Shadow Stage UK

... so much more than just hand shadows and shadow puppetry.

Companies around the world have been developing contemporary shadow theatre techniques since the 1980s - long-standing production companies exist in the USA, Germany, Japan, Italy ... but not in the UK ... until now!

Founded in 2009, by Leon Conrad, ShadowStage Productions became the UK's first company specialising exclusively in contemporary shadow theatre productions and techniques.

Contemporary Shadow Theatre

The main difference between traditional and contemporary shadow theatre is the dramatic use of live actors, rather than shadow puppets or hand shadows.

Contemporary shadow theatre developed around the 1980s, after the development of the halogen light bulb enabled clear shadows to be projected at a distance. This innovative breakthrough in the world of lighting enabled shadow theatre practitioners to explore movement in a 3-dimensional theatre space.

The effects were startling ... there was no turning back.

Background to ShadowStage Productions

Leon Conrad came across shadow theatre by accident when working on a retelling of stories from The Arabian Nights which was premiered in August 2009 as "Under The Arabian Moon". Wanting to explore ways of finding a middle ground between storytelling and theatre, he was looking for ways to bridge the gap. Then the light struck - literally. In rehearsal, with Daaf-player Sam Fathi, a chance ray of sunlight happened to fall on the instrument.

The players had already thought of working with instruments as props, lighting the Daaf and using it as a symbol for the moon - the possibility of using it as a shadow puppet screen arose. One thing led to another, and the whole production developed as an exploration of shadow theatre featuring Monooka as the shadow theatre performer.

With the help of colleagues and fellow practitioners, they explored many possibilities.

The results were inspiring - but the team could only go so far on their own, and there was noone in the UK who had the experience and skills needed to develop this kind of work further ... so ultimately Leon decided to attend the 8th Triennial International Shadow Theatre Festival held in Schwaebisch Gmuend in Germany in October 2009 to get more in-depth knowledge of the medium and learn from experienced practitioners of the craft.

He came back even more inspired, and much better-informed with practical experience from an intensive course in how to 'tame light' with Norbert Goetz, one of the leading practitioners of contemporary shadow theatre in Germany.

Current Plans

Contemporary shadow theatre is unique and makes its own demands on writers, lighting designers, musicians, composers, storytellers, puppeteers, etc.

ShadowStage Productions is set up to be a hub of contemporary shadow theatre work in the UK. Interested practitioners are invited to get in touch to discuss ideas they wish to develop specifically for the medium. Leon is keen to produce shadow theatre and is keen to hear from people who wish to work with ShadowStage Productions to develop ideas for their own performances further as well as from venues and theatres interested in hosting shadow theatre performances.

In Preparation

A number of productions are in the pipeline, which include ...

Sonnets from the Shadows

"thy blackness is a spark of light inaccessible, and alone our darkness which can make us think it dark."
An exploration of sonnets of black beauty in the medium of shadow theatre, inspired by works of Edward Herbert, Shakespeare, Poe, Wilfred Owen and Joseph Blanco White.

Just So

"Once upon a time, O best beloved ..."
Tales from Rudyard Kipling retold in contemporary shadow theatre format.

The Rose of Sharon

"Comfort me with apples, for I am sick of love ..."
A dialogue between music theatre and shadow theatre inspired by The Song of Solomon and cultural references to it in history.

The Affectionate Shepherd

"My love is great, and yet I am forlorne."
A poetic shadow theatre dramatisation of Richard Barnfield's 17th Century lyrical lament of love with incidental music.

Brave Marin

A short abstracted shadow theatre dramatisation of a French folk song, in a classic interpretation by Nana Mouskouri (subject to rights clearance).

Kassia: The Love Story of a Byzantine Abbess

"I hate the rich man moaning as if he were poor."
One of the most beautiful women in Constantinople in the first half of the 9th Century. Kassia took part in a Cinderella-type beauty parade and almost got to win the hand of the Emperor Theophilus, but at the last minute, she was betrayed by her intelligence. Not in a position to rule over an empire, she pulled herself together and decided to set up her own. She founded a convent, which became a centre of literature and learning to which Theophilus found himself drawn irresistibly ... the story of their unrequited love still sung within the Orthodox liturgy in Holy Week to this day.

A powerful and innovative shadow theatre retelling with moving music from the Orthodox tradition combined with rich poetic retelling of stories from the bible inspired by Byzantine art and literature bring this haunting story to life once more to celebrate the enduring power of love across the ages.

New Commission

ShadowLight Productions will be commissioning a piece of new writing for Shadow Theatre from talented young writer Terence Steinberg.

Productions will initially be made available in a format which would suit intimate venues of 20-50.

Productions can subsequently be adapted to suit larger venues of up to 120.

Practical experimental sessions

Subject to funding and practical resources, Leon is seeking to set up regular experimental 'play days' for people interested in working in the medium to meet. The idea is to set up a suitable space to try out ideas and encourage people to get together and develop new work in the medium to be taken forward into professional productions. Email Leon using the contact details below if you are interested in taking part.

ShadowStage Productions

Website: www.shadowstage.co.uk

Shadow Theatre Blog: http://leonconrad.blogspot.com/

Email: leon at shadowstage.co.uk (replace 'at' with the @ symbol and delete spaces either side)

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