Short introduction

There are no exact historical references about the birth of shadow theatre. For sure, it is a thousand-year art. It is thought that already primitive man used to play with his shadow, projected by fire on the walls of the caves. Over time, this art developed mostly in the Eastern countries. Chinese and Indonesian techniques (silhouettes made of animal’s skin, dried and colored) are very popular, as well as Turkish and Greek ones (Karagoz). 

Why didn’t shadow theatre spread so much in the Western countries?
I think that, since our culture derives from the Greco-Roman culture which tends to compare the two sides of the same coin, one positive and one negative, so the concept of shadow has become something negative, to put aside, in opposition to the positiveness of the light.

The play of creation of characters and animals with hand shadows: is that a Chinese or an Italian invention?
The first document showing the creation of characters with hand shadows is the book Ombre (Shadows), by the Italian painter of the Mid-Nineteenth Century Giacomo Campi. Wow!! You might think that Chinese Shadows are actually Italian! So why did they call them Chinese Shadows? Because, at that time, to express astonishment, to say “out of this world”, people used to say “Chinese”.

Why make shadow theatre?

A simple technique
Everything is based on three elements: light, a body silhouette and a cloth. A simple game. Just like adults used to do, and still do, to entertain children. The simpler the technique, the more astonishing is the exhibition. In fact, despite the prevailing role of today digital instruments, this thousand-year art is still attractive.

A non-violent theatre
My friend and activist Etta Ragusa introduced me for the first time the Shadow Theatre as a kind of “non-violent” theatre, because the actor plays behind the cloth-screen avoiding the  sometimes “violent” impact with the audience. At the same time, the audience, protected from the “violence” of well-defined and predetermined images, unconsciously completes the scene with its own fantasy.

Poetic, ironic and dreamlike images
The imaginative property of the shadow, the ability to accentuate the features of the characters by exalting their features or making them grotesque, the use of music and colors that facilitate emotional flow, give the shadow theater a great charge of poetry and irony: while you see, you imagine.

A theatre for everyone
We all have a shadow and we can talk through it, without distinction of sex, age, geographical origin, physical or psychic conditions. Actually, differences are welcome. Welcome to those who speak different languages, to those who are shy and cannot talk in public, to those who can’t move easily, to those who have never done theatre, to those who want to “make peace” with his/her own shadow.

The shadow redemption

Shadow is often related to something negative and dark. Expressions like “be overshadowed by” or “step out from under the shadow” are some examples. At the beginning, I myself considered the shadow theatre as something dark. But hearing from children words like “shadows are colored shapes” and “stars shine in the shadow” made me change my mind. So I started looking at my shadow as a friend who always follows me, wants me to play and while we play it reveals some of my personal aspects. Hey, I’m not lying at all!

Read what some celebrities wrote and choose the quote that better represent you.