In the Shadows

Puppetry is about making the impossible possible. It is a magical world that stimulates the imagination and encourages creativity. Create shadow puppet performances grown from your stories of your ancestors - real or imagined.

Shadow theatre is often created with the simplest materials, cardboard and found objects. Using this unique form of storytelling, Sue and Steve will show you how to translate personal narrative into the realm of shadow and light.

Over five days, you’ll design and make at least one shadow puppet and learn puppetry techniques and artistry for a short performance.


Course Info

To begin, Sue and Steve will demonstrate shadow forms they have been exploring and developing over many years. Your creative process will start with storytelling and creating your narratives.

From there, you’ll learn how to look at your stories and decide which best suits to be transferred to the shadow puppetry. Once you’ve chosen your narrative, the puppet design will begin. Sue and Steve will teach in detail how to create shadow puppets with moving parts.

Over five full-day sessions, you’ll design and make at least one shadow puppet and experiment with colour, light and the relationship between the light, the shadow puppet and the screen. The final day will be devoted to group rehearsals and performance.

Shadow puppetry is an ancient art form where the shadow form’s simplicity eclipses the visual noise of everyday life and the digital realm. Only what we need to see is revealed.

Day One

Demonstration of shadow forms and techniques.
Storytelling by the participants.
Choosing stories to work on/deciding on groups.
Guided session on making a simple shadow puppet with a moving part.

Day Two

Working in groups to dissect the narrative and make a list of the puppets and shadow scenery to be made.
Decide on the scale of the puppets.
Make paper patterns for the shadows to refine the design and solve problems before committing to cardboard.

Day Three

Continue puppet making/problem solving using the shadow screen and light to test the progress.

Day Four

Begin rehearsal in groups, and see if more puppets or scenery need to be added. Rehearsals will be guided by the tutors to add refinements and suggestions.
Discover if the piece needs music or vocal support.

Day Five

Final rehearsals performing to each other in preparation for the final performance

To be supplied by participant


Craft knife


Pencil & eraser

Pliers – long nose and blunt nose if you have them


All other materials will be supplied by the tutor for a cost of $25, payable on the first day.

Sydney Puppet Theatre
Course Tutor

Sydney Puppet Theatre

After years of studying theatre, music and dance, Sue Wallace and Steve Coupe fell into puppetry when they were offered touring and residency contracts with the Marionette Theatre of Australia. Performing up to fifteen shows a week in schools around the country and working with some of the nation’s best puppetry practitioners, giving them a wonderful grounding in the puppetry arts.

As founding members of the Sydney Puppet Theatre, they are now recognised as leading puppeteers, with thirty-seven years of performance, puppet construction, writing, directing and devising, and delivering workshops. As the Sydney Puppet Theatre, they have directed numerous long-term projects, including the One Van International Festival of Puppetry in the Blue Mountains and The Rock’s Puppet Cottage in the heart of Sydney.

In recent years they have devised and delivered puppetry workshops for 3rd Space Mob, working with Gumbaynggirr elders and teenagers to explore culture through puppetry. They have run numerous workshops in rod, shadow and hand puppets for libraries, schools and other institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art in Sydney and Canberra University.

In 2021, as part of a bush fire recovery project through the Wingecarribee Shire Council, they led twenty-two children and adults in the workshop series’ 6 Feet and Up’. Participants delved into the world of insects – making them, writing about them, recording their stories and exhibiting their creations.

Sue and Steve have performed by invitation at festivals worldwide and received awards for excellence in puppetry in Serbia, Thailand and Malaysia.

In 2015, following Sue’s Churchill Fellowship research, they opened ImaginArta – the Australian Puppet Centre in Sutton Forest. ImaginArta is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the promotion of puppetry through performance, workshops, exhibitions and discourse.

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