Tag Archive: shadow puppets

7/7/16 UPDATE:  Click here for photos by Alaina McCallum of the Open Heart 575 zine release gathering!

it’s been a while since an Open Heart Show. the Project has always continued because it’s my life, but i haven’t put together a new community show since i left california. and hey, i may not until i’m back in california again, but i am putting on an Open Heart(575) Shadowjam next weekend, Saturday, July 2, at my house. (if you don’t know where that is, contact me. if i don’t know you already, you’ll have to convince me i can trust you.)

here’s the sched, then see below for more details if you’re wanting them. people tend to come and go through this process, being present when that fits with their moment. this type of engagement is wholly welcome.

4:00pm – house open for puppet crafting

Supplies that will be provided include but are not limited to: theater lighting gels, cardboard, double-sided tape, 575 poems, glue sticks, various sized blades, odds-and-ends, printed transparencies, scissors, ideas, joint mechanisms, other materials with varying degrees of transparency and type of texture. It is not required, but if you are so moved, you are encouraged to bring whatever materials inspire you too! Keep in mind that an overhead projector (OHP) will be our primary light source.

8:00pm – prepare space for sundown

We’ll break from crafting and prepare the space for the setting sun and jamming. Hopefully, we’ll be on the roof. Fingers-crossed for good weather. Seattle in early July? The chances are good, but never sure. Potluck will also take place during this time. Please bring something to share if you can.

9:30pm – gathering of the vibes

Beamster will open the Shadowjam with the Welcoming Story during which all those present are invited to bring their voice, movement, imagination, and fearlessness (even if it’s about fear) to the co-creation of a magical world that only exists in those moments of happening.

Midnightish – jam closes

we awaken ourselves from the collective dreaming, and a brief record of what we recall is generated before dispersing.

the theme of the night’s Shadowjam is Open Heart 575, a zine being created from a condensed selection of 70 poems i’ve written since February of last year. these poems explore my experience of the relationship between heart opening, cyclically debilitating depression, and radical intimacy, through the 5-7-5 syllable meter form of poetry commonly associated with the haiku. the 200-copy zine will be available to everyone present then later distributed at the whim of serendipity and deep connection. this is the thematic place from which i’ll be beginning my contributions of story, sound, and puppet. however you end up building on that will be understood to be connected to the theme. so as usual, the theme is a starting point, not a boundary.

If you want more info on what a Shadowjam is, you could start by checking out this post.

If you want more info about the Open Heart Project, this link starts you off with the grant report from the first incarnation in 2008 then the most recent one that had a show in 2013. there’s lots more in between.

I look forward to creating with you!

Poster art by Lush Newton.

Poster art by Lush Newton.

Blue Bird by James Hildebrandt

Blue Bird by James Hildebrandt

Blue Bird (detail) by James Hildebrandt

Blue Bird (detail) by James Hildebrandt

On Friday and Saturday, March 22-23, I will be joining Gamelan Sekar Sequoia in the accompaniment of a shadow show created and presented by James Hildebrandt. This shadow play is based on the piece he entered to the Open Heart Show back in December. We will be performing as part of the PROFESSOR WILLIKERS! PUPPET SLAM at the Arcata Playhouse. The show starts at 8pm each night, and the tickets are $10.

We SHADOWjam-med it out again at the Monster Flat in San Francisco, CA, on February 19, 2012.

Below are some recollections of what we encountered in our shared dream.

All photos are by E. Francis Kohler.

(Photo Credit: E. Francis Kohler) Early in the day, we were able to play a little bit with the sun as our light source, rather than the OHP.

(Photo Credit: E. Francis Kohler) A color version of the MegBeam working on setup.

(Photo Credit: E. Francis Kohler) A puppet made by Leslie Howabauten at the first Factual Fiction SHADOWjam in Arcata, 2011. It continues to haunt & inspire us.

(Photo Credit: E. Francis Kohler) Testing out the new Path puppet made by Francis, creates a fascinating effect with the goat & MegBeam.(Photo Credit: E. Francis Kohler)

(Photo Credit: E. Francis Kohler) And the journey begins ...

(Photo Credit: E. Francis Kohler) Welcome by MegBeam.

Welcome, fellow human creatures.

And we find ourselves at the intersection of the perfect time & place, together here for some moments.

Let us arrive in this here, together, with a sigh *** a sigh.

Let us arrive in this here, together, with a hoot *** a hoot.

and a howl *** a howl.

and a flash *** a flash.

and a hush *** _____________.

What is a SHADOWjam? It is a coming together of people who listen to each other with their everything. The people engage in this listening by being what they must be in response – a sound maker, a silence holder, a light bender, a light chaser, a shadow, a question,

a a a a a a a a …

There are moments when space will abound, spaciousness to your eyes or your ears or your heart.

Don’t be scared of it. I encourage you to embrace it.

And remember: this is not my show. This is our show. Nothing happens without us engaging this Nowness.

(Photo Credit: E. Francis Kohler)

(Photo Credit: E. Francis Kohler) This jam begins with a peregrination of the seed-collector.

(Photo Credit: E. Francis Kohler)

birthing stars in the night

all night

then the selfish gorilla finds

stars are still out at daytime

(Photo Credit: E. Francis Kohler)

eating bluehead

(Photo Credit: E. Francis Kohler) damn, francis, you really captured the almost-impossible to capture.

(Photo Credit: E. Francis Kohler)

(Photo Credit: E. Francis Kohler)

(Photo Credit: E. Francis Kohler)

screaming satan

(Photo Credit: E. Francis Kohler)

(Photo Credit: E. Francis Kohler)

quadrupus is going bowling

while intimidated

colors are walking

& bloodthirsty fox is stalking

(Photo Credit: E. Francis Kohler)

kit carson died

& was buried

in Taos, New Mexico

(Photo Credit: E. Francis Kohler)

the seed of life

is being carried

into the ocean

walking to up

(Photo Credit: E. Francis Kohler)

Elsbeth has been one of the strongest supporters of SHADOWjam in Humboldt. Thank you, and Abby (the roomie) for opening up Noodle Island to the shadows twice already!


did it all begin

in cave juice?

under the moon

of the lost snake?

This way to the SHADOWjam!







suddenly squid

is it time for tea

with bunny

with a crazy fox guy




Bunny, who offers magic tea, and the ship of 7...


eating egg juice

birthing moon juice

mixed with moon

sprouting tea

That crazy fox guy with other creatures, chowing down on star juice.




under the seafloor

is a door

it welcomes you

into new

hibernation of





The egg of lost snake there to the right, floating, floating, floating ...


welcoming hibernating

juice knocking

on the egg of lost snake

Ever wonder where some lightening comes from?


Gotta catch the lightening to eat it.




crawling into hibernating


lightning tastes like butter





Bunny grows wings and the stars gather up.


baby cracking out

knock knock baby

come crack out

of the cave juice

Flapping above the OHP.

Open Heart Project #4:

in correspondence …

Zo*tekh, SHADOWjam, Mail Art, & Saskatchewan Cards integrate in the 4th Open Heart Project themed "in correspondence ..."

In the early part of this year, I applied for grantfunding for OpenHeart#4 (OH4) through the smARTpower program. It was a great learning experience, and I felt validated by their smiling so broadly upon me (for more, refer to https://factualfictionpress.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/lifeupdate-sept6/) – but it didn’t get funded that way *sigh*.

But that’s okay!! So OH4 won’t happen in Africa. Some OH will … but OH4 is developing into a show based out of the SF Bay Area – and will be united with OH4 development pieces in many places! Isn’t that so exciting?!?

I call its theme “in correspondence …” because I will be incorporating an installation and zine using the letters i’ve been writing and scanning before mailing since January 2011, so far totalling about 80 letters. These letters include the weekly postcard to my grandparents, thank-yous, monthly letters to my dad on the full moon, birthday greetings, and attempts at reconciling myself to people from whom i have been estranged. They are truly manifestations of an actively open heart.

My vision is to conduct SHADOWjams and publish Zo*tekh zines related to the concept of open hearts in correspondence, as well as organize another gallery event showcasing my community’s performance and studio artwork about experiences with love & forgiveness. If you already know you are interested in being a part of the OH4, feel free to contact me via email (FactualFictionPress@gmail.com), and keep your eyes peeled for updating posts on this blog.

Thank you to The Ink People, The Fetzer Institute, and Claire Reynolds of KEET-TV for their catalytic involvement in my ongoing Open Heart Project. It won’t be the same without you … but because of you, it has the capacity to continue to evolve in its inspiration among other communities. Thank you again.

