mummybunchBozeman playwright Ryan Cassavaugh asked me if I’d help create some shadow puppets for his latest play, “Mummy Dearest.” This will be his third year of writing an original Halloween-season comedy for the Verge Theater to stage entirely with life-sized puppets. For a flashback sequence in this year’s show, he and his wife/director Sadie thought it would be great to use shadow puppets.

They had seen some cool use of overhead projectors for shadow puppets, but weren’t exactly sure how the puppets were made. So I did a bit of digging and found a VERY helpful guide (PDF) at Shadowlight.org, where they do some really amazing stuff.

The guide showed how to make shadow puppet joints using fishing line. You simply poke a pinhole through your desired joint and thread a piece of fishing line through it, then burn the ends of the fishing line, so they become little blobs that can’t go back through the pinhole. They worked great and are surprisingly strong!

My Amenhotep puppet for Ryan Cassavaugh's "Mummy Dearest" comedy at Verge Theater.

My Amenhotep puppet for Ryan Cassavaugh’s “Mummy Dearest” comedy at Verge Theater.

I was a bit rushed, so rather than cut out elaborate exacto-knifed detail in card stock, I drew my puppets in Photoshop on my Cintiq display, and printed them on laser transparencies. Note how I duplicated the limbs to provide enough overlap to make the joints (another thing I learned from Shadowlight’s nifty instructions).

I laminated the transparencies to make them more durable. They are not quite as opaque as I’d like them to be, but they’re pretty good, and—most importantly—the shadow sequence got a lot of laughs in the show! (If you’re going to try this yourself, you can click on the assembly images below to see them larger.)

My hope is to create a shadow puppet show of my own to be projected on my front picture window on Halloween! (No guarantees, but if you’re walking down South Grand street in Bozeman on Oct. 31, keep your eyes open.)

“Mummy Dearest” is showing at Verge Theater in Bozeman at 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 2. It’s funny! You should go!

Poking fishing line through the pinhole

Poking the pinhole

After trimming the ends of the fishing line, I used a soldering iron to burn them to blob shapes.

After trimming the ends of the fishing line, I used a soldering iron to burn them to blob shapes.

You can also use the fishing line to make loops to attach sticks to.

You can also use the fishing line to make loops to attach sticks to.

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