Shadow Play: Children Co-create Scenography to Music by Prokofiev and Saint-Saëns


The full report, Shadow Play: Children Co-create the Scenography for Peter and the Wolf and The Carnival of the Animals, can be previewed here and downloaded here.


SHADOWPLAY-STAGEBy arranging shadow-play workshops, the project Musikalsk oplevelsesdesign explored how children can become more engaged and co-creative before, during, and after a family classical-music concert. This report by Erling Björgvinsson summarizes and analyzes the outcome of Shadow Play.

Read the summary below and then either preview or download the Shadow Play report.

By Erling Björgvinsson, senior lecturer in interaction design, School of Arts and Communication, Malmö University.

SHADOWPLAY-PRODUCTION-STATION-CCBY-MEDEACONCLUSION—The shadow-play production shows that it is possible to stretch the concert to include engaging before-the-concert experiences where most of the concertgoers can participate. The different stations and activity programs could accommodate both small and large groups. The Kinect station was, however, a bottleneck because it could only accommodate one child at the time. Given that there were several different activity spaces, most of the children were able to find an activity that they could enjoy. Arranging an activity that happens just before the concert, as opposed to taking place a day or two before, seems to be attractive since it only demands that the adults and children come one or two hours before the concert. For some of the children, the before-the-concert activities affect their experience of the concert. The concert becomes loaded with anticipation and excitement as the children wait for their animals to appear, which increases their feeling of being part of the concert. Further, the questionnaire shows that for one fourth of the children, the before-the-concert activities are “reenacted” after the concert. However, revisiting the concert by listening to the music is still a more frequent post-concert activity.

The children’s and the adults’ views of the concert and the shadow play are quite different. The adults emphasize the importance of raising-up and schooling their children. The children on the other hand highlight how the shadow play allowed creativity, playfulness, anticipation, and togetherness. In a similar vein, the adults who were greatly happy with the shadow-play workshop emphasized the experiential value and not so much the pedagogical value. Even though the children did not to a great degree talk about the value of learning or gaining deeper understanding, some of the children expressed how the shadow play increased their understanding of the music.

SHADOWPLAY-PROPS-CCBY-MEDEAWhat divides the adult concertgoers the most is the usage of visuals during the concert and the aesthetic language of the shadow play. Some simply found the visuals distracting and stealing too much attention from the music. Others favored live performances and the possibilities of touching and trying out the instruments. Yet others found the aesthetic language too primitive. According to some of these adults, it did not play up to their expectations. The Royal Danish Theatre stands for refinement, which the “crude” shadows wavered too far away from. Most of the children were not critical to the aesthetic language/genre. Only a few adults reported that their children had found it too simple or boring. A certain difference in attitude between “heavy users” and “casual users” of the Royal Danish Theatre can be detected. Heavy users are less dissatisfied with the shadow play while the casual users to a larger degree want the concert experience to confirm their expectations of what Royal Danish Theatre is, namely professional, stylish, and refined.

FUTURE WORK—Given that this was the first time that the shadow-play format was tried out, many things could be developed further. The narrative and the dramaturgical framing could be given a more cohesive shape. The pedagogical format could be explored further; children could be given more time to learn and explore both the music and what is possible to do with shadows. The Kinect station would need considerable development to allow for greater expressivity and for collaborative play. On a general level, it would be interesting to explore how the children to a larger degree could engage in the whole creative process. With the shadow play, the creative work is “refined” by professionals. A question worth addressing is if the shadow play could become a more direct representation of the children’s creativity—as was achieved by showing the children’s drawings of Peter and the Wolf, which was shown without being refined by professionals. Further, the shadow-play format did not at all attract new audience groups to the Royal Danish Theatre. It would therefore also be necessary to explore how such a format could be developed so as to establish relations with groups that the Royal Danish Theatre does not reach.

CONTEXT—During the fall of 2013, the Royal Danish Theater (RDT), Medea and the School of Arts and Communication at Malmö University, The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design, and the visual artist Thomas Romlov explored how children can become more engaged and co-creative before, during, and after a family concert. Building upon previous productions, developed and run by Dorte Balslev who has engaged school children in making drawings used as scenography at the RDT’s family concert, we explored how visual co-creation could be expanded to include most concertgoers. This was done by arranging shadow play workshops in the foyer a few hours before the concert.

Preview or download the Shadow Play report.

Links about the Shadow Play experiment
Barn skapar scenografi till familjeföreställning med Det Kongelige Kapel
“Ved at komme ud i Operahuset bryder man grænser”