Publikacja: Schattentheater Band 2: Kunst + Technik Shadows Theatre Volume 2:Art + Tecgnique

Editor: Rainer Reusch Internationales Schattentheater Zentrum, Schwabisch Gmund ( Deutschland)

Technique Series of books about the art of contemporary international shadow theatre

Editor: Rainer Reusch International Shadow Theatre Centre, Schwabisch Gmund (Germany) 2001 page 112, 140 – 149

Tadeusz Wierzbicki

The theatre of light

Whatever are forms of our expression, whatever is the material basis of manifested emotions, they may act as poetry. Words are not obligatory, it is enough to evoke pictures, shadows, sometimes even some reflexes of light. Reflexes of light – this is my specialty. From poetry of words to poetry of the concrete.

The letter « i » was the point of my anchorage and at the same time my starting point. « i » was speaking. In fact it was its shape that spoke, through its movement. Through its constant changing. “i” in its motion becomes most expressive in the sphere of light and shadow. According to my experience this was the new field of poetry.

My art was born from the temptation to act with light. For me the light is an energy, which reveals the shapes I am intending to show. I accept the light in its various appearances such as natural solar light, the specially framed electric light, the light of a candle, the light of the moon. With this light I obtain pictures which in fact are light reflexes displayed on a screen. My tools I manipulate light with are figures and planes made of substances capable to reflect it (glass, plastic, metal, mirror).


Figures of mine may be compared to decorative cut-outs, orny that they are luminous, in my work I have used various forms of figures which I am presenting in order of their application.

  • Figures on the hard mirror. The hard mirror is a mirror made of glass, metal or plastics. The actual flat figure (e.g. self adhesive foil or paper) is stuck on the mirror. The part covered by the figure is the neutral part of the mirror. This is the active part of the mirror that reflects the light.
  • Painted figures on the hard mirror. It means that we paint a neutral part of the mirror, omitting the active one.
  • Figures on the flexible mirrors. The flexible mirror can be bent in any direction. This influences the shape of figures deforming, enlarging or diminishing them. Both kinds of mirrors, when shifted give an effect of movement, while with a flexible mirror one can also obtain the effect of shape changing.
  • Figures on flexible mirrors made according above presented methods and also given a constant curve. I have done and fixed this bent by means of mechanical acts (temperature, physical power) and chemical reagents.
  • Figures on flexible mirrors (soft ones), mechanically imprinted. It is enough to take a blunt, rounded tool and to impress your own design on the mirror. This design will be reflected on the screen. Also the flexible soft mirror may be shaped in the stream of hot air. If you want you can make your mirror softer by use of some chemical reagents active in the time of its shaping only.
  • Figures with articulated limbs. The idea is to dismember the figure. It means that each part of the figure is presented on the separate piece of the mirror. In course of the performance the player may fix them together and manipulate them as a whole or he may treat them as self-dependent units. In the practice it is so, that you may keep pieces of the mirror in your hand or you may fix them on a special construction. If you use articulated joints you may compose them according to your needs.

The lighting techniques

We can apply the direct or filtered light.

The solar light

It is the main inspiration for my activities and at the same time the big pain, because in Poland the sun appears from behind clouds not very often. The solar light acts efficiently for us in the dimmed room, in which the screen is placed. The screen should be settled perpendicularly to the sun. It should lean according to the latitude (in my country it must be different than in equatorial lands), so that its upper edge could generate a shadow. On the other hand the plane of the screen should be able to receive reflections transmitted to it by figures.

In the open air we take advantage of the direct sun’s action. Inside buildings there is a need to make a slot (an opening) to let the sunbeams enter. The room with the screen should be shadowed and darkened to avoid unnecessary reflections. The slot should be established at the height of the screen, over the manipulator. (In Poland the sun acts the best through such slot between 12 and 1 p.m. in summer months).

The electric light

We do not use spotlights. We need to manufacture a simple lamp composed of halogen bulb without a mirror. We need a black jacket to cover the whole bulb. In the front part of the jacket we make a small rectangular opening, to let the light go through. We fix this lamp to the upper or the bottom edge of the screen, finding the right place for it by trying various possibilities. The manipulator holds the mirror figures in his hands “catching” (receiving) the light of the lamp and transmitting it on the screen. He can obtain different effects according to his will.

The light of a candle. The great value of this light is its fragility, warmness and flickering. This is the light that is really alive. In this case it is obligatory to use a protecting shield between the candle and the audience to hide the candle. This will assure a concentration of the audience attention on the reflections thrown on the screen. It is necessary to choose candles of the clear flames. The room around the candle should be darkened.

The light of the moon. This is a delicate light suggesting the use of music. It may be exploited when the moon is at the full and only in the interior of the house similarly to the sun. So it is necessary to have a suitable slot in the roof of the room where the projection takes place.


Screens may be natural or artificial. The existing wall, which is always ready to receive the light reflections, may be always considered to be natural screen. In many cases we may exploit any imaginable surface such as for example the white neutral T- shirt. Also we can make a special screen of snow. The artificial screens are the special screens made for the projection. I am exploiting the following screens. Their size depends on the artistic concept:

  • A screen from the tracing paper of small dimension (30x45cm), normally in case of exploiting candle light in the darkened room or in the case of exploiting solar light in the open air.
  • A screen of two transparent cloths: black at the side of auditorium and white at the side of manipulator. This allows me to have white pictures at the black ground.
  • A screen from the light, thin cloth, freely hanging, reacting to movements of air, thus ready to be manipulated. It assures you the movement within your projection.

The scenic equipment

For my performances I need a shadowed and darkened room. Depending on the project I can allow participation of 20-80 people. In the case of a bigger production the number of spectators may reach up to 150 people. My theatre equipment consists of a screen, the source of light (a need of a slot for sun or moon, in other cases the electric lamp or a candle) and a special stand to place my figures. I have not special decors, although in some cases they may appear in the form of projection.

edited and translated: Henryk Jurkowski

Editor: Rainer Reusch International Shadow Theatre Centre, Schwabisch Gmund (Germany) 2001 page 112, 140 – 149



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