OH4 takes flight (MegBeam)

Mind of a Snail inspired me to take up SHADOWjam-ming ...

*>>>> Be sure to read this post first: SHADOWjam Manifesto

a moment in the window of The Green House (Arcata, CA) where I facilitated my first SHADOWjam on Dec11, 2010.

It was the summer of 2008. I had just finished my two terms of Americorps and had started working at the North Coast Co-op, with plans to work there until I transitioned out of the area into the next big steppe of my life, presumably within the next year or so (note: that year is officially 2011 – haha!). I was deeply involved with The Ink People in a lot of ways, in particular in association with Synapsis. In fact, I was spending much of that summer preparing for The Great Puppet Feast, a multi-day-venue puppet festival slated for November. I had already fallen in love with the puppet and realized that I had found my medium, the medium I needed to focus on to follow the highest realization of my artistic path.  So when Leslie Howabauten (then still Castellano)  asked a few of us over email if she could send some puppeteers our way to crash the couch while they were on a performance tour, my heart leapt a little, squealing, “me me me me”. Those puppeteers were Mind of a Snail Puppet Co. They and two accompanying artists joined me in my tiny apartment. I found them some venues to perform their first show, “Dream of a Tree” (check out a video of segments here), and conduct SHADOWjams. I was completely enamored from the first second. Wow, here was a concept that lumped so many of my most beloved experiential morsels into one epic adventure in spontaneous art-making. Those morsels being performance, a sense of playing,

turtle mouth speaks lightning (MegBeam)

experimentation, community building, embracing silence, crafting creatures, layering, responsive sounding, dramatic use of light contrasted with dark, communication, repurposing used materials, song, story … i could see the entirety of my universe in this medium.

Mind of a Snail toured south and then rejoined my Arcata Attic (the nickname i have for the soft story apt i inhabited while working at the co-op). I would not see them again in person until the Regional Puppet Festival in Seattle, summer 2010.  It had been a way intense year in more ways than I can even allude to in this space at this time. So I could hardly be anything but a sponge at that festival adventure. I was loving my first immersion into the puppet community – discovering its intricacies, dreaming up my relationship with it, perceiving my future role in it, observing beautiful puppet work – but I had a real hard time engaging in any sort of productive way. Few conversations or personal interactions – which was such a bizarre state to find myself needing!! I’m the girl whose been known as a conversationalist since she learned to speak,  whose kindergarten teacher declared, “No, you’ll be a chatterbox when you grow up!” But I was crawling into a spirit cocoon. Who talks from inside a cocoon? Except at the SHADOWjam they facilitated one night. It was pretty much the only time I was actively engaged in an exchange with my fellow puppeteers. So emblematic as I reflect upon that experience …

Mind of a Snail released their Manifesto a bit of time after the festival’s end. I had written them permission to begin developing the medium where I am. They were enthusiastically supportive, and I began preparing for my first exercise in

shadow birds meet spirit-heart (MegBeam)

facilitating a SHADOWjam in observance of the close of my 20’s. (yeah, i was born Dec10, 1981 – go ahead, see what stealing my identity will get you ;-P) Saskatchewan Cards made a stunning zine-invite. The Green House was amazingly hospitable for the whole event. It was a spectacular and warm opening to my development in use of the SHADOWjam medium. The main theme was that of goats, which were the subject of the then-upcoming Zo*tekh Project #3: I graze with goat … (further notes on this in later blog posts).

at the 12/11/10 jam: the angel tells the alligator with a quote from Jesus, "the kingdom of heaven is within you." (Alligator w/ a Bird Belly puppet: Leslie Howabauten, Photo: MegBeam)

Later that month I facilitated not only the first SHADOWjam in South Carolina but my first art event in my hometown. I had grown up as a performer in other peoples’ projects. I grew as an organizer and catalyst for my own projects elsewhere, so it was really special to share this part of my self with a few people who had known me the longest – my parents and Chelsea Thompson (my dearest friend from childhood – though she

goats & mystic stand before the door of reality in the First SHADOWjam in SC (MegBeam)

didn’t know that until we were both already adults ;-P) along with a man I had gotten to know as a high schooler but still remains one of the people i respect the most from my hometown, Joey Oppermann. Yes, attendance was sparse at that first SC SHADOWjam but plentiful in dynamacy. We created a story of goats entering a mysterious door, finding the flowers on the other side irresistable to grazing, being transported to magical places, and being met by a mystical woman.

I have since facilitated three more jams in Humboldt and one in San Francisco. (I am saying this on 11/29/11 … there will be more before the end of the year; i promise 😀 – example: Dec2, 2011). I have many dreams about how my journey with SHADOWjam will roll out in the centuries ahead of us. I have several show-starters in production, ones whose concepts have been consciously ruminating inside the cocoon with me while others are mere glimmers of “wha–?”. And my time to emerge as the Beamerfly is just now dawning. That light is peaking over the horizon. Thanks for joining me for the crackling of the crysalis.

spirit-heart opens the door to find a flood plain of splendor (MegBeam)

the mystic woman-angel reappears to cast her shadow (MegBeam)

ANNOUNCEMENT: open heart #4 will be ushered in on the heels of a goat

printed on blue paper with silver pen accents


goat teeth

sometimes we need

oh whoa whoa, whoa whoa whoa

what does sacred even mean?

hands pulling

goat uterus


under the deep blue sea

lots of blue sea


many battles end in bleeding

giant baby reaching

caterpillar crawling

monster emerges from cave

transforms into bird

eating each other


photo credit: Alex Krug

the heat of your breath

on my neck

on the window

causes evaporation

you make me feel like

100 thousand specks of light

in your arms

i feel like the stars

on the horizon

as the moon dips down

holding beautiful

so many animals

photo credit: Phaedra Kossow-Quinn

eating blood

lightening hand on hand

on veil

consuming ocean block of open

hop on screen

through sign

SHADOWjam in Humboldt video

this is not the flyer from the videoed jam ... but fun to document anyway. btw: this flyer was printed on graph paper!

*>>>>>>>>>>>>>> http://youtu.be/cfy-BVZuN3I <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<*

a video by Evan Wrye of Lost Frames (http://www.lostframes.com/)

location: Synapsis Warehouse in Eureka, CA in April, 2011

The stills below are from Evan’s video …

MegBeam with squid squirting droplets of red.

Hands meet OHP.

Jam on, jammers.

Wolf meets bird.

MegBeam on the OHP.

Doors open onto doors.

Or onto lizard.

Monster mouth reappears.

Enter the kangaroo.

MegBeam hearts SHADOWjam.

We are all shadows.

We are all made from light.

the annual december SHADOWjam in Humboldt is arriving on Dec2!

FB Event: http://www.facebook.com/events/145051872267892/

from a SHADOWjam @ Synapsis Warehouse in April 2011

This may be the last SHADOWjam in Humboldt for a while. As many of you know, I have relocated to San Francisco. Of course, i’ll be popping in from time to time cause i love y’all 😀 Join us for this fantastic melding of improvisational, collaborative creation using shadow puppets, storytelling, and sounds.

WHERE? Noodle Island (Elsbeth’s house)

#4 in the Lofts Apts at the corner of 7th/Union, Arcata, CA

WHEN? FRIDAY, Dec 2, 2011

WHAT TIME? Crafting + Pumpkin Pancakes starts at 7pm with the Jam starting at 8:30

WHAT TO BRING? Potluck, musical instruments, inspiration

we be jammin' ...


Mind of a Snail inspired me to take up SHADOWjam-ming ...

What is Shadowjam?
Shadowjam is a fully participatory event where everyone is a performer and everyone is the audience. It’s basically a magical blend of improvised musical jam, in-the-moment shadow puppetry, and spontaneous storytelling.

We start by crafting shadow puppets together around a theme. Then we set up a sheet in the middle of the room…, with an overhead projector and puppets on one side and musical instruments all around. Everyone is encouraged to try any role, whether it’s as a puppeteer, musician, narrator or whatever else. No experience is needed and spontaneity is encouraged. The only requirement is that people try to be present in the moment, listening and responding with the whole picture in mind.

Shadowjam provides a framework for unconditional play within an expressive, inclusive group experience. Participants often describe it as a shared dream.

Who are we?
We are Mind of a Snail, a compost-modernist shadow puppet duo from the west coast of Canada. Since 2003, we have been developing a multi-layered style of visual storytelling using an overhead projector as our main light source. We do performances that combine original music, puppets crafted from recycled waste, masked characters, and eclectic experimentations in lighting and timing. Shadowjam is our delight, we love to share with you!

To light a candle is to cast a shadow.
-Ursula K. Le Guin