train at York and A/C at High St are not wheelchair accessible.

Childcare provided. Please RSVP if you're bringing kids!


John Bell Talks About the Uncanny

In the Valley of the Uncanny: Humans and Humanoids

Saturday, January 12 at 7:30pm. Suggested donation $9
We are located at 322 Union Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Artist Laurie O'Brien, filmmaker Allison de Fren, neuroscientist Asif Ghazanfar & artist John Bell will be in attendance for presentations and a discussion following moderated by Cabinet editor D. Graham Burnett. This event was organized by Toby Lee.

Puppets, robots, cyborgs, sex dolls, automata. These not-quite-human beings alternately – sometimes simultaneously – attract, move and repulse us, populating the social landscape as our toys, our tools, our companions and our fantasies.
In the 1970s, Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori first used the term “The Uncanny Valley” to describe the profoundly unsettling sense of the non-human in these human-like beings. Building on Freud’s definition of the uncanny as the feeling of strangeness in something familiar, Mori’s theories have since become influential in fields as diverse as puppetry, psychology, animation and video games.
Our guests take us on a tour of the Uncanny Valley, exploring the horrors as well as the pleasures of the not-quite-human. John Bell traces a history of the uncanny in puppetry; Allison de Fren shares her short documentary on robot fetishists; Asif Ghazanfar discusses his research on the Uncanny Valley effect among monkeys; and Laurie O’Brien introduces us to Toby the Puppet. Together, they examine and indulge in the enduring human fascination with the humanoid.

Union Docs Website: