The Paper Bag Players is a non-profit theater company of adults who create and perform original, contemporary, musical theater for children ages 3 through 8.
Their shows, based on a child's everyday experiences, combine short plays, rousing songs, freewheeling dances, audience participation, mime, and painting and drawing on stage. Common household objects, cardboard boxes and brown craft paper brightened with splashes of poster paint and crayon transform into their sets, props and costumes.
Judith Martin, Shirley Kaplin, Sudie Bond and Remy Charlip founded the Paper Bag Players in 1958. All four shared creativity during the first years, but as the company developed, Judith Martin more and more shaped The Paper Bag Players identity. As writer, designer, director and actress Judith both established and embodied The Paper Bag Players style.
In 1966, Donald Ashwander joined the company as composer and performer. Donald introduced the electric harpsichord, composed lively ragtime music and played it joyfully at every show. He gave The Paper Bag Players their musical personality.
Judith Martin, Artistic Director for five decades, created and performed in over 35 shows, including such favorites as HOT FEET, I WON’T TAKE A BATH, DANDELION, and WHEN MY COUSIN SLEPT OVER. Throughout her fifty years as Artistic Director, Judith wrote, designed and choreographed for The Paper Bag Players, working with many theater artists: Irving Burton, Betty Osgood, Doug Norwich, Jeanne Michels, James Lally, Jan Maxwell and Brenda Cummings; scenic artists Molly O’Gorman, Allison Campbell, Diane Brawarsky, and playwright Jennifer Wells.
In June 2009, Ted Brackett became the Artistic Director of The Paper Bag Players. Having worked closely with Judith Martin for 23 years as a performer and then as Associate Artistic Director, Ted was anxious to bring his mark to the work. His first order of business was to invite the performing company, Laura Canty-Samuel, Amy Walsh, and Kevin Richard Woodall, to collaborate with him and John Stone, resident composer, on an entirely new show! The result was “THE PAPER BAG PLAYERS WHOOP-DEE-DOO!” The New York Times called the show “something to cheer about,” and cheer they did—some 50,000 children!
The Creative Team created another new show for 2011-12, “THE PAPER BAG PLAYERS LAUGH! LAUGH! LAUGH!” They are currently working on a third all-new show for 2012-13, THE PAPER BAG
PLAYERS SADDLES AND SUNSHINE. The new show opens in the “Old West” with cactus and
tumbleweed, a runaway stagecoach and The Paper Bag Players arriving on horseback! That’s right--it’s Ted, Kevin, Amy, John and Laura wishing everyone a great big musical “Howdy!” The fun continues in Country Fair. The audience gets to help two pie-eating neighbors and a paper-bag Bear become the best of friends. In the lyrical piece, The Life of A Bowling Pin, a bowling pin decides the alley life might not be for him. And in Don’t Wake the Baby! It’s up to you to make sure that the baby keeps sleeping. Uh-oh, here come a brass band, a jackhammer, a fire engine---Shhhhhhhh!
Scenic Artist Jon Peck again brings his amazing skills to create, along with the company, the thrilling paper bag props and costumes. Production Supervisor Jim Huggans is once more on hand to be sure the company arrives at the theater safely, the performance starts on time, and the show runs smoothly from load-in to curtain call!
The Paper Bag Players touring has taken them to 37 states and to Canada, England, Scotland, Wales, Israel, Iran, Egypt, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan. This year’s show will be seen by over 66,000 children in performances for the general public and for school children at 40 locations.
The first theater for children to perform at Lincoln Center and to receive a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Bags have been recognized with an OBIE, awards for excellence from the American Association for Theater and Education, American Theater Wing Awards, the New York State Artists Award, The Broadway Theater Institute Award for Theater and Education, and the Children’s Theater Foundation Medallion. Nick Jr. Magazine honored Judith Martin with a Playful People Award.
The Paper Bag Players outreach program, Theater For All provides reduced-price and free tickets to schoolchildren for our school time shows in all 5 boroughs of New York City and throughout the Northeast. This outreach program is supported by donations from foundations, individuals, Government funding and proceeds from our Family Benefit and Spring Benefit.
The goal of Theater For All is that any child who wants to see a performance by The Paper Bag Players can—regardless of their ability to pay.
The New York City Public Library for the Performing Arts explored The Paper Bag Players 5 decades in an exhibition entitled “50 Years of Theater Art.” The Library houses The Paper Bag Players archives. These archives are now available to scholars, theater students and to the public.