Blog: Playing in the Shadows

Blog by Colleen Marker

When director Jared Reed, announced Hedgerow’s production of Don Quixote would tell the story using shadow puppets, it was an exciting prospect. Cervantes novel is wide and encompassing story, so what better way to bring the larger-than-life elements to life than to make those elements themselves, literally, larger than life; however, as exciting an idea as it was, it was still, a little, daunting. Knowing the majority of the actors on stage had little to no experience puppeteering, it was exciting, and hilarious, to see the entire company rise up to the challenge.  

Now, actors are known for having an myriad of different skills, since our profession requires us to use our bodies and voices as tools, it is essential to be able to pull little tricks out of our pockets at any given time such as speaking in dialects, dancing, or unicycling. As artists we use these skills we accumulate over the years to enhance our storytelling. Along will the help of the director, lights, sound, costume, and in our case, a puppet designer, we create a world and share it with the audience. 

So as soon as rehearsals began we rehearsed with a few of the puppets. From giant horse heads, to little lambs with moveable legs, to lions who roar, the company tried, erred, and tried again to create life out of the beautiful silhouettes provided to us by designer Alisa Kleckner. It was definitely a challenge

Shadow puppets, at first, seem easy to operate, but they are, in fact, deceptively difficult. It was not until Alisa herself came to work with us that the puppets began to come alive. Within an hour of working with her, she revealed how shadow puppets work, which is to say to treat them as a live-action cartoon, using slow, deliberate movements so as not to distract the audience.

Don Quixote is a story of one of the most colorfully written characters in history, a man who had both strong convictions and strong misconceptions about the world around him. Quixote lives in a world of surrealism that he absolutely believes in, and shadow play and puppetry are one of the most creative ways to bring that world to life. Don Quixote is an fantastic and vivid tale all on its own, but when you put the story in the hands of Jared, Alisa and Hedgerow, its impossible to not have a fun creating Cervantes masterpiece.   

COLLEEN MARKER (Ensemble) is in her second year as a company member here at Hedgerow Theatre. Hedgerow audiences would have previously seen Colleen on the Hedgerow stage in Hamlet (The Player Queen), Sense and Sensibility(Lucy Steele) and A Christmas Carol (Ghost of Christmas Past), as well as being a Storyteller in numerous Theatre for Kid’s Storytime! productions. A graduate of Rider University’s Westminster College of the Arts (BA in Theatre Performance), Colleen has worked at theatre’s all over the greater Philadelphia area both on and offstage. Past favorite credits include Delaware Shakespeare Festival’sA Midsummer Night’s Dream(Titania’s Fairy) and The Crucible(Mercy Lewis) Thanks to Sarah, Jared, Penn and the Hedgerow crew for this wonderful experience, and special thanks to Mom, Dad and the whole family for the constant support, and to Joel, for everything.