Theme: Play and Body
When I was little, one of the simplest ways to entertain myself was hand shadow puppetry. I would spend hours in front of a dimmed kitchen light and tell the most ridiculous story to my audience which could be either imaginary or a collection of different plushies and figurines.
The very first time I discovered this type of performing art, I was watching a bunch of neighbouring kids boasting about how they could make a range of animals with their fingers’ shadows. I learned from them but I could only know what they knew from how to do a hand shadow of a snail, a bird, a dog and a rabbit. Until one day, my parents gave me a picture encyclopedia. I found a two-pages topic about animation production but I was not interested in it then. What caught my attention was a picture with hand shadow puppetry at the very end of the page. It depicted how to make more hand shadow puppets with more animals. Nonetheless, all these still could not satisfy me. I wanted to excel at this art so that I could become the coolest kid in the neighbourhood.
Some days passing by, there was a variety show on TV and that show had hand shadow puppetry. It blew my mind when the person made a signing person with his fingers. The lip-sync of his puppet was so good and I was jumping in excitement yelling “This is it! My time has come!” By the time I went to meet the kids they had their interest fixed on something else. But it did not matter because I decided to have my debut (I was a lonely kid anyway).
As I thought hand shadow puppetry was a dying, I found out that it was still relevant a degree. Through my research, I have uncovered a world of silhouette wonders. Bob Stromberg is the master of the art. He was the person performing on the TV show which I mentioned earlier. I still cannot find someone else who is able to do lip-sync with hand shadows at that excellent level. Hans David, Rafa and Drew Colby are other notable mentions for the field. Then there is TINIVO which is a new exciting shadow show from Ukraine. Their artists not only make complex characters with their hands and fingers, they also do impressions and interaction with their characters as if these are really alive.
With all these references and a tutorial book dated back to Victorian era, I’ve decided to re-launch my show after almost twenty years.
Getting back to hand shadow puppetry is a real challenge. Before doing anything, I look up a few exercises for hands and fingers because my arms and shoulders will get numb after a while. My hands are smaller than most people’s so it cannot produce clear movement while performing. I have to adjust the light a lot of time to magnify the shadow. When the stage is ready, I pre-record my voice singing at a G2 which is around the range of Tenor and Baritone. Then, I lower the tone of my recording and transform it into a male voice. Later, I play the soundtrack while performing puppetry.
It took around 20 takes for the puppet and sound to be in sync. The sole reason for vintage old video as my aesthetic representation is that it can hide the imperfection of the film quality. My phone does not film well in the dark like most phones despite the advertisement saying that it can film HD quality in the dark. Since I’ve decided that the video should be vintage, I apply a scratchy filter on the sounds as well so that the whole set is a completely convincible retro 1930s uncovered recorded performance.
I have had a lot of fun doing this. It helps distracting me from the frustration and stress with other assignments.
It seems like most of the notions of play in all my weekly responses are leaning towards Performance and Solitary Play. In this case, another type of play is introduced: Role Play.
History is a study about humans, about real individuals and societies that provide rich insights to one's awareness and understanding of human nature. History is replete with lessons in how a human could rise to heights of nobility and sink to the depths of squalor. However, history is more than just a study about humans, above all history crucially seeks to humanize (Khan, 2001). Role play allows me to re-enact a known historical event or a historical persona. It requires me to imagine how to act and feel in a particular frame of reference. While engaging in my performance, I realize that it is an actual form of “active learning” which creates interaction between myself and a simulated scenario where the period is 1930s and the place is an Opera house. I have to think of a method to convince the audience to believe in what I am showing them. In arriving at a certain decision, I have to analyse which can be taken advantage as a loophole because this is a one-person production and the lack of props is evident.
The significance of role play is how it enables participants to intensify their understanding of the situation or event being re-enacted thus gaining a deeper insight into key concepts by enacting selective issues to seek for possible solutions (McDaniel, 2000). This will help develop practical skills for professional practice.
Krasner, D., 2001, “Role-Play and Character Building in the Teaching of History.”, Institute of Education (Singapore), 2001, p. 85 - 86
McDaniel, K.N., 2000, “Four Elements of Successful Role Playing in the Classroom”, The History Teacher, pg. 357-62.