by Ilana Landecker
When I read The Pillowman I instantly thought about using shadow puppets to bring the stories within the play to life.
My hands were sore and there were a few blisters and a cut or two along the way, but it was so fun. And when we were finished, there were all these shadow puppets, and puppeteers got to play with them and use them to tell stories.
What I love about theatre is the collaborative process. You can’t do it alone. Candice, our puppeteer, sat with me and we went through the stories.
We talked about each story, and as we spoke and read the stories, she designed the shadow puppets. We used styrene—raw plastic sheets—to make the shadow puppets.
I worked on the external cutting, which is just cutting the outer shape. Once all the puppets were designed and cut, the internal cutting had to begin. That was the tedious, blister-inducing part. Once that was complete, we had to make and attach the rods. I did the making, Candice did the attaching.
I didn’t even know it was possible to incorporate color in the medium, but once I learned it was possible, I was really excited to be able to have red blood. And a little green pig. We used glass paint for the color effects, because it’s transparent. It worked very well.
The shadow puppet sequences were pre-filmed. There was a videographer and a small team of volunteer puppeteers. In the end, we projected the film onto a screen in the playing space over the course of the show, bringing Katurian’s stories to life in the world of the play.
Everyone learned a lot working on this production. There was a lot of trial and error, but we made it happen. None of us could have done this alone.
It wasn’t until the very end that this final element was added. When the doors opened that first night and our audience started coming in, that’s when the magic started to happen. We all came to life and the electricity in the air was palpable.
And then, just like that, it was over. Far too soon. All those hours, those weeks and months of planning and working and trial and error, the words you’ve said over and over again, these characters that have become a part of you…. all so carefully nurtured… gone. A memory, a story we all shared.
I miss it, and I feel like we’ll keep chasing that rush—that exuberance of connecting with and captivating an audience.
There are still so many more stories to tell. So many more stories to experience.
Ilana Landecker is a member of LITC's Board of Directors, and was the Director of LITC's production of The Pillowman (September 2014).