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close this bookCreative Training - A User's Guide (IIRR, 1998)
View the document(introduction...)
Open this folder and view contentsHow was this user's guide to creative training produced?
View the documentIt came one night...
Open this folder and view contentsBasic facilitation skills
Open this folder and view contentsTraining needs assessment
View the documentWII-FM (what's in it for me?)
Open this folder and view contentsEvaluation techniques
Open this folder and view contentsEnergizers
View the documentForming groups
View the documentCreative congratulations
View the documentRelaxers
Open this folder and view contentsMood setting exercises
Open this folder and view contentsLectures
View the documentMind mapping
View the documentCreative use of overhead projectors
View the documentSlide/photo presentations
View the documentVisual spicers
View the documentPosters as problem-posing materials
Open this folder and view contentsDrawing and chalk talk
Open this folder and view contentsSelf-expression through pictures
View the documentBody language
View the documentVisual gestural communication
View the documentShadow plays
View the documentEasy puppets
View the documentBasic theater skills
View the documentRole play
View the documentAnimated comics role play activity
View the documentFolkstorytelling: Stories come alive!
View the documentOral testimonies
View the documentLifeline
View the documentTimelines
View the documentMap-making
Open this folder and view contentsMaking and using case studies
View the documentAction research
Open this folder and view contentsField trips
Open this folder and view contentsPhysical activities as educational tools
Open this folder and view contentsGames
View the documentContact organizations
View the documentWorkshop participants
View the documentWorkshop production staff

Shadow plays

Shadow plays are performed at night or in a dark room. The players set up a screen and place a light behind it. They work or perform on the side of the screen with the light behind them so that it casts their shadows on to the screen.

Shadow plays encourage participation and self-expression. Performers can use shadow plays to experiment with different images and challenge traditional concepts. Shadow plays are an exaggerated form of expression, which serves as an emotional release for many performers.



Shadow plays are used to emphasize messages and convey emotions, feelings and sensitive scenarios. Shadow plays are useful when people are shy and do not like performing. They are also very powerful in presenting subjects such as violence, harassment, etc.


· light source, e.g., electric light bulb, candle
· screen
· paper cutouts


· colored light
· music
· script

Suggested approach

Shadow play - outdoors

The light source

Use any available safe light source which performers can not knock over such as:

· electric light bulbs - check availability of electricity source
· oil, gas or paraffin lamps
· a candle in a tall bottle

Fixing the light source

Place the light source at the center of the screen at an angle, which fills as much of the screen as possible with light. An electric bulb is safe to fix at the bottom of the screen. Push a sturdy stick into the ground so that it stands level with the bottom of the screen. Tie the bulb holder to the stick.


Using a naked flame

Tie the oil, gas or paraffin lamps to a stick behind the screen, near the top and two feet away. A candle in a tall bottle can be placed in a hole in the ground or attached to a stick, two feet away from the screen.


Be aware of any potential fire hazards!

Making the screen

1. Use muslin, thin cotton, sheeting, paper or milky plastic as a screen.

2 Test each material by holding it up to the light and ask someone to stand and move close to and away from the material on the side of the light source. The material is suitable if you can see outlines of shadows.

3. Make sure the screen is large enough to accommodate all the performers. 4 Stretch the material tight.

Erecting the screen

I. Make a frame out of wood or bamboo of any size, but make the vertical pieces three feet longer so they can be pushed into the ground.

2 Place the four pieces on the ground.

3. Bind or nail corners firmly.

4 With the frame still on the ground, attach the screen along each side for a tight fit.

5. Sew or pin the screen to it.

6. Stand the frame upright and push the two vertical legs into the ground. It may need extra support to make it stable.

7. Erect the screen so that the players are hidden.



You can also hang the screen between trees, high roofs or rocks. Tie a piece of string firmly around each of the four corners of the screen. Tie the two pieces of string at the top of the screen to projections or branches so that the screen is of the correct height. Anchor the two strings at the bottom of the screen with heavy stones or tie them onto sticks pushed into the ground.


If the screen needs extra support, tie strings around the tops of the vertical poles so that they reach the ground at the back and front of the frame, at about 60-degree to the upright. The strings act as guy ropes - like a tent. Tie a loop to each end of string. Pull the string at the front and back of the frame at the same time to make the frame vertical and stable. Sharpen four sticks and place them through the loops, then secure them into the ground.


Shadow play - indoors

Fixing the light source

A 150 W floodlight gives a good effect if the room is dark.


Performers should move away from the source of light when not performing.

Erecting the screen

Use an open doorway or arch to erect the screen. Use drawing pins, nails, sharp sticks or wire to fasten the screen to the frame.

Preparing and performing the shadow play

Prepare a basic storyboard about your play. This is a pictorial sequence of scenes. Practise your positions for the best effects. Remember to exaggerate your movements. If a narrator is needed, prepare a script. They should stand at the front and to the side of the screen.


· Colored light and music will help vary the mood.

· Experiment with cutouts for setting a scene e.g., tree, table, etc. These can be stuck on to the sheet using adhesive tape.

· Use colored tissue to create a better effect - the light will filter through. Use tissue to give an impression of movement, e.g., bird.

Begin the shadow play. Seat the audience in front of the screen and let them watch the moving shadows. The shadows are clear or blurred, huge or tiny depending on how far from or close to the screen the performers are.


You can make a small screen and use hand movements, puppets or paper to animate a storytelling session.


· Useful where people are shy of performing.
· Can portray sensitive subjects without embarrassment.
· Can emphasize or diminish threatening behavior depending on how clear or blurred the shadow is.
· Can be as simple, or elaborate, as you like.
· Can be used as an evaluation technique.


· The light source may fail.
· Material for the screen may not be readily available.
· Does not display facial expression - only exaggerated body language.


· Shadow play was used at a gender workshop at the Foundation for Huwomanity-Centered Development (FHCD) in Baguio City, Philippines, for people's organizations from the communities. Two of the subjects covered were sexual harassment and violence against women. It was used for participants to evaluate topics discussed and what they understood of them.

· The shadow play was performed in a room with a Tungsten Flood 150 W light bulb, a muslin sheet as a screen and windows darkened by blankets. The screen was prepared as above and tied between a blackboard and a bookcase. The shadow play was followed by small group discussion about the types of messages conveyed throughout the shadow play.


· In Indonesia, shadow play is an old tradition which passes legends and fables down through the generations. The battle between good and evil is usually the focus. The stories are well loved and shown on special occasions such as births and marriages.