Shadowplay is a reflective method. It can be used for storytelling, riddles and to redefine a problem or idea. It requires nothing more than a screen (cloth) with some bright lights behind. Using a big screen allows participants to use their whole body to act without having stage fright, which will create an open ambiance, which has a positive effect on later discussions.


  • Duration
    Short (up to 30 minutes)
  • Complexity
  • Group size
    5 to 40 persons

This activity is not suitable online.

Description Long



  • Cloth (tablecloth, sheet or any other semitranslucent textile), preferably white
  • Frame (two bars or a rectangular frame)
  • Cardboard (not too thick – 150 – 300grs/m2)
  • Sticks (from 30 cm length onwards)
  • Tape
  • Scissors


The stage of Shadowplay is a screen made out of cloth with a bright lamp behind.  The screen could be small to fit on a table or large to fit a person. Shadowplay is a reflective method which creates openness in the formulation of a problem, idea, concept or solution. Using your full body creates a different mindset to allow new insights to happen (somatic experience). It also creates an open ambiance which supports holistic group discussions to happen.




There are three ways to go ahead, each in a slightly different part of the creative process:



  1. Challenge/Game: (opening/ warming up)
    Like charades, one of the participants is asked to act, impersonate or express whilst the rest tries to guess what it is. These could be objects, titles, events or whatever can be associated with the project. Such a game can be used to warm up the participants in the given subject.
  2. Storytelling and reinterpretation of the problem: (clarify the challenge)
    Often problems are more complex than we imagine. Ask the participants to envision an event within the problem in order to reveal the sublayers of the problem. First ask groups of two or more participants to discuss and describe a situation and write it down on a piece of paper. Ask them to prepare to act the situation, using their body and possible props made out of cardboard. Then each group is asked to perform a shadowplay of which the others have to describe the situation. Use these interpretations to redefine the situation and ultimately redefine the problem.
  3. Reinterpretation of ideas/concepts: (opening 2)
    Ideas/Concepts described in words or images can be a limitation to the imagination of the participants. In order to open up one could mimic the solutions and re-describe or explore them in more detail.



Another possibility, for experts, is to ask the participants to act their ideas directly behind the screen. The audience has to interpret the idea which leaves room for new interpretations.




  • Mount a bar at the top and the bottom of the cloth using duct tape (at the top to mount and a rail at the bottom to provide weight to straighten the cloth). Use wire/ropes to hang the top bar from the ceiling.

  • Create a rectangular timber frame and use a tacker to staple the cloth onto the frame. Create a stand to position the frame in the room.
  • Install one bright light as much perpendicular to the cloth as possible. As an alternative you can install the frame in front of a projector and project a white slide.
  • Provide cardboard and sticks and tape for the participants so they can create props.
  • Alternatively provide some outrageous clothing and hats to wear behind the screen. As only the shadow will be visible the shape is important, not the colour…


The process is simple and can be done in three ways:


  • Stationary:
     Up to three people behind the screen – the others as audience to guess or describe the situation.
  • Loop:
    Line up your participants, in which one is acting, one guessing and revolve the line from the front to the back of the screen in a looplike fashion.
  • Spontaneous:
    Use the occasion to let anyone jump behind that has an idea

Tools list

  • Projector
  • duct tape


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