Shadow Theater

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Shadow Theater


a type of theatrical performance that tells a story by means of a series of shadows projected on a screen. The shadows are those of flat puppets made from cardboard, leather, or special colored films; the puppets are manipulated by operators using rods or strings attached to the puppets’ joints. The puppets are illuminated from behind and appear as black-and-white or colored silhouettes on the screen.

Shadow theater is most prevalent in Asia and the Near East. It makes use of folklore, the epic, and traditional plots. Subjects drawn from the classical Hindu epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata, are still included in the repertoire of the wandering puppeteers of India and Indonesia. The Indonesian shadow theater is one of the oldest. The performance is under the control of a single person, the dalang, who narrates the events unfolding on the screen to the accompaniment of a gamelan orchestra.

The best-known Soviet shadow plays were created by the artists I. S. Efimov and N. Ia. Efimov in the 1920’s. The Moscow Shadow Theater was founded in 1937.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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