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.
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!