Shadow Play performances

Our FVIM 322 Video Performance class received an assignment from our instructor, Margaret Dragu, to work in groups to produce a three minute Shadow Play to perform in class on January. Shadow play is one of the oldest forms of performance and the first ever ‘projected’ image as seen in the Indonesian puppetry of Asia and the shadow dances and ‘lanterna magica’ of Europe. We were able to use our bodies and any improvised puppets or props to make shadows using a slide projector as a light source. We created sound using voice, instruments or pre-recorded sound track. We were asked to perform the play twice, the second time we did it silently and the audience photo documented.

First Shadow Play
The first scene began with a wire coil creature crawling from the mouth of a sleeping giant. The coil strolled and danced his way through dreamy landscapes. Dissolves of colours, forms and patterns created the world that the character played in. He finally crawled back into the giant’s mouth before he awoke. The little wire guy moved with a great deal of character and responded well to the stimulus of the environment. At times we saw a lot of the puppeteer’s arms and in those moments it seemed she was watching more the puppet than the action on the screen.

Pig nose and the police

Pig nose and the police

We were the second group and therefore I will skip to the third play. It began began with the puppeteer mostly in the shadows with something in his hand that he was holding inside the light frame. It slowly unfolded and grew into the head of a pig. Another character with a police mask entered the light and expressed an air of authority before his head became two. The focused tempo of the transitions was aided with live percussion in the background. The play ended with the pig face retracting to nothing but a snout. I really enjoyed seeing the puppeteers’ faint shadows outside of the lit up square revealing their manipulative presence.



The fourth and final group worked with screen from a dead large flat screened TV. It felt very experimental in nature as the screen prop deviated from the common approach to shadow puppetry. The simple accompaniment of the mini keyboard gave a electronic overtone and set the mood of the piece. One character seemed trapped in the screen and shrunken in distortion while the other character had some sort of power to keep her there. The dynamic between the characters expressed an inter-play of power. The casting of light and image being refocused in the screen was quite intriguing. The performers expressed some disappointment that the original screen they had worked with behaved entirely differently and made rainbows. Sometimes we have to accept that when experimenting in art it is impossible to recapture a moment of play.


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