Shadow "Theatre for One" with Emma Fisher or... A Dinosaur in Space!

This week we have been very fortunate to have Emma Fisher of "Beyond the Bark' (see LSP to guide us through our "Theatre for One" assessment. Emma is a puppeteer, maker and set designer based in Limerick, Ireland. She has a Masters in Scenography and is a graduate of the London School of Puppetry. 

"Theatre for One" is exactly that, a show that can only be viewed by one person at a time. We worked specifically with the idea of shadow, creating small shadow theatres and puppets that can pack down into a small suit case for easy travel. 

There were two of us undertaking this project with Emma and when she arrived we had incredibly different ideas about what we would like to do. My fellow student Kate had written a nihilistic poem and wanted to create her show inside a top hat. My thoughts were far more vague: "SPACE! ... and maybe a dinosaur!". Emma was incredibly supportive and encouraged us to follow our visions... and over the course of the week our ideas came to life!

We began by story boarding our shows and then making small scale models of our theatres and puppets. The storyboard gave us a direction to go in and the models made us aware of problems with the design before we had started on the full scale theatre. Both were so helpful throughout the whole construction process. My theatre was to be a rocket and the show would be viewed through the porthole.

 The inside of my theatre consisted of two devices I had never heard of before this week; a "cranky" and a "zoetrope", both working to create a colorful, moving background for my puppets. The cranky is made up of two pieces of doweling on either side of the theatre and on top of that two pieces of tube that connect a long piece of fabric. When the tubes are spun, the fabric moves (horizontally for my show) across the screen. The zoetrope is simply a clear cylinder with a light on the inside that can move around in circles. Both are decorated with colours and/or images (See gallery for pictures).

Probably the most fun I had during the construction process was at about 11pm after three long days of work, when it came time to decorate my rocket. We had decided I would play a little girl who invites people over to look inside her rocket and so I would paint it like a child would. This was incredibly freeing, just slapping on the paint without thinking... rockets, planets, stars... and of course everything had a smiley face! The drawing style of my two little sisters (5 and 6 years old) acted as fantastic inspiration.

I have never worked with small scale shadow puppets before and have had little experience with shadow work generally (see earlier blog: Experimental Shadow Film) so the rehearsal process was a real challenge. I had set some very difficult maneuvers for myself and my dexterity and co-ordination were stretched to their limits. I am performing to a piece of music by artist Sufjan Stephens which works incredibly well with my show... when I get the timing right! There is still a lot of rehearsing to be done to get the show ready for the public but I am incredibly happy with what I have achieved in a week.  


I have learned so much this week, in what was essentially a time of play... guided by someone with an incredible amount of know how! Working with Emma Fisher was an absolute joy and I felt incredibly inspired by her attitude and her work.



Kate and I will be performing our "Theatre for One" show's at the Skipton Puppet Festival at the end of this month.  See:

See Gallery for more pictures of this project.