Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Make a Shadow Puppet Play!


When my older children were young, we had a beautiful little wooden and vellum shadow puppet theater from Hearthsong Catalog. Here is how to make one of your own, and a cast of puppets.

I started by making the shadow puppets with the help of a wonderful book by Laura Ross, called Hand Puppets: How to Make and Use Them". Using her drawings as a guide, I drew the characters from "Peter and the Wolf" onto some poster board. Black poster board would be best, but I only had red. You could also use cereal box scraps, or even thick construction paper. If you are worried about your drawing skills, try not to let that stop you. Young children tend to admire their parent's drawings very much. You could also trace characters in a book, or create imaginary creatures.



Once I had cut out all the characters, I mounted them on long kabob skewers, using paper hinges, like so:



For the theater, you could stretch a white sheet across a doorway, glue vellum to a wooden canvas stretcher, or like me, tape one-ply white paper to an old metal frame from the attic. My son helped and directed the creation of the scenery. Our first stage was small and today we enlarged it so that the puppets had more space to move about. Unfortunately, the paper seam showed. I would try to use one large sheet of paper next time.



We put the theater up on some chairs and covered the bottom of the chairs with a blanket, to hide the puppeteers. You can see a little bit of our scenery through the paper.



We clamped a strong light behind the stage, to shine on the back of theater over the left shoulder of the puppeteer. If it is angled correctly, your own shadow should be out of the way.


By now it was dark and we turned off all the lights except the spot and began acting out "Peter and the Wolf" by Prokofiev, narrated by Carol Channing on audiotape. My son wanted to be the primary puppeteer, and I was his assistant until there got to be too many characters on the stage for him to handle alone.


It is hard to manage several puppets at a time. A piece of styrofoam below the stage is handy for sticking puppet skewers into, as you can see below.



Now, for a view of what the audience sees! Here is the bird, the duck, and Peter himself.


Here are some friends trying out the puppets after they saw the puppet show, using the characters in their own ways.



Oh, dear.....



As I hoped, my little boy got an idea for his own shadow puppet play after we did "Peter and the Wolf", and that's what we're going to work on next!

16 comments:

Appleshoe said...

This looks like a lot of fun! Thank you for the wonderful idea and pictures.

Phyllis said...

I LOVE this! Thanks so much for sharing. I want to run out and get the supplies now!
Love your blog!
-Phyllis

KeLLy aNN said...

I did a shadow puppet theater as a final project for a sculpture class in University. It was a hit.
I love what you've done!

childhood magic said...

So incredible! Thank you for the inspiration!

Lise said...

I've done some shadow plays with kids, but now I see I'm an amateur! Thanks for all the new ideas: hinged sticks, styrofoam base, and "Peter and the Wolf" (one of my kids' favorites, and recorded, so there's built-in narration!)

Nadja Magdalena said...

This is so cool! I wish I had time to do all this! I just want to ditch school and play with the kids and make stuff all day, every day!

Oh, well...guess it will have to wait until summer vacation!

softearthart said...

How wonderful, what great fun for the older child, and for the younger ones to watch. cheers Marie

Gabriele said...

Dear Beth,
absolutely beautiful as always!! Love the shades!!
Gabriele

Amanda said...

How beautiful! What an organic way to invite creative story telling. Thanks for sharing!

Beth said...

Thank you so much, everyone! It was very magical!

The Magic Onions said...

Too lovely, Beth... it looks so magical. Thanks for sharing... I'll keep this one for when we have a sleepover!
Blessings and magic,
Donni

Zoe @ Playing by the book said...

A beautiful and inspiring post. Just this weekend I watched an animation of Peter and the Wolf by Susi Templeton (http://www.peterandthewolffilm.co.uk/) and I couldn't recommend it enough (and I don't normally like film adaptations for kids) - it is so beautiful to look at, wordless and of course fabulous music. It's won several awards and deserves to have done so. I know it's also been shown on PBS.

sarah in the woods said...

I love this! I'll have to show the kiddos - I know they'd have fun with this.

kristin said...

wonderful!! thanks for the great how-to...i'd love to try this at my school.

Beth said...

My son and I are going to perform this for his class today, and then all the children are going to make monster shadow puppets and try them out in our shadow puppet theater. love, Beth

boatbaby said...

We also love shadow puppet play in our family. But we're never tried making them ourselves (except some sweet little ones my son made). Yours look fabulous, I think I am inspired to try some on my own now. Thank you!