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The following is a compilation of great ideas and tips from members Deborah Diehl, SheilaB, Jaymie Derden, Amy Crane, Luanne Payne, Neil MacQueen, and CreativeCarol. Your additional suggestions are welcome!

What is "Shadow Theater" ?

It's a fun and surprisingly simple way to "put on a drama" in the classroom.

shadowcross2Rather than acting and speaking parts, students pose and move behind a backlit sheet --dramatizing/posing what's being heard in the narration.

  • No scenery.
  • No elaborate props or costumes needed.
    Because you only see the shadow of the prop, a stick can be a spear, a 2x4 can be a cross, and a bathrobe or piece of cloth can be the costume.
  • No reading or remembering lines.
    Only the narrator(s) need to know how to read.
  • Doesn't need much rehearsal.
  • Emphasizes body language (shape that conveys emotion) rather than facial expressions (which can't be seen).
  • Just a bedsheet and a bright light for set up.
  • And no audience is required.
    Instead, you can just record the play and watch if afterward with your shadow actors (great discussion opportunity).

All of these reasons make it the perfect method of dramatizing a Bible story in Sunday School where you don't know how many kids you're going to have, or where age-range is an issue.

Peter and Jesus - breakfast on the beach


  • Acting behind a screen feels exotic to all ages and gives them a degree of anonymity that allows them to be less self-conscious.
  • It's good for younger kids who can't handle much dialogue and for kids who are shy about speaking parts.
  • This type of drama is great for presenting the BODY LANGUAGE of a story, how Moses "felt" or the Prodigal Son's humility.
  • Children can take on multiple roles because they can simply change a prop to become another character in the drama.
  • If you don't have enough kids for crowd scenes (like Jesus' disciples on the boat), you can make simple "cardboard cut outs" to cast shapes of more disciples if you want to.
  • After dramatizing the story, you can then dramatize key reflections, like "what would two people look like who were fighting, then decided to approach each other and forgive -- like Jacob and Esau."  Or in a Genesis 2 lesson: "What does blame look like? What does humility look like?"
  • Encourages students to show the emotions and attitudes in the story.


  • A White Bed Sheet Is Perfect!
    Shadow screens can be narrow or wide, just keep in mind that the bigger the sheet, the more 'wide' light you'll need.
  • Shadow sheets fixed to a wood frame or hung with rope between posts or walls. They can be hung in a doorway or dropped from a curtain rod that's fixed between two posts or suspended from the ceiling. Use a method that will have the sheet reasonably taut and secure.
  • Plastic Shower Curtains can also be used. Stretch it over a PVC pipe or wood frame and attach with clips or tape.


  • Spot light that sits on the floorYou need a bright light positioned behind the actors. The bigger your screen and the more actors you have, the brighter the light you will need. (Having 2 lights creates competing shadows).
  • You will "focus" your shadows on the screen by adjusting the distance of the actors and light from each other and the screen. Place marks on the floor to remind them where and "where not" to stand.
  • Use inexpensive clamp lights or a spotlight that sits on the floor. Use a "flood light" style of bulb if possible. 100 watt "flood" bulbs in a clamp light worked the best. They have a wide angle and the outer edge of the light beam is brighter than with a standard lightbulb. The LED versions are cooler and typically have a good "white" light. The higher the wattage, the brighter the backlit screen and sharper the shadows will be.

  • Put a switch on the light's cord so that the teacher can control when scenes start and end (if desired).

60-Watt Incandescent Portable Clamp Work Light   

Shadow dramas usually use a script spoken by off-screen narrators. These scripts are usually created by the teacher from the scripture passage -- and made more dramatic with embellishments. Storybook Bibles and online scripts (such as some of those found here at, are a good way to build a script that works for you.

When creating your script, include or emphasize "action words" that can serve as CUES to the actors. Pause and emphasize those words as you narrate, and remember to leave space for the actors to do their thing before continuing your reading.

You can also create your own by looking up the story in THE VOICE version of scripture which breaks down stories like a script. You can see a good example of The Voice's translation/format for Lazarus' story here.

  • Children's Bible storybooks are often a good place to start too. Read the story, then have the kids re-enact it.
  • First, read them the story and discuss it. Then re-read the story and have the children take turns (may do it in groups if you have a large group) they act it out as you read.  You can add to the story drama by adding exaggerated movements to your dialog. For example, for the Good Samaritan... The priest RAISED HIS ARMS in surprise. Then he LOOKED SLOWLY TO THE RIGHT AND SLOWLY TO THE LEFT to make sure no one was watching...

shadow drama


  • Rehearsal is helpful. Listen and discuss the narration.
  • Suggest and practice poses.
  • "Hold" your pose, don't move too quickly.
  • Pay attention to where you're standing. Don't get too close to another actor or to the light or to the screen. (You'll figure these things out during rehearsal).
  • Depending on your presentation, you may either change your scene while the light is on, or do it while the light is off.


  • Kids love to see themselves, it's fun, and it's a good opportunity to discuss and reflect.
  • Recording the drama also gets rid of the need for an audience.
  • Your shadow theater video can also be shared on the church's social media without "privacy" concerns (because the kids' faces are not seen).

Recording Tips:

  • Use a late-model cellphone or video camera that is good in low-light conditions.
  • Put the camera on a tripod to maintain a stable focus on the screen.
  • Have the narrator stand near the camera's microphone for clearer audio.
  • Make sure you have a powercord for the camera AND a cord to plug the camera into a larger screen for viewing by the class!
  • Most cellphones don't "pause" the recording, they stop it. So if you have many scenes in your shadow drama, and stop the camera in-between each scene, you will end up with a series of video files to view. In this case, you may just decide to "let the camera keep recording" and keep your time between scenes very short.
  • If you have an actual video camera, or high-end camera that takes video, it mostly like has a "pause" button that allows you to pause the recording and still end up with only one file to show.


  • Freeze Scenes
    Your shadow drama may also be done with "stills." In other words, the children get in position and hold that position while the narration occurs, like a photograph. Then for the next scene, they get into a new position and hold that position. (Have someone take photos of each scene and you can create a movie of your story.)

  • Puppetsthe story of Moses told using shadow puppets
    Shadow plays may also be done with puppets. For a puppet shadow drama the white sheet is just large enough to cover the front of the puppet area and once again is taut and secure and the light definitely shines from the back. Keep in mind when you are using puppets for the shadows, you may want to use a puppet that gives definition to the shadow.

    Read more about Shadow puppets at this link.


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  • Jesus carries his cross
  • Peter and Jesus - breakfast on the beach
  • 60-Watt Incandescent Portable Clamp Work Light
  • Spot light that sits on the floor
Last edited by Neil MacQueen
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More "Curtain Ideas"


Pop up tents can often be found on sale and be put to multiple uses in the church, including for use as an in-classroom pop-up stage for a Shadow Theater.


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  • Shadow-Theater-Curtain-Tent
Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Lighting Special Effects Ideas for Shadow Drama

How to create some fun background lighting special effects for Shadow Drama, like this Fiery Furnace Scene.

Fiery Furnace Shadow Scene Supporting Members can access the
Writing Team's Daniel 3 ~ Fiery Furnace Shadow Drama Lesson here.

Orange Light for Fiery Furnace

Gemmy Lightshow LightYou can purchase this orange light (pictured on the right) made by Gemmy and may be called either "Fire & Ice Projection Lightshow" or "Lightshow Fire and Ice Spotlight".

Ways to place them, depending on your particular set-up:

  • It comes with a stake that screws into the handle.
  • I didn't screw in the stake, but instead just sat the Gemmy Light on the chair, as shown in the photo below.
  • If placing on the floor, place in 3 stacked bricks–ones with holes–and feed the stake through the hole for stability.
  • To hang, unscrew the stake and zip tie (cable tie) the hanger where needed.

These look amazing as the light swirls, making the actors look like they are surrounded by a blazing fire, see photo below of set-up I used for Shadow Drama, in the left-top corner it shows the effect on the white bedsheet.


A no-cost option and/or “nuther way to do it"

Orange Light for Fiery Furnace

Here I filled a large glass bowl [26 cm (10") high and 23 cm (9") in diameter], with water and a few drops of red food coloring and shone my light through it onto the white bedsheet. The effect is shown in the upper-right corner of the below photo, it gave a nice warm orange glow.


No cost option: Simply have the student's move their hands up and down, wriggling their fingers, to represent flames flickering. Or have someone behind white light wriggle their fingers directly in front of light (be careful as the light bulb will be hot).

Blue Light for Water Stories (Peter Sinks / Jonah / Creation)

Same Water Bowl idea as above, but use blue food coloring instead.

No cost option: Simply have the student's move their arms in wave like motions.

Purple Light for going to NIGHT from Day (Nicodemus)

Same Water Bowl idea as above, but start with a few drops of blue food coloring, then add some red drops until you have your desired purple color. More red will create a redder purple, and more blue will create a bluer purple.


Images (1)
  • Fiery Furnace Shadow Scene
Last edited by Luanne Payne

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