July 8  – 13, 2019

with John Bell & Trudi Cohen of Great Small Works

A light-hearted lecture by Great Small Works’ own singing professor Dr. John Bell will introduce the 19th-century history of Toy Theater (also called paper theater) — the pleasures of its traditional practice in Victorian parlors, and contemporary revival on stages and in classrooms around the world. Participants will be shown some basic techniques and materials. We will discuss image and text selection and dramaturgy. And then they will break up into small groups and create their own original toy theater pieces. The workshop will culminate with everyone presenting the results of their efforts to each other.

Our workshop will present the history and practice of this intimate and highly accessible puppetry form. It will offer a chance to construct a toy theater stage and scenery and figures, and to put together a multi-scene story. Participants will learn the value of Toy Theater as a teaching tool, both in curriculum-based school environments, and in community programs. Most of all, they will discover the possibilities of this historic parlor entertainment for telling the grandest of tales with the simplest of means.

Anyone who would like to consider subject matter for their piece in advance of the workshop is encouraged to do so.  A song, a poem, a location, an anecdote, a political idea, a hero, a news item, what I ate for breakfast, what I saw walking to the post office – there are infinite possibilities.

SKU: TOYW-19 Category:



Trudi Cohen and John Bell are theater makers, puppeteers, festival organizers, musicians, and founding members of Great Small Works, a visual theater collective created in 1995 in New York City, whose six members share roots in Bread and Puppet Theater.  John is Director of the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry and an associate professor in the Puppet Arts Program at the University of Connecticut. He received a doctorate in theater history from Columbia University, and writes about puppet theater. Trudi is a puppeteer and theater administrator. With Great Small Works, they investigate folk, puppet, avant-garde and popular theater traditions to address contemporary issues. They create shows and perform, teach and mentor. They have produced 10 international festivals of Toy Theater since 1993, and present regular Spaghetti Dinner cabarets.

Their show, “Muntergang and Other Cheerful Downfalls,” was presented at La MaMa in NYC in November 2016, and at the Chicago International Puppetry Festival in January 2017. They are both organizers of the HONK! Festival of activist street bands, presented annually since 2006 in Somerville, MA, and the inspiration for other HONK festivals in Providence, NYC, Austin, Seattle, Detroit, Vancouver, Brazil and Australia.

Trudi and John perform Toy Theater and cranky shows for audiences of all ages in New England and New York City. They are the joint recipients of the 2014 Paul Vincent Davis Award from Puppet Showplace Theater, and of the 2017 Rebecca Blunk Award from New England Foundation for the Arts.


Workshops are geared for participants of all levels of experience, whose ages have run from 18-85. Workshops will meet from 10 am – 4 pm, Monday through Saturday, in Studio II of Webster Hall on the Amherst College campus in Amherst, MA.

Driving Instructions to Amherst College

Amherst College campus map.

Workshops cost $399. There is a $50 discount for registration by May 15. NOTE: Contact us to apply for a very limited pool of partial financial aid, or for discounts for NET (Network of Ensemble Theaters) members.

Optional room and board are available on the Amherst College campus for an additional fee. Housing, in a single with a shared bath in an Amherst College dorm is $235 for the week. All rooms are provided with a bed, desk, chair, mirror, chest of drawers, closet or wardrobe, pillow and blanket. You have the option to rent linens for your stay (x-long twin sheet set, pillowcase  towels) for an additional $15. Studios, theatre, dining commons and dorms are all within walking distance. Meals in the Amherst College Dining Commons (tasty, healthy food – much of it local) can be paid for on a per meal basis There are also many places to eat within walking distance in the center of town.

Email us, if you are interested in alternative housing. There are a number of hotels, motels and bed & breakfasts in the area.


STEP 1: Click HERE  to download the registration form in as a PDF. ALL WORKSHOP STUDENTS PAYING BY CHECK MUST SUBMIT THIS FORM either via email or by post.
STEP 2. Print out your registration form and make your deposit check out to Ko Theater Works. Mail them to The Ko Festival of Performance 498 South Gulf Road Belchertown, MA 01007
Questions? For further information email us or call (413) 427-6147.

Additional information

Payment Options

$206 deposit (includes $6.00 processing fee), $205 Pay Balance (includes $6.00 processing fee), $410 Pay in full (includes $11 processing fee)

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