It's "Strawberry Story" Season!

The Magic of Collaborations

Collaborations between creative people are such a magical thing!  There’s nothing like the synergy created between people who care about the same things but create something brand new together based on their unique experiences, talents and backgrounds.  I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of a wonderful collaboration with Anne Taylor, an amazing and talented storyteller, artist, knowledge holder and leader in her community of Curve Lake, Ontario.

Anne and I were brought together as the result of a grant from the Ontario Arts Council received by the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre in Peterborough, Ontario.  Over a 2 year period, Anne and I will perform and facilitate “The Legend of the Strawberry” workshop for a minimum of 4 different indigenous groups in Eastern Ontario. 

While Anne tells the Legend of the Strawberry, as learned by Anne from the elders and aunties of her community, I perform a visual storytelling of the story through Shadow Puppetry.  Shadow Puppetry as a story telling medium has been around for thousands of years, but is a novelty in our current culture in Canada.  It’s an excellent medium for adding a visual storytelling component that wonderfully compliments the oral storytelling tradition.  For more detailed information about getting started in shadow puppetry, read to the bottom of the post where you can download a FREE GUIDE I created for you!

It’s All About the Process

Whether you are a storyteller, puppeteer, or educator, I’d like to share the process with you of how Anne and I are using Shadow Puppetry for this particular project.  It’s a simple but effective way to draw the audience into the story and engage visual learners as well as auditory learners. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Shadow Puppetry, here is a simple explanation. 

With any form of Shadow Puppetry, you need a light source, a translucent screen that allows the shadow of the “puppets” being used to show through the screen material, and “objects” of some kind (the puppets) to cast the shadow.  A traditional shadow puppet is a 2-dimensional figure with “rods” attached for easy handling and manipulation. 

For “The Legend of the Strawberry”, I use an overhead projector as my light source because it offers some interesting creative options that a standard light does not.  I can use coloured acetate sheets to cast images for settings/backgrounds on the shadow puppet screen.  I take this one step further by using a “cranky”  (a crank that turns a scroll of clear plastic) to create the illusion of the shadow puppet characters moving from one scene to the next in a synchronized way as Anne shares the story in the oral tradition of storytelling .  Because I am managing the cranky as well as the shadow puppets, I  chose to construct the puppets on a smaller scale so they can sit and move right on top of the cranky images on the overhead projector.  The projector not only serves as the light source for the shadow puppets, but also enlarges the projected scenes and puppets on the shadow puppet screen.  This works really well as a solo puppeteer because the set up makes it easy for me to stay out of the way of the light and avoid casting unwanted shadows of my hands or arms on the screen.  Anne and I are able to coordinate our pacing easily since Anne can see the shadow puppet screen without loosing her connection to the audience.  Because I’m behind the shadow puppet staging, I’m not a distraction during the telling and performance of the story – it’s just Anne, the shadow puppet imagery and the audience!

Creating Together

When the story is finished, the audience has the opportunity to talk about the Legend of the Strawberry and satisfy their curiosity about the art of Shadow Puppetry.  I bring lots of materials for the workshop participants to use so they can make their own shadow puppets, create backgrounds on the acetate and design & build some props.  By the end of the workshop, participants are performing their own short stories or scenes for the group.  Even the shyest of people don’t mind performing with shadow puppets because they are comfortably hidden behind the screen, helping them to feel a little less conscientious.

I’ve created a great new Guide for you, “Me and My Shadows”, to help you set up your own Shadow Puppet Theatre.  Access your free download by clicking here. 

Happy Shadow Puppet Making!





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