Course Materials and Links

This print out will give you some ideas on how to use a craft knife and strategies to make paper cuts.


  • Concept and Sketching

We will be using overhead projectors as our performance area. The area is about 10 inches x 10 inches so generally, our puppets are small. They will be projected on a large screen, so that the audience sees these as 4 feet by 4 feet.

We will work on cinematic concepts that use wide angles and closeups and transitioning between scenes.

We will develop a story that is about 5-10 minutes long for each participant. The narrative can be loose and surreal or follow a literal narrative. You may come with your own ideas, or, if you're having trouble of thinking of ideas, we will look toward mythology and fairy tales to borrow from. An example is looking at the work of Hans Christian Anderson. He even has a story about Shadows!

Your puppet short may have voiceover/narration, or music, or none if you prefer.

If you have your idea, you can write your narrative, and storyboard. Here is an example of one that I did for a 3 Act performance in 2019.
It is not fancy, in fact it is pretty sketchy, but it lets me get my ideas from my head to paper to free my mind to work on cutting referencing my rough composition.



The Wikipedia entry on Java shadow theater and its many branches and expressions.

Karagöz is a Turkish shadow theater in which puppets of characters and objects made of camel or ox skin are held up to a light with sticks to project their silhouettes onto a cotton cloth.

The Wikipedia entry that briefly talks about the traditional shadow theater of Turkey.

The best example to talk about animation using cutout paper silhouettes and shadows is Lotte Reiniger.

This German artist was a pioneer of animation in the early and mid-20th century. Lotte used resources from the traditional shadow theater of the East and combined it with the openwork silhouettes of Europe.

"Lotte Reinigers silhouettenfilm: Die Geschichte des Prinzen Achmed"

Booklet of the premiere of The Adventures of Prince Achmed .

The Star of Bethlehem

Beautiful short film from the 50's that uses silhouette animation to tell a popular Christmas story.

"Mary's Birthday"

Another magnificent short film from the 50's in which you will be able to appreciate the talent and originality of Lotte Reiniger.

"The Art of Lotte Reiniger, 1970 | From the Vaults"

A short documentary where she is seen working on her works.

"The Adventures of Prince Achmed"

The Wikipedia entry for The Adventures of Prince Achmed

Shadow Puppets, Shadow Theaters and Shadow Films | Lotte Reiniger

This is an unmissable book by Lotte Reiniger where she explains in detail all the resources of shadow theatre, from minimal scale to her own shadow animations. It was published in 1975 and a digitized version can be borrowed at

This company has been producing shadow theater in San Francisco since 1972. Here you can see images of some of their productions.

This is the first professional modern shadow theater troupe in Japan and has produced several plays that bring people into the world of theater, inventing original dramatic styles that modernize shadow play. I share an interview with Shuichi Iida so you can learn more about this Japanese shadow theater company.

Interview with Karl Johnson, a contemporary silhouette portrait artist.

A book about the history of shadow silhouettes by Emma Rutherford.

An incredible shadow theater production that combines actors, silhouettes and projections on a large-scale tableau. In this video they show many details behind the scenes.

A small production by the brilliant company A la sombrita that uses the space in front of the altarpiece and leaves the actors visible.

The review of an installation of light bubbles on which shadows were projected devised by Lucion Media. This is another creative use of projection space.

A brief review of the work of Christian Boltansky that refers to the traditional resources of shadow theater.

A theater group out of Chicago, but that performs across the world, using many of the same methods we use in this course and for our performance.