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Lunar New Year: Richmond Gateway shadow puppet workshop lights up darkness

Chinese shadow puppetry is a centuries-long form of storytelling.
Annie Katsura Rollins
Annie Katsura Rollins in China for a puppetry workshop.

Gateway Theatre is hoping to bring some light and creativity to these dreary times with two shadow puppetry workshops as part of the 2021 Lunar New Year celebrations.

Children and families are invited to join the theatre’s virtual workshops, led by Toronto-based artist Annie Katsura Rollins, to learn the history of Chinese shadow puppetry as well as how to make their own paper theatres.

Jasmine Chen, artistic and community producer at Gateway Theatre, said the main goal of the workshops is to brighten up this year’s Lunar New Year celebrations by focusing on bringing light to the “past year where there has been a lot of darkness.”

“Lunar New Year and the theme of using light and shadows is such a big part of lantern culture, which symbolizes finding that light in the darkness,” said Chen.

“Celebrations for this event always falls in the middle of the Canadian winter, where days are shorter and darker, so we are excited in finding light and creative play in these dreary times.”

Chinese shadow puppetry is a centuries-old form of storytelling in which two-dimensional puppets are held between a light source and a screen (or scrim) to create silhouetted figures which act out the story.

Traditionally, shadow puppets are made of hide – animal skin – and paint, but in Rollins’ workshops, families will use materials that can be found around the house such as paper and markers.

Chen told the Richmond News they wanted to find a creative way to offer a fun, interactive and cultural workshop that allowed families to celebrate together while respecting pandemic restrictions.

“We wanted to continue this theme of paper puppetry and continue exploring these forms of puppetry from different cultures,” said Chen, adding that they started the idea of paper theatres back during Halloween last year.

The workshops will be held Feb. 15 and 21 via Zoom and require a $5 admission fee per household.

The Feb. 15 workshop will be offered in English and is geared towards kids age eight to 12.

The Feb. 21 workshop will be offered in English with a Mandarin language interpreter.

For more information and to register, visit