Shadow Puppets

A look into Theatre 323: Puppetry and the Performing Object

June 1, 2017

Traditions of shadow puppetry were the focus of the second half of Prof. Peter Ksander’s [theatre 2011–] Puppetry and the Performing Object class this spring. Students studied both traditional Indonesian shadow play and contemporary forms inspired by it. They began the course by exploring what defines a puppet, where the line between a puppet and a mask lies, and what it means to animate objects.

For their final project, the students developed and performed a shadow theatre adaptation of the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Pictured here are shadow masks of Klaatu and Helen (created by Aziza Afzal ’17, working with Ry Burke ’17, Jake Gonnella ’17, and Ashlin Hatch ’17). The figure on the left is the puppet; on the far right is the puppet’s shadow on the screen. The students innovated on a technique that allows the shadow masks to show both a forward-facing and a profile image, and so also visible in this image is the shadow cast by one of the alternate faces onto the puppet itself.

For Ksander, the class is an exciting opportunity to complicate and blur the roles of designers and performers in the theatre.

Tags: Students, Object of Study, Professors