About The Paper Bag Players

Hot Feet
Judith Martin, Betty Osgood, Irving Burton, Charles LaPorte
photo: Paul Bey

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 9.

Our 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 transform into our sets, props and costumes.

Judith Martin, Shirley Kaplan, 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 further shaped company’s identity. As writer, designer, director and actress, Judith both established and embodied The Paper Bag Players style.

Everybody, Everybody
Judith Martin, Irving Burton
photo: Wally Littleman

In 1966, Donald Ashwander joined the company as resident composer and musical director. Donald introduced the electronic harpsichord, composing lively ragtime music and playing it joyfully at every show. He gave The Paper Bag Players our 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.

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 touring has taken them to 37 states and to Canada, England, Scotland, Wales, Israel, Iran, Egypt, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and Mexico.

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. In that year, a new Creative Team form, including Ted and members of the company (Laura Canty-Samuel, Amy Walsh, and Kevin Richard Woodall) along with resident composer, John Stone. The team created new material for the 2009-10 season (THE GREAT MUMMY ADVENTURE), including pieces such as “Happy Day,” “Ants in My Pants,” and “Prints,” an easel piece culminating in a rainbow made of handprints.

Kevin Richard Woodall, Ted Bracket
photo: M. David Leeds

For the next three seasons, the Creative Team made three entirely new shows (WHOOP-DEE-DOO! (2010), LAUGH! LAUGH! LAUGH! (2011), and SADDLES AND SUNSHINE (2012), offering a cornucopia of new numbers such as “A Day on the Lake,” “Volcano,” “Howdy,” “The Cactus and the Balloon,” and “Bob the Slob.” After the departure of Laura and Amy, the remaining members of the Creative Team continued to forge new shows, including POP-POP-POPCORN! (2015), TRIP TO THE MOON (2016), THAT’S QUITE ABSURD! (2017), STAND UP AND CHEER, WE’RE 60 THIS YEAR! (2018), and HERE WE GO! (2019), with another bevy of premieres including “Arrows,” “Versus,” “A Couple of Cans,” “Baby Mayhem,” “Shipwreck Island,” “Doors/Window,” and an easel painting piece set in space, “Zymillaquixar.” For 12 seasons covering this period, scenic artist Jonathan Peck lent his skills to the sets, costumes and props.

The Paper Bag Players outreach program, Theater For All provides reduced-price and free tickets to underserved schoolchildren for our school-time shows in all five boroughs of New York City and throughout the Northeast. It also supports workshops, “The Art and Fun of The Paper Bag Players.” Theater For All is supported by donations from government funding, foundations, and individuals.

In 2023-24, the Bags celebrated their 65th landmark season with the show, IT’S A MARVELOUS PAPER BAG WORLD! The historic occasion was featured in a New York Times article entitled, “They Make the Ordinary Seem Magical.” You can read the full article here:

New York Times Article

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