GREEK SHADOW THEATRE HISTORY

Shadow theatre is the ancient performance art form that explores, experiments, and promotes the use of light and shadow, and positive and negative space on a white screen in order to tell a story. Many ancient civilizations have discovered and used this style of low-tech live animation for theatre and/or rituals. Even today in Indonesia, shadow theatre is considered an important and integral part of a complex society, and the status of Dallang, the shadow master, is that of a spiritual consultant of the community. In China and Europe shadow theatre has been popular for comedies, tragedies, and epic histories, entertaining children of all ages that are attracted to the mystery of this school of puppetry.

In 1453, history records an interruption of what Greece has always been famous for: philosophy, architecture, science, art, and theatre. At that time the birthplace of western democracy was ruled by Turkey's Ottoman Empire. The Byzantine predecessor of the Turks did everything in their power to destroy the ancient ways of a culture that put great emphasis on "Katharsis" through the mystery and spectacular ritual of the "theatron." During these times of struggling for freedom and identity, the shadow of a Greek folk hero named Karaghiozis emerged.

The coffee and nargille houses that presented traditional Greek Shadow plays became secret meeting places for audiences that were entertained by the imaginative, chaotic schemes of Karaghiozis and the rest of the shadow puppets in the cast. Those makeshift primitive theatres of centuries past are a perfect example of the radical nature of puppet theatre, not only because the protagonist, fool, clown and creator Karaghiozis makes political commentary due to his relationship with the authority figure the Pasha (the local ruler) but also because in those theatres the fighters and organizers of the 1821 Greek revolution would meet. The puppet show performance space was not only a place flooded with bursts of laughter, it was also a place for the politics, education, news and information that created solidarity within a community.

Leonidas Kassapides leonidaskass@yahoo.com

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