Shadow Show

On November 3, 2018, the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival Neighborhood Tour brought a live puppet theater performance to The Commons for the second time in 2018. Sweet Water Foundation’s Maker Space, located in the basement of the Think Do House, was transformed into a wonderland during Tom Lee’s “Shadow Show” of Tomte. Read on to find out more about the magical afternoon.


Children, their caretakers, and kids of all ages gathered in front of a large screen in the Maker Space to watch the story of Tomte come to life through a shadow show. Except for the light from the puppet show, the Maker Space was completely dark - the room was silent except for the music and story of Tomte. Tomte (gnome) is a Swedish myth of a small creature that protects farmers, particularly during the nighttime. The audience watched in awe as Tom Lee brought the story of Tomte to life, reminding the group of the importance of being kind to everyone and everything.

Shadow puppets have been used by people across the world for centuries to tell stories. Pieces of paper are cut out with intricate details, and when held in front of a light, are tripled in size as they are projected onto a screen. Others tell their stories using their hands to form shapes and cast shadows onto the wall. Shadow shows are typically presented in dark rooms, bringing the stories to life with light and sounds.

Following the performance, Tom Lee led the children in a puppet making workshop. Children used their imaginations and creativity to make their own paper puppets. They then brought the puppets (dinosaurs, elephants, shoes, and more) behind the screen to share their own stories with the group. Through the puppet making workshop, families were shown the simplicity and beauty of sharing stories.  

The Commons will host the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival Neighborhood Tour again in January. More details to come!

Courtney Hug