Theater World Paper Cuttings - Hannah Kohl

Recently one of my sons sent over a link to an article in The New Yorker. Knowing how much I enjoy musical theater and anything to do with paper, he had a pretty good idea I'd be interested. Indeed! While reading A Thousand Cuts about writer, producer, and papercut artist Hannah Kohl [site no longer available], I felt as if my worlds had collided in the best possible way.

Aren't We Lucky Paper Cutting in Progress by Hannah Kohl

In 2013, Hannah developed a love of intricate paper cutting while creating pieces for the New York Philharmonic's production of A Dancer's Dream: Two Works by Stravinsky at Lincoln Center... this has led to many commissioned works for the Broadway community. Hannah's cuttings are highly personalized and range from 2 x 3 inches to wall size.

Buffalo Nickel Paper Cutting by Hannah Kohl
 Buffalo Nickel

She says, "The piece Buffalo Nickel was a commission from Tony Award-winning lyricist Lynn Ahrens as a 25th anniversary gift for her husband Neil Costa. The piece captures their lives together - all of Lynn's Broadway shows, the homes Neil built, their travels, the five cats they've had as pets over the course of their marriage, and words that are significant to them. In the center of the piece is the Christmas tree that they were married under 25 years ago - a surprise wedding. They knew they were getting married, their four friends thought it was just a regular old dinner party!"

This time-lapse video shows Hannah's process and is set to "Buffalo Nickel Photoplay, Inc." from the musical Ragtime by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty.

Summer Spirits Paper Cutting by Hannah Kohl
 Summer Spirits

Rather than working from a sketch, Hannah visualizes a picture in her mind and goes to work snipping a blank sheet of paper with a miniature Victorinox Swiss Army Knife. "No template, no tracing, and no road map except a belief that the paper will fall away and reveal the story inside." Occasionally she will use a scalpel for long, straight cuts, but prefers the look of a scissor cut, utilizing the time-honored technique called scherenschnitte. 

Hannah Kohl's Workspace

Hannah says she is often asked what she does if a cut goes wrong. Her reply is that she just changes direction so it is no longer a mistake. "Some of the most exciting elements actually come from the snip that went too far."

Tom's Departure Paper Cutting by Hannah Kohl
Tom's Departure

"In the photo below, you can see the piece "Aren't We Lucky" in progress, along with photos of the house I'm working to capture, my two little green knives, a cup of tea, and a little pencil where I'm checking off the long list of elements to include in the snip. There were six pages of elements to include for this particular commission... it took well over 70 hours to complete."

Aren't We Lucky Paper Cutting in Progress by Hannah Kohl

Hannah and I corresponded about her professional life, which as she described "is pretty evenly divided between writing musicals and books (where I put music notes and words down on paper to create a story) and making scherenschnitte (where I take things OFF paper to reveal the story)."

Books and Berkowitz Paper Cutting by Hannah Kohl
 Books and Berkowitz

"My newest original musical, HANSEL & GRETL & HEIDI & GÜNTER - a dark and quirky family comedy - is currently in development with the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. This very second, I'm finishing a series a six children's books for a company in South Korea. Once they're published, we'll be turning them into a full-length show. It's a very paper-centric life!"

Little Tramp Paper Cutting by Hannah Kohl
 Little Tramp

Hannah has signed with a literary agent and another one of her current projects is a picture book - all papercuts, no words - called The Theater at Night about the magical relationship between a child, a theater, and the history and dreams that are created in the moments that a theater and an audience share together.

For updates, visit A Thousand Tiny Snips and follow Hannah on Twitter @1000TinySnips.

 Photo Key

Detail from Aren’t We Lucky? - Private Collection, Robin Chadwick, star of BBC’s first television sitcom The Brothers, and his wife, former stage manager Shu Chadwick 

Buffalo Nickel - Private Collection, Neil Costa, former advertising executive, and Lynn Ahrens, Tony Award-winning lyricist of RAGTIME and ONCE ON THIS ISLAND

Summer Spirits - Private Collection, Owen Wright, co-owner of Wright & Goebels Wine & Spirits in Brooklyn, and Adam Davidson, handbag designer and owner of AANDD New York

Tom’s Departure - Private Collection, John Tiffany, Tony Award-winning director of THE GLASS MENAGERIE and ONCE

In Process: Kara - Private Collection, Kara Unterberg, producer and founder of New York Song Space

In Process: Aren’t We Lucky?

Books and Berkowitz - Private Collection, Roger Berkowitz, author and professor at Bard University, and Jenny-Lyn Bader Berkowitz, playwright

Little Tramp - Private Collection, Thomas Meehan, Tony Award-winning bookwriter of CHAPLIN, ANNIE, and THE PRODUCERS

Ann Martin
Ann Martin

This is a short biography of the post author and you can replace it with your own biography.


  1. Her technique is so very interesting. I am surprised at the depth she achieves with her work and all with a tiny pair of scissors, really wonderful!!


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