Shadow Theatre

The Donkey Prince Fairy Tale

The Sweet Porridge Fairy Tale

Starchild Shadow Theater


About my Remedial Work with the Shadow Theatre

I was working as a Waldorf kindergarten teacher near Tel Aviv during the difficult years of the first Palestinian uprising in Israel and the subsequent Gulf War. Parallel to my work with Israeli children I went and visited regularly for more than six years Palestinian children in several refugee camps in the Gaza Strip.

It was during those years of tension, distress and fear, that I felt and understood the immense healing potential of the shadow theatre as a means for overcoming fear. On both sides of the border I saw small children – Jewish and Palestinian- go through months and years of turmoil: the everpresent ( audible and visible) news coverage, general tension, physical danger, street terror, and direct or indirect encounter with death and destruction of the family fabric. All this was manifest in the children through disturbed sleep, very short attention spans, and an inability to play, accompanied by violent behaviour, as well as physical reactions such as asthma, diabetes, stuttering etc.

Children were in danger of becoming “ adults” overnight!

The building of a simple shadow scene was a fascinating process. It began with the basics, improvised at first; an apple-box becoming the stage within which were placed small cardbord figures, not higher than a child’s hand, held upright by a matchbox. These I could manipulate behind a translucent, semi-opaque screen which was lit from behind by a small spotlight. The entire scene was in black and white at first, and easy to carry through an army checkpoint!

In time, the apple-box became a small wooden” theatre”, the white screen transformed into layers of colourful tissue paper that could be moved to change scenes. I was initially surprised by the effect those dreamlike moving images had on the refugee-children in sometimes “ impossible” situations: Chaos outside the building; shooting, running, shouting… Inside, between 30 to 90 children sitting in an almost dark room very quietly, their little bodies expressing calm, dream and wonder at gently moving human figures. No speech accompanied the performances; only lyre or xylophone every now and then.

When I took the shadow theatre into other threshold situations and places of distrust, fear and restlessness- in Palliative Care for children; and in adult prisons, for example- the same remedial effect became apparent.