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 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 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 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.

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

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 at that time, 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 2 more entirely new shows. In 2011-12, “THE PAPER BAG PLAYERS LAUGH! LAUGH! LAUGH!” and in 2012-13, “THE PAPER BAG PLAYERS SADDLES AND SUNSHINE.” In 2013-2014, The Paper Bag Players celebrated their 55th season of performing with “THE PAPER BAG PLAYERS HICCUP HELP!,” a hilarious combination of classic and brand new material. In 2014-2015, The Paper Bag Players performed “HOT FEET,” a collection of fan-favorites from our storied history. In 2015-2016, the company performed an all new show “POP-POP-POPCORN!” In 2016-2017, The Paper Bag Players performed an uproarious brand new show “TRIP TO THE MOON”. Our new show for 2017-2018, our 59th season, called “THAT’S QUITE ABSURD!” will be performed around New York City and the northeast.

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!

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

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. 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 Great Mummy Adventure
Laura Canty-Samuel, Amy Walsh
photo: Gerry Goodstein

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. It also supports workshops given by the Paper Bag Players in “The Art and Fun of The Paper Bag Players.” Theater For All 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 or attend a workshop by The Paper Bag Players can—regardless of their ability to pay.