shadow puppets

Definition

Theater

  • Two-dimensional puppets whose shadows are cast on a translucentscreen illuminated from behind; they are usually manipulated by rodsor wires. Shadow-puppet theater originated in the Orient: in India,shadow puppets have been used since ancient times to enact the Hindunational epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, and in China they were usedto present miniature operas in the Song Era (960 - 1279), whiletheir use is also traditional in Bali, Java, Burma, and Cambodia.

    In France the puppets were known as ombres chinoises.Dominique Séraphin opened a shadow theater in 1774 in Versailles;this later moved to the Palais Royal in Paris and was continued bySéraphin's descendants until 1859. From 1887 Henri Rivièredevised sophisticated plays for the Chat Noir cabaret in Montmartre.

    Shadow puppets were taken to America in the 18th century,and in 1893 Léon-Charles Marot presented the Théâtredes Ombres Parisiennes at the Chicago World's Fair. In Britainshadow plays known as galanty shows were presented in conjunctionwith Punch and Judy in the late 19th century. In the Germanyof the 1920s and 1930s Lotte Reiniger made black-silhouette filmssuch as Prince Achmet (1926); her puppets, like those usedin France and Britain, were cut out of tin.

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