Since 2000, with sturdy paper, sharp cutting tools, a simple screen, and a lamp or two, Mary Amato and Andrea Caspari have been creating and performing as Firefly Shadow Theater.
Initially inspired by small-scale parlor entertainment of the past, such as Alexander Calder’s Le Grand Cirque, and 19th century experiments with shadow theater such as le Chat Noir’s theatre d’ombres, we pushed ourselves to create intriguing puppets and to play with lighting, music, and set design regardless of the size of the screen or the audience.
Hooked, we began researching and studying the fascinating history of shadow puppets at the Library of Congress, contacting and interviewing master shadow theater artists, dreaming up ever-more complicated shows, applying for and receiving grants, and expanding our reach. Our journey has brought our performances to college campuses, jazz clubs, and historic barns in Washington DC, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island, and our workshops to school children in Maryland, youth workers in Albania, and refugees in Thessaloniki, Greece.
For various shows over the years, we have employed the talents of Bob Hersh, Ivan Amato, David Voss, and most notably Jenny Hersh, who became actively involved as a maker of original puppets and scenes, with a flair for animating puppets. Three things helped us most along the way: the pleasure of collaborative creativity, friendship, and humor.
Even now, after we’ve worked on a project for hours, snipping bits of negative space out of a shape here and joining two other shapes with string there, we’re always astonished by what happens when the house lights go out and we flick on our stage lamp…the ancient magic of shadows at play.