May 5, 2012 — The Enchanting World of ShadowLight

I’ve always been entranced by shad­ows — the mag­i­cal play of light on the walls in the morn­ing and eerie shapes that your own body throws as you walk on the beach or sidewalk.

Nobuyuki Taguchi photograph

Lon­don Street by Nobuyu­ki Taguchi

I was­n’t aware that there was a tra­di­tion­al form of shad­ow pup­petry per­formed through­out Asia until I saw the Zhang Yimou movie TO LIVE in which one of the main char­ac­ters is a shad­ow mas­ter (this is a great film BTW).


Photo of Chinese shadow figures

Tra­di­tion­al Chi­nese shad­ow play figures

DVD Poster for TO LIVE

Zhang Yimou’s TO LIVE

The shad­ow pup­pet scenes were so hyp­no­tiz­ing that when I was strug­gling with how to visu­al­ize epic his­toric scenes in FINDING KUKAN in an eco­nom­i­cal way, the idea of using shad­ow pup­pets came up for me. I start­ed hunt­ing on the web for peo­ple who per­formed shad­ow pup­petry, and when I came across Lar­ry Reed & Shad­ow­light Pro­duc­tions’ THE WILD PARTY, I was real­ly blown away.

This was not the land of your grand­moth­er’s shad­ow pup­pets any­more. Live actors, con­tem­po­rary scenes, and shift­ing per­spec­tive lent a new dynamism to the pro­duc­tion that I instinc­tive­ly felt would be per­fect for what I want­ed to do in FINDING KUKAN.

photo of Larry Reed

Shad­ow mas­ter Lar­ry Reed

Hap­pi­ly Lar­ry was excit­ed about my project and has agreed to col­lab­o­rate with me on FINDING KUKAN. Lar­ry Reed is tru­ly a shad­ow mas­ter, hav­ing stud­ied and per­formed tra­di­tion­al Bali­nese shad­ow pup­petry for over 35 years. In the ear­ly 1990’s, Reed invent­ed an inge­nious shad­ow cast­ing method, which inte­grates the tra­di­tion­al shad­ow the­atre tech­niques, cin­e­mat­ic effects and mod­ern the­atre and dance styles. Watch for a sam­ple of Shad­ow­light’s inno­v­a­tive work from THE GOOD-FOR-NOTHING LOVER in the new FINDING KUKAN teas­er that will pre­miere next week.

Have ideas for cool ways of using shad­ows?  Please let me hear from you.

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