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Ubu’s Dreams – Shadow Puppet Tests
Maker Projects
Image by fabola
Mark ‘Spoonman’ Petrakis and I are experimenting with new interactive storytelling ideas, from shadow puppets to poetic robots.

Our first experiment is ‘Ubu’s Dreams’, a shadow puppet show featuring Père Ubu, the hero of Alfred Jarry’s surreal plays at the turn of the last century. In this show, Ubu is constantly dreaming, interacting with archetypal characters from our collective unconscious.

This week, we did a number of test to explore different ways to perform these stories with simple puppets, lights, shadows and sounds. We tried using a high-quality projector, which gave us better focus and a greater range of motion than the previous overhead projector. This also lets us project video backgrounds behind the shadow puppets, with very encouraging results.

We then played with a variety of character shapes, from simple wire figures to illuminated objects, talking masks and robot bases. They all showed a lot of promise, and we’ll probably use some of these techniques in different scenes.

Last but not least, we tried using a large mirror to reflect our projector, so that it could be placed right below our shadow screen, instead of five feet away. This has important implications for many of our art projects, where space is limited and projections have to be self-contained.

We plan to continue this experiment through the summer and perform a first puppet show during our Dada exhibit this fall at the Canessa Gallery in North Beach. I’m also developing a ‘Magic Theater’ course combining maker art and storytelling for our lower and middle school students.

View more pictures of this Magic Theater project on Flickr:

Learn more about Ubu’s Dreams:

Learn more about the Magic Theater project (first called Théâtre Mécanique):

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