For the 87 monks atop Mt. Washington, Halloween was a time to unleash pent-up energy. The holiday extravaganza gave the SRF monastics license to dazzle the public in the hilltop community in South Pasadena, California. Every Halloween, since the 1970s, monks would create, produce, and perform shows: during the night, 5,000 children, teens, and adults attended.
In 1998, five monks, myself included, performed the Shadow Play. Monk Bret inspired the idea of creating a shadow play. We then connected with Chen-An Chin, author of two books: ‘Lanchou shadow show’ and ‘Reactivity indices for biomolecules’. Mr. Chin’s hobby was trying to save the dying art of Lanchou shadow puppetry: His full-time job was professor of Chemistry at a University in TX. In Chinatown, only a few miles away from Mt. Washington, lived Mr. Chin’s brother–also an expert in Chinese Shadow Puppetry. Through Chin’s brother we obtained hand-crafted, animal-hide shadow puppets and were instructed in the ancient, dying art of Lanchou shadow puppetry.
Streaming audio: Listen to the Monks’ Halloween shadow puppet show (11:59)
Monks’ Halloween Shadow Play, The Two Precious Gems, was written, performed, and recorded by:
Director, writer: Br*. Bret
Shadow puppetry: Br. Xavier, Br. Cormac, Br.Scott
Voices: Narrator (Br. Bret); Bix (Br. Clive); Carlos (Br. Xavier); Princess (Br. Joe); Tshaktra (Br. Scott); Tiny Demon (Br. Cormac)
Audio production: Br. Jay
*Br. = Brahmachari, an ordained monk in the Hindu tradition, who vows celibacy, simplicity, obedience, loyalty in the Self-Realization Fellowship Monastic Order.
Special thanks to Chen-An Chin and his Los Angeles brother, and to the monks who I may’ve forgot to mention by name but who nevertheless also inspired, created, and staged the Monks’ Halloween Shadow Play.
Watch video about Chinese shadow puppetry
Questions for readers: Ever seen a live shