Recently I was rewatching a favorite film of mine from days of yore...the original Clash of the Titans. It is a film I have seen many many time but this time I took note of a scene where Zeus moves tiny clay figures around a stage; these, of course, are the representations of the mortals under the control of the Olympians. This got me thinking about the idea of play in regard things like dollhouse dolls, toy soldiers and/or action figures. It made me consider why children seem to have the desire (perhaps even need) to create worlds that they have dominion over...Zeus-like control where the child is able to manipulate the destinies of the tiny characters in their hands.
The world is an uncontrollable place. Even when we think we are in control, the truth is that we are tiny beings on a big rock spinning through space. Because of this it seems reasonable that one would find comfort in creating manageable scenarios. This is probably especially true for children, who, after all are recent arrivals to the planet Earth.
I suppose many grow out of the need to create these realms and scenarios...I never did. Part of that stems from the fact that I've always felt a bit out of place in this world , so I still play. In my art I can concoct a universe where I am more comfortable or as I would like it to be.
My most recent series of puppet theaters addresses the this topic more directly than anything I've ever created because they encourage the art of play. Recently I started making very tiny versions of these stages where the characters are not much bigger than an inch or two. I call these Thumbellina Theaters. To us they may seem small and insignificant but, I assure you, that they may be small but I imagine them with all the complexities of you or I.
(I've actually turned it into a workshop for a few special locations....Eugene Oregon this September, for those who need a little more control in their destinies).