• Ayia-Napa
  • Larnaca
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  • Polis
The National Shadow Theatre — Karagiozis
The National Shadow Theatre — Karagiozis
Evgeniya Theodorou
Author: Evgeniya Theodorou
Translation: Frances Ransome

If you’ve been to Cyprus or one of its neighbouring Balkan countries, you’ve probably heard the name Karagiozis, Karagöz or even ... Karagioz. Who is it and why does it come up so often in conversation between local residentsabout the latest, cunning antics of one of their neighbours or friends? You’re bound to hear the occasional outcry in jest: «hey, Karagiozi!»

In order to understand all this, we once again have to take another, relatively small trip back in time to explore the history of the island.

Those who are really gripped by this story and want to learn more are welcome to dive into our master class! Without further ado, let’s get started!

Карайозис (Карагёз)

Karagiozis (Karagöz) is one of the main characters of the area’s folklore and fairy tales, which have been told for centuries in Greece, Cyprus, Turkey and several other countries. The character has been placed on UNESCO’s List ofIntangible Cultural World Heritage and isa shadow theatre puppet with roots in the traditional Turkish play, Karagöz and Hacivat.

Even the name itself comes from the Turkish Kara göz or «black eye».

A fairytale it may be but there’s always a moral to the story…

In the past, puppet plays were a theatrical mainstay in many countries. After all, the show didn’t need a large troupe of actors, and, as we will see, the puppets and set could be made from any materials to hand. They were a popular form of entertainment as well as way of teaching parables in a comic play. The audience, people living in difficult situations or under pressure from the circumstances or conventions of society, often saw themselves in the main character, related to him or sympathised with his problems that were so similar to their own, and were thus consoled.

Historians believe that this type of visual art involving one puppeteer — the narrator, singer and even storyteller of the improvised tales — probably originated in the Indonesian Wayang Kulit puppet show, or perhaps even earlier in the Chinese shadow theatre «pí yĭng xì» (some 1700 years ago). What’s more, the Mediterranean originsare still hotly debated. Some historians see an Egyptian influence.

It is no surprise that one of the most popular theories about how shadow theatre appeared in Asia Minor is linked with an old Turkish legend. It has it that the puppets first appeared in the Sultan’s court, when a commonerapproached him to complain about the laissez-faire attitude of a local official. Using a simple fairy tale, he told the ruler about his plight. It’s said that the sultan was so delighted by the performance that he appointed this wise beseecher as his vizier, andwent on to punish the evildoers.

Another, equally as famous legend has it that both the main characters, Karagöz and Hacivat, really existed. They worked as builders of one of the mosques in the mid-14th century in Bursa, then the capital of the empire.

Their hilarious and farcical antics distracted the other workers from the task in hand, slowing down the construction work, resulting in the ruler simply ordering them to be executed.

However, these hapless workers captured the hearts and minds of the peoplewith their funny jokes so much that they went on to become puppets in the shadow theatre and continued to entertain the whole Ottoman Empire for centuries to come.

Traditional Turkish Theatre: Karagöz and Hacivat

It is still unknown when the first Turkish shadow theatre plays were first performed. What is clear, however, is that local shadow theatre hit its peak popularity in the 16th century among Turkish Muslims.

It is believed that the first play involving Karagöz and Hacivat was performed for Ottoman ruler Sultan Selim I in Egypt after he conquered the country in 1517. It is of note, though, that the 17thcentury Turkish writer Evliya Çelebi claimed that puppet theatre shows were first staged at the outset of Bayezid I’s reign, which spanned the late 14th early 15th centuries.

Whatever the case may be, shadow theatre was widespread throughout the region regardless of religious restrictions. It is well known that in the 16th century, the Grand Mufti Mehmet Ebussuud el-Imadi issued a famous decree permitting the performance of puppet theatre shows involving Karagöz.

Later, this tradition spread extensively across most of the nations in the empire [1]. This was felt most noticeably in Greece, where the main character’s name was later changed to Karagiozis; and in other Balkan countries. In Bosnia (now Bosnia and Herzegovina), for example, Karagöz first appeared after 1463 (the date of the Turkish conquest) under the name of Karađoz or Karadjoz.


The central theme of these traditional Turkish plays is the conflict between the two main characters. They represent two classes: Karagöz is an «everyday guy», one of the masses. He is often illiterate and has a strong, straight-talking character. Meanwhile, Hacivat is one of the intelligentsia and represents the ruling classes. He expresses himself differently from Karagöz using poetic flourishes and literary language.

Despite the fact that the simple peasant Karagöz’s natural wit always defeats his friend’s knowledge and education, his impulsiveness and occasionally excessive simplicity still ruin all the plans and schemes his thinks up, so to speak...

You can watch a video here.

What’s more, Hacivat is constantly trying to «tame» and «enlighten» Karagöz to no avail. The two antagonists even physically differ from each other: Hacivat’s puppet is more mobile in the upper body, it has a refined manner and restrained temper. Karagöz, on the contrary, is wracked with the base tendencies, and occasionally violent outbursts of human nature. This is the essence of his image: his lower body is more pronounced, along with it all its distinct manifestations and physiological needs, which he has no qualms about demonstrating ... he is rude and swears like a sailor.

The other characters in these plays are from the different nations that were once under Turkish rule: Armenians, Albanians, Greeks, Arabs — all recognisable by their costume and dialect.         

The Turkish version of Karagöz can be sly, at times obscene and even cruel. Let's find out more about other characters:

  • the drunk Tuzsuz Deli Bekir who’s always got a bottle of wine,
  • Uzun Efe with his long neck,
  • Kanbur Tiryaki the opium addict that’s always smoking,
  • Altı Kariş Beberuhi the eccentric dwarf,
  • quick-witted Denyo,
  • Civan the big spender,
  • the flirtatious Lady.

The plays may also include dancers, genies, and, as we said above, people from other nations: Arabs that speak Turkish (usually beggars or sweets sellers), a black maid, a young female Circassian servant, an Albanian guard, a Greek who’s usually a doctor, an Armenian servant or money changer, a Jewish jeweller or rag-and-bone man, an Iranian who reads poetry, etc.

The Karagöz puppet shows were hugely popular. They were most often staged in coffee shops. It is of particular note that up until the Tanzimat pro-Western reforms introduced in the 19th century, the plays were rich in political satire and even overflowing with obscenities.

It is thought that the modern Karagöz is almost completely unrecognisable compared to his former incarnation with its characteristic voice due to the longstanding persecution by the authorities and the many changes made to the show [2].

The Structure of a Karagöz Play: Traditionally, it consists of 4 parts

Mukaddime: The introduction. Hacivat performs a semai (which is different in each play), recites a prayer, and speaks directly to the audience telling them that the play they, the respectable public, are about to see is not just theatre, but a reflection of the world around us, which can teach us a great deal. Then, he says he is looking for a friend with a good sense of humour, that can speak Arabic or Persian, and is knowledgeableabout science and art. Hacivat's speech always ends with the following phrase: Yar bana bir eğlence (Oh, for some amusement). Meanwhile, Karagöz enters the stage from the opposite side.

Muhavere: the second part, which comprises a dialogue in the style of a battle of wits between Karagöz and Hacivat ... Karagöz, trying to first speak in Hacivat’s high and mighty style, inevitably gets into a mess, and starts a fight. This part of the play is not always connectedto the next parts (themes take shape spontaneously). It is of particular note that Hacivat usually only demonstrates superficial knowledge on a certain matter, whereas Karagöz seems to always be in the know despite his lack of education and good manners.

Fasil, or the main part of the narrative.

Bitiş: the closing scene: this is customarily a short argument — the quarrel between both actors comes to a head when Hacivat screams at Karagöz that he once again «ruined» all the important plans and has literally «brought the curtain down». Karagöz always responds with the phrase: «May my sins will be forgiven».

Interesting fact: modern Karagöz and Hacivat plays are not always made up of four parts: it’s down to eachparticular puppeteer... a lot of plays are spontaneously performed. Nevertheless, those-in-the-knowpoint out that the repertoire of the modern-day shadow theatrestill has set pieces and a range of traditional scenes that never change.

A lot of the Turkish traditional shadow theatre performances have plenty of songs and short dances, and finish with pictures of bright, colourful festivities or a parade with all the characters [3].

A Little More about Puppetry

The Turkish and Greek theatres have a lot in common but also have different features, which are worth mentioning.

All the puppets were made two-dimensional and depicted the characters in profile. Traditionally, camel leather was used as the primary material: the puppets were not entirely opaque but had small cuts made in some parts in order to let light through.Both the Greek and Turkish shadow theatre traditions involve manufacturing puppets using specially treated leather: it was first soaked in a bran solution, then carefully rubbed clean to soften the material. Then, the leather was dried in the sun (in the summer), smoothed and scraped, and all hair was removed so that the leather would be translucent. Then, a template was used to draw a pattern, which was cut out with a knife with a curved blade (in Turkish, it is called a nevregan). The necessary cuts were made and then the leather was stained with vegetable dyes ranging from translucent soft blue, dark purple and blue, green, olive, red, raspberry, terracotta, to brown and yellow.

In general, the role of the puppet also determined its «design», which had been carefully crafted by generations of artists. All have holes for fastening. This is where Greek puppets differ from Turkish ones in several ways. The variations can easily be seen in pictures.


As for the performance, the puppet theatre’s stage is separated from the viewer by a screen in both «versions»: a frame with any white translucent material stretched over it. Fine Egyptian cotton has been the preferred choice for centuries. Hıstorically, the screen measured 2m x 2.5m; the more recent Turkish theatretraditions have seen it become much smaller: up to 1m x 1.6m. The puppeteer stands behind the screen, holding the puppets up to it, using a lamp as a light source just below the screen.

Oil or kerosene lamps are still believed to casr a good, expressive shadow and make the characters «flicker», which lends them a realistic air. Puppeteers move the puppet near the screen with rods that are held horizontally.Incidentally, Turkish puppets differ from many other well-known shadow theaters worldwide thatcontrol their puppets using vertical rods.

Modern puppeteers [4] can achieve an almost magical transformation of their dolls and each has their own particular style. They use different techniques. For example, Turkish theatre has a puppet with two heads: one of them is hidden behind the body and when the play requires it, that character can «turn into» a donkey by turning the head out of view to be replaced by another one and so on. On average, each puppet is about 24 cm to 35 cm tall. However, Himmet, the equivalent of the Greek Barba Yorgos, is always larger than the others, standing at about 57-60 cm.

Эмин Сеньер (Emin Senyer)

How many people are needed to perform a play, you ask? We have the answer: in Turkish theatre, where there are plays with up to several dozens of acting characters, many of whom have «their own» voices, the main puppeteer (sandıkkâr) needs up to four assistants who perform the different voices, control the puppets, or turn on music.

They were called «hayalî» or «hayalbaz» (as in «imaginary image creator»). A singer (yardak) might sing a song at the start of the play but the puppets are always voiced by other artists during the play.

While the Turkish version of the Karagöz and Hacivat stories were long associated with and performed during the month of Ramadan, in Greece it is the opposite: the Karagöz puppet shows were staged and performed all year round.

Karagiozis — Greek Style

And once again we encounter Karagiozis! Still in the guise of Karagöz, Karagiozis came to mainland Greece from Asia Minor (Anatolia) at the beginning of the 19th century during the era of Ottoman oppression.

By the end of the 19th century, Karagöz had been adapted and hellenized by Dimitrios Sardounis (1865-1912) in Patras. He went by the pseudonym Mimaros, and is considered the father of modern Greek shadow theatre (in Greek: ΘέατροΣκιω'ν). What’s more, Sardunis not only slightly physicallyaltered the main character (giving Karagiozis his a overly long arm, making him a hunchback, etc.), and enlarged the screen from 2 to 4m, but imbued the plays with a more family-oriented styleand transformed them from the previously satirical performances with their inherent, longstanding, blatant sexual overtones.

Димитриос Сардунис (Dimitrios Sardounis)

The play, just like the shadow puppet theatre genre in general, has become a staple of Greek culture [5].

The Greeks’ longstanding favourite character is Karagiozis, a poor Greek hunchback. His right arm is always exaggerated and large, his clothes are torn and patched, and he is always barefoot.

He lives in a ramshackle house with his wife, Aglaia, and three sons during the Ottoman rule.

The set (is the same as in Turkey): stage left is occupied by Karagiozis’ family home, while stage right houses the Sultan’s palace (Sarayi). Therefore, from the audience’s perspective, the puppets depicting the Greek characters in the play are always on the left, and the Turks are always on the right.

Karagiozis’ poverty forces him to regularly employ mischievous or even uncivilised ways to find money and feed his family.

Folklore experts divide the tales and parables of Karagiozis into two main categories: heroic and comedy.

For example, heroic tales are based on oral tradition or true stories about the Greeks experiences under Ottoman rule, where Karagiozis is portrayed as an assistant and friend of the main character.


Modern puppeteers sometimes improvise and think up their own original stories. However, there are a host of traditional stories, which, as we said above, draw on oral traditions and are considered artistic heritage.

These tales are accepted as «canon»: some modern performances include variations on the interpretation of characters and employ audience participation while preserving the accepted plot structure and composition of the play.

The Composition of the Play in Greek Shadow Theatre

At the beginning of any play, Karagiozis appears on stage with his three sons and they all dance and sing. He greets the audience and engages in a humorous dialogue with his children. Then he enters his house.

  1. The Vizier or the local Ottoman governor reports that he has a problem, and he needs someone to do some work for him.
  2. Hadjivatis always obeys him and starts loudly announcing the news (usually alternately breaking into song), until Karagiozis hears about it.
  3. At first annoyed by Hadjivatis’ shouting, he finally decides to take this chance to earn some money (either by helping the Vizier, or not as the case may be, and possibly even fleecing him). He sometimes asks Hadjivatis to help him.
  4. The other characters (see below) enter the stage one at a time in each scene (they often appear with a song that introduces each of them individually); Karagiozis always has a funny conversation with them and makes jokes. He often tricks them, or even annoys or makes them angry.
  5. Finally, Karagiozis is either rewarded by the Vizier, or his misdeeds are revealed and he is punished by the «executor», the bodyguard of Vizier Velingekas.
  6. The conclusion of the play is marked by Hadjivatis and Karagiozis entering the stage together to announce the end of the performance.


The most famous stories about Karagiozis revolve around the following plots:

  • Alexander the Great and the Cursed Snake;
  • Karagiozis the Doctor;
  • Karagiozis the Cook;
  • Karagiozis the Official;
  • Karagiozis the Scientist;
  • Karagiozis the Prophet;
  • Karagiozis the Fisherman;
  • Karagiozis and the Gorilla;
  • Karagiozis and the Ghost.

Let’s get to know the other characters in the traditional Greek shadow theatre of Karagiozis:

Karagiozis is a Greek peasant whose main interests are sleeping and eating. He has a closer relationship with Hadjiavatis than other characters. He hears news from Hadjiavatis, and they often work together to achieve a common goal. Sometimes, though he can become a victim of one of Karagiozis’ tricks.

Kollitiria is the family trio: the three sons of Karagiozis. In a few versions, they have their own names: the oldest and tallest is Kollitiris, the one in the middle in every sense is Svouras, and, finally, the youngest and shortest is Mirigkokos. They are always hungry and ready carry out various feats.

Aglaia is the wife of Karagiozis. She is usually not seen on stage but is heard off-stage, which is, incidentally, a funny example of the «reality» of Cypriot village life. Her shrill, often grumpy voice can be heard all over the neighbourhood from Karagiozis’ house.

Hadjivatis (Hacivat in the Turkish version) is Karagiozis’ friend and accomplice. He’s, an honest and serious character but often winds up involved in Karagiozis’ intricate frauds. He also has the tendency to flatter the authorities; he’s sometimes portrayed as a sycophant and conformist to the occupiers and establishment. This is in contrast to Karagiozis, who cannot fall in line.

Barba Yorgos (also known as Uncle Yorgos) is a rough peasant who lives in the mountains. He is depicted as a shepherd or farmer that has come down from there into the valley out of necessity. His nationality is portrayed as Vlach from Rumeli (the former name for the Balkans). He is not au fait with the intrigues and other habits of the townsfolk, and is always seen as a strong figure in a traditional costume.

Despite the fact that he thinks his nephew is a fraud (and often rightly so), he still helps him out of trouble and heartily takes on all opponents with his allies.

Stavrakas is another puppet (the only one apart from Karagiozis) that has an oversized arm. He is a hero, a macho guy, yet also part of the mangas subculture, that dominated in the first third of the twentieth century in Piraeus. Despite the fact that he often tries to intimidate others, Karagiozis comes out on top and usually teases him.

Signor Dionysios is an Italian gentleman with aristocratic manners from the island of Zakynthos. Owing to his descent from the Ionian Islands, he sings cantatas (madrigals) and speaks Greek with the local dialect.

Morfonios or Morfoni (Μορφονι) is a mumbling character who was brought up in Europe. He is pretty ugly; he has a huge head with an extremely large nose. However, he considers himself a great beauty and is constantly falling in love.

Solomon is usually a wealthy Jewish character from Thessaloniki. He is one of the secondary characters and is therefore not so well known. He speaks in a special way and his image can vary from play to play.

The Vizier, also often called Pasha, is a noble Turkish officer. In a few versions of the play, he dominates over all other conquerors and lives in the palace. He is the starting point for almost all the stories of this «epic»: it is he thatgives the main character his task, and calls on him to achieve various feats, which Karagiozis gets involved in.

Fatme is the daughter of the Vizier. She is a very beautiful young lady. She has a rather positive yet occasionally chaotic role; she either confronts her father, or sets up all manner of difficulties and problems for Karagiozis (she strongly dislikes him, despite his attempts at a gentle courtship in a number of plays) or for some other character.

Velingekas is a palace guard and the bodyguard of the Ruler. He is Albanian. He is the right-hand man of the Vizier (Pasha) and never passes up the opportunity to give Karagiozis a serious beating ... therefore, he in turn gets a beating from Uncle Yorgos (aka Barba Yorgos).

Peponias is a fat officer of the Vizier’s palace. He replaces Velingikas in some versions of the play.

From time to time, new characters are added to this list... for example, Karagiozis’ old father, Nontas.

The Techniques and Tools used in Puppet Making

Since the Sardunis era, modern puppets are often made of thick paper (cardboard). The torso (made of two parts: the upper and lower half of the torso, joined at the waist), the legs (and arms for some characters) were cut out in separate pieces, which were then fastened together with pins.

Most puppets were made up of two parts (the torso and legs) with one joint at the waist. Only two characters, the Jew Solomon and Morfonios, had a movable neck and could therefore turn their heads. Most of the puppets were moved with a stick attached to their backs with the exception of Karagiozis himself, Stavrakas and a few other characters (whose limbs were controlled with additional fixtures.)

The main feature of the stage was the screen, which is painted white and usually covered in fabric, which in the Greek tradition is called «mperntes» (from the Turkish: «perde» — curtain). There were candles or lamps that illuminated the puppets placed between them and the puppeteers (who remained unseen) thus casting their shadows and even colours onto the screen. Later incarnations of puppets had cut-outs, which were specially covered with silk or a special coloured gel, in order to produce this effect that the audience could see through the fabric.

The cheerful hero of these numerous folk plays has also had an influence on modern culture in different countries. For example, traces can even be found in the work of Roger Zelazny (1937-1995), a famous American poet and science fiction writer, the author of a number ofshort stories and novels. They include «... And Call Me Conrad» (also known as «This Immortal»), which won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1966. The irrepressible Conrad (Nomikos), is the main character and the writer has stated that he was inspired by the antics and stalwart character of Karagiozis/Karagöz found in Greek and Turkish folklore.

Greeks and Greek Cypriots use the word «Karagiozis» in their daily speech. They use it to gently mock or make fun of something in a friendly way: it’s «a rascal» or a «clown». However, apparently the shadow theatre artists complain about it these days because «their» Karagiozis is more than just cunning, mischievous, and a clever liar, i.e. an anti-hero of sorts; he’s often also good-natured and loyal. Therefore, his name cannot and should not be used negatively, even if just in jest!


In the 1980s, there was a program called Karagiozis broadcast weekly on Greek TV. The shows revolved around contemporary, educational topics. For example, some of them told the story of how Karagiozis found himself in ancient Greek myths; he also sometimes went to space ... Some of these episodes were broadcast with a live studio audience or were filmed specially for TV and had scenes involving editing or special effects.

If you’re interested, you can watch one of the TV shows called Karagiozis the Singer [6].

It also comes as no surprise that there has been a resurge in interest in our old friend. For example, there have been several attempts to produce Karagiozis comics.

These days, Karagiozis performances are often part of Cypriot cultural and folk festivals [7]. There are performances held with Karagiozis and Hadjivatis (Hacivat or Ivat the Pilgrim), and the other puppets in the classic repertoire of characters, who have long been a very popular form of entertainment. Many of their creators have, in fact, contributed to enriching this artform over the centuries, keeping it alive.

The program includes presentations, exhibitions and shadow theatre performances from Cyprus and abroad, either in its traditional or modern interpretation. It is thanks to these events that visitors will be able to see shadow theatre’s progression over time and appreciate the local features addedin the countries where it flourished.

Sometime in the early 2000s, the traditional Greek puppet theatre started to lose the popularity it had enjoyed in previousdecades: the tales of Karagiozis and friends are now mostly enjoyed by small children, so the number of puppeteers has drastically fallen. However, the national image of this Greek trickster, beloved by the people, remains an important and recognisable folklore icon.

Modern-day Shows in Cyprus

There are many Greek authors working today producing works that explore relationships via folk archetypes (such as Karagiozis as «homo-primitivus» or early man) and images. Of particular note is Lena Kitsopoulou, a professional theatre and film actress, as well as famous storyteller [8]. For example, one of her stories,Καραγκιόζη, from the Great Streets series (2010) was recently staged by Cypriot actors Herodotus Nicolaou and Andreas Araouzos in Nicosia.

Лена Китцоропулу (Lena Kitsopoulou)

Karagiozis the Baker

In response to this keen interest among young people, the 20th Festival of Culture in Paphos (Chloraka), organised by the University of Cyprus, held a staging of the current show run by The Shadow Theater of Yannis Achilleios Pafiou (Λαϊκό Θέατρο Σκιών του Γιάννη Αχιλλέως Πάφιου) thanks to enthusiasm and skill of the modern-day puppeteers and successors of the artform handed down by the founding father: Christodoulos Πάφιος and his son, Achilles Πάφιος. It is a classic comedy upholding the best traditions of the school, which the Pafios family has been passing down from generation to generation for over 30 years.

The show's plot revolves around a bakery across the road from the Seraglio Hotel. The ruler (Pasha) instructs Karagiozis and Hadjivatis on the management of the bakery: he orders them to work and serve the inhabitants of the surrounding lands. Therefore, we see the main character of Greek folk shadow theatre become a real baker. All his friends of all shapes and sizes, well known to all Greeks, come to help. They include Shaban Aga, Uncle Yorgos, and Dionysios.

However, Karagiozis can’t resist playing his usual tricks and getting up to mischief, which leads to very unexpected results... This Karagiozis play received critical acclaim and was loved by audiences alike. It won an award in the National Dramatic Art Competition, and then went on to have the honour of representing Cyprus in a similar international competition held at Pafos 2017.

Future plans include sending a performance to Athens, with the support of the House of Cyprus.

Karagiozis the Cook

Is another example of an adapted version of the classical story, made accessible to everyone. It sees the traditional comedy accompanied by live music in an experimental modern arrangement and is the result of the collaboration between the art workshop and the theatre ΚαραγκιόΖΕΙΣ everywhere! (where Theodoris Kostidakis is part of the legacy of puppeteers) and the Reggetiko project (Socrates Βότσκος), Theodore Koumartzis, and others. The performance of traditional shadow theatre songs is combined with melodies and fragments of songs from reggae, jazz and rembetiko [9].

The story has it that Karagiozis and his friend Hadjivatis open a restaurant. They then make a deal with some musicians to entertain their diners and Karagiozis starts working as the cook. The irrepressible Karagiozis engages in all manner of culinary experiments in a desperate attempt to hide the fact that he can’t cook. Naturally, he often gets into a mess. Rumous of his «success» reach the palace and the cheeky trickster finds his business and even his life under threat.

Where can you go and see a Karagiozis Play in Cyprus?

The ARTos Cultural and Research Foundation

Address: 64, Ay. Omoloyiton Ave. Nicosia
Tel.: (+357) 22445455

The University of Cyprus

Address: 1 Panepistimiou Avenue 2109 Aglantzia, Nicosia
Tel.: (+357) 22894000

The Bread Museum (Το Πλουμιστό Ψωμί)

More about the museum
Address: Grigori Afxentiou St. 9, Limassol
Tel.: (+357) 99 526772

PopUp Festivals (are held in Nicosia every year in December and January)

Tel.: (+357) 22 797400
Other similar shows are performed from time to time in town halls and theatres. For example, there was a show in 2015 in Aradippou.

It’s also worth paying attention to the announcements on this site:

Our Master Class

As you might have guessed, we’re going to suggest you try and build your own shadow theatre.

All those who have decided to delight their children and guests with this new, rewarding form of entertainment will need to stock up on the following tools and materials:

  • A screen (ready-made or a frame that can be stretched to the necessary size covered with white thin cotton or calico);
  • A thin white and decorative colourful fabric (if you want to make both the stage curtain and curtains for the wings), sewing thread, pieces of fine wire — they may come in handy;
  • Rivets and sewing hooks;
  • Mini wooden sticks i.e. those for the barbecue or any other thin, round skewers or thin knitting needles; you’ll also need a straw whose diameter matches that of the sticks.

Don’t forget to prepare the tools you’ll need: a hammer and nails, a stanley knife, scissors and an awl, a hole punch for belts and a press for eyelets (pins); as well as a sewing machine, regular glue and super glue, a ruler and a marker, thick cardboard, a table lamp or torch, double-sided tape or regular tape might also be useful.

1. Let’s start with a puppet

Before you even start: find puppet and set design templates online and print them on paper in order to stock the future «repertoire» of your theatre. Each figure is about 10-15 cm tall. You can also draw them yourself.

The prepared templates (cut with scissors and a stanley knife with the cardboard base) can be painted black or use black paper.

Don’t forget: it's best if your dolls are painted on both sides so they can be shown on both sides.

Making puppets of characters from several interconnected parts is the best way to achieve new interesting effects. However, it does mean we’re complicating the task for ourselves. But, we’re not looking for the easy way out, right?

Take the hole punch and make holes; then fix the parts together using the press for the pins and several rivets: your puppets can already «move» and are almost ready. If you want to make this stage quicker, you can use pieces of wire to connect the parts of your puppets.

Now you need to fix them on the rods. There are two options: vertical or horizontal fastening. The vertical version is easier: cut off a piece of the straw and glue it to the puppet. To perform with the puppet, insert a wooden stick into the tube and control the puppet [10].

2. The theatre’s set design

The details of the set (buildings, trees, hills, etc.) should have already been cut and glued onto cardboard. Then, use super glue to glue them to wooden sticks (with the sharp end downwards).

3. The screen

If you have the chance to buy ready-made materials for home puppet theatre, that’s excellent. If not, then gently stretch a piece of thin white(!) fabric over a frame (canvas stretcher) and affix with a hammer and nails.

Bear in mind: if the bottom of the frame doesn’t have fasteners to attach it to a table, you will need to make them. You could use furniture hinges to attach the screen in the style of a dresser or strengthen the stand for your frame. What’s more, the lower part of your screen (15-20 cm) should be hidden from the audience: this is where the props and light source will be located where the puppeteer is, i.e. «backstage». Keep this in mind whenselecting the size of your screen.

Now, turn to the bottom of the frame and mark out the position of the fasteners: the plastic fasteners used by electricians to fix wires in place are a good option to tighten them to the nails. Alternatively, use the same small pieces of straw.

Then, if you want to make the best possible theatre for your future performances, it is a good idea to attach sewing hooks across the top of the frame with super glue. You can hang a flying bird or cloud on them, for example. Then, glue Velcro to the upper and lower edges of the screen. This also expands your artistic possibilities when decorating the set (bases of houses, flowers and grass, etc.)

You can attach the white screen using Velcro instead of attaching cloth to the frame. Actually, there’s another option: you can use two-sided sticky tape or simply make the screen in the Shoji style — a simple partition with a paper screen (the paper can be different types, but we need a translucent tracing or parchment paper). Take a brush and put glue around the perimeter, then use an iron to glue the paper to the frame.

Tip: With a little more effort, you will get both an original shadow theatre as well as one you can use for other puppet shows.

Those who love a bit of extra decor can add a backdrop curtain: take a piece of decorative fabric and make a valance which you can then attach to the top of your screen. Using a couple of other hemmed strips of material, you can make good curtains for the wings: you can arrange them in such a way that at the end of the play you can release them from removable clips and lower them to cover the screen as would happen in a real theatre.

As the finishing touch: the bottom part of the screen can also be decorated with paint or markers, or stickers, decorative paper, etc.


Voila, your theatre is ready! You can watch a video with an example here.

[1] After the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, the Ottoman state founded by the Turks in 1299 became an Empire and remained so for over 600 years. It became a sultanate and thus gained a foothold in Europe.

[2] The stories about Karagöz and Hacivat have been adapted for the big screen. For example, the film, Killing the Shadows, directed by Ezel Akay was released in 2006.

[3] You can find out more here.

[4] One of the modern leading puppet makers and puppeteers in the Karagöz tradition of Turkish shadow theatre is Emin Senyer (born 1961). He studied puppetry and puppet making from the famous Hayali Metin Ozlen, who was recognised in 1974 by the Ministry of Culture of Turkey as a leading master of this genre of folk theatre. Senyer has repeatedly appeared on Turkish TV (TRT) with his performances, toured almost the entire span of Turkey; and ran courses and led seminars in Turkish universities and schools.Recordings of his performances have been boughtand can be seen abroad: Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museen (Cologne), the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, as well as the Rua Da Marionetta (Lisbon) and the Tartu Toy Museum (Estonia). Senyer has also taken part in international shadow theatrefestivals in Turkey (2006) and Greece (2005), etc.

[5] Following Sardunis’ death in 1912, his students, Theodoros Theodorelios, Yannis Roulias and Memos Christodoulou continued his work and the stories of Karagiozis found wide spread fame throughout Greece in the years that followed.

[6] Puppeteer: Athos Danellis (ΆθωςΔανέλλης), second puppeteer: Apostolis Gravanis (ΑποστόληςΓραββάνης), are composers of this and other performances in the cycle entited Hainidis (Χαΐνηδες).
A brief summary of the play: it’s Fatma’s birthday (the beautiful daughter of Pasha); she is looking for a singer and comic to entertain her guests. Hadjivatis immediately recommends Karagiozis, who is always figuring out new ways to satisfy his hungry stomach, not having eaten for days.

This performance is a feast of music, jokes and comic scenes that are still entertaining even if you don’t speak a word of Greek!

[7] You can read more here: И.В. Тресорукова. Карагиозис — греческий Петрушка. М., 2016.

[8] Lena made her debut in 2006 with her collection of short stories entitled Nichterides (Bats) (published by Kedros publishing).

[9] Rembetiko is a genre of Greek urban criminallyrical music from the 1920s. A rembetikis is someone with a criminal past, or a tramp (in Greek it meansirrepressible). It was only in the 30s that rembetiko songs started to be played in coffee houses and inns. Before that, they were only played and sung in secret, or in dives. In the 50s and 60s,rembetiko and bouzouki enjoyed a new wave of popularity when musicians took to it. Since then, it has lost the association with the world of crime it once had.

[10] There is also a simpler method: attach the stand with double-sided sticky tape. That way, you can make another piece from the template and attach it with the same sticky tape, on the reverse, adding a little glue to keep it in place.


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