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Shadow Theater Comes to Los Angeles

Shadow Thearer

The Radar L.A. Festival presents “Ground to Cloud” a theatre show that uses not only actors but also their shadows for storytelling. Director Christine Marie, who has been studying shadows and experimenting with large scale shadow work for many years has her work now presented at REDCAT (The Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theatre), part of the Disney Hall complex in downtown Los Angeles.

Masks and puppets are very commonly used for storytelling in the oriental world. The director has studied puppetry in Thailand and created a new concept using live actors as well. Instead of having puppeteers behind a screen to make the shadows, the director gave room to actors to help tell the story. The cast of “Ground to Cloud” (Kat Heverin, Carina Haller, Luisa Collins Chris Webb and Eddie Rowland) is responsible for every part of the show. They perform in front of the screen, creating big shadows with their bodies as well as masks and other objects. The acting is phenomenal, and it has to be extremely precise. The lead, Carina Haller, who has a dance background, creates stunning shapes with her body as she dances with a kite, effectively evoking the romance in the story. Any mistake can be seen magnified as their image is being reflected four to six times bigger by their shadows. Nevertheless the actors have complete control over their bodies and facial expressions, which captivate even more than the large scale of the show itself.

“Ground to Cloud” tells the story of Benjamin Franklin finding light for the first time. The team, all students and alumni from the California Institute of the Arts, are trained by Christine Marie for months to learn how to work with shadows. The large-scale shadow theater is a new form of storytelling that has the potential to become a completely new art form in America as new forms of visual entertainments rapidly evolve (think of the popularity of 3D imaging in films, for instance). The cast and the director create everything in the show, and though the visual imagery may seem like special effects straight from a movie, the only digital part of the show is the soundtrack selected to support the story. This is a wonderful opportunity for people who enjoy digitalized entertainment because it is very close to the cinematic feel, even though it is live theatre.