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Shadow Play: Children co-create scenography to music by Prokofiev and Saint-Saëns

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Björgvinsson, Erling. 2014. Shadow Play: Children Co-Create the Scenography for Peter and the Wolf and The Carnival of the Animals. Medea, Malmö University.

SHADOWPLAY-PRODUCTION-STATION-CCBY-MEDEASUMMARY – By arranging shadow-play workshops, the Interreg project Musikalsk oplevelsesdesign explored how children can become more engaged and co-creative before, during, and after a family classical-music concert. This report by Erling Björgvinsson summarizes and analyzes the outcome.

CONCLUSION – The shadow-play production shows that it is possible to stretch the concert to include engaging before-the-concert experiences where most of the concertgoers can participate. The different stations and activity programs could accommodate both small and large groups. The Kinect station was, however, a bottleneck because it could only accommodate one child at the time. Given that there were several different activity spaces, most of the children were able to find an activity that they could enjoy. Arranging an activity that happens just before the concert, as opposed to taking place a day or two before, seems to be attractive since it only demands that the adults and children come one or two hours before the concert. For some of the children, the before-the-concert activities affect their experience of the concert. The concert becomes loaded with anticipation and excitement as the children wait for their animals to appear, which increases their feeling of being part of the concert. Further, the questionnaire shows that for one fourth of the children, the before-the-concert activities are “reenacted” after the concert. However, revisiting the concert by listening to the music is still a more frequent post-concert activity.

The children’s and the adults’ views of the concert and the shadow play are quite different. The adults emphasize the importance of raising-up and schooling their children. The children on the other hand highlight how the shadow play allowed creativity, playfulness, anticipation, and togetherness. In a similar vein, the adults who were greatly happy with the shadow-play workshop emphasized the experiential value and not so much the pedagogical value. Even though the children did not to a great degree talk about the value of learning or gaining deeper understanding, some of the children expressed how the shadow play increased their understanding of the music.

What divides the adult concertgoers the most is the usage of visuals during the concert and the aesthetic language of the shadow play. Some simply found the visuals distracting and stealing too much attention from the music. Others favored live performances and the possibilities of touching and trying out the instruments. Yet others found the aesthetic language too primitive. According to some of these adults, it did not play up to their expectations. The Royal Danish Theatre stands for refinement, which the “crude” shadows wavered too far away from. Most of the children were not critical to the aesthetic language/genre. Only a few adults reported that their children had found it too simple or boring. A certain difference in attitude between “heavy users” and “casual users” of the Royal Danish Theatre can be detected. Heavy users are less dissatisfied with the shadow play while the casual users to a larger degree want the concert experience to confirm their expectations of what Royal Danish Theatre is, namely professional, stylish, and refined.

Download the report and learn more on the project website: