Oregon Shadow Theatre
Anansi the Spider and the River Goblin - Shadow puppets by Deb Chase    

Oregon Shadow Theatre Presents


An original shadow play
based on African folktales

Shadow puppets and live music
Performed by Deb Chase and Mick Doherty

The West African trickster Anansi the Spider is brought to life by the Oregon Shadow Theatre. As shadow puppeteer Deb Chase manipulates and gives voice to the puppets from behind the shadow screen, Mick Doherty works in view of the audience providing music, voices, and sound effects, and acting as a storyteller. Marimba, Ghanaian hand drum, and thumb piano are among the many instruments and sound effects devices used. The colorful shadow puppets are based on African designs.

Anansi the spider is clever, witty, foolish and greedy. He loves to eat and he hates to work. Anansi plays tricks on everyone and gets into a lot of trouble. In this story Anansi meets a River Goblin, fights a Chimpanzee, and plays a trick on his whole village.

Program running time: 45 minutes

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer review 1/16/91 by Sue Lockett John

Increasingly, live children's theater not only stretches the imagination but expands cross-cultural awareness as well.

..."Anansi The Spider" is taken from West African folklore about a masterfully clever but lazy and greedy spider that loves to eat but hates to work. The Oregon Shadow Theatre team of Deb Chase and Mick Doherty weaves three stories about this timeless trickster into the colorful 35-minute whole that opened last weekend at the Northwest Puppet Center.

Chase runs the "cast" of approximately 60 shadow puppets and scenery pieces from behind the back-lit screen, while Doherty remains in full view to narrate and generate music and sound effects with his one-man band of African instruments.

The effect resembles an animated art film that's respectful to both its subject matter and its audience. The script is easily followed, with kid-pleasing humor and a no-nonsense comeuppance for the conniving hero. The richness of Chase's puppets and Doherty's music is more than enough to keep the accompanying adults engaged.

Chase obviously has invested hours of loving attention to detail in the whimsical ethnic dress of Anansi, his wife and children and their neighbors: Water Goblin, Chameleon, Turtle, Chimpanzee... Doherty, who studied with master drummer Obo Addy to train for this show, shows the same dedication in his music.

More than the simple story itself, it's their talent that makes this collection of folk tales come alive.

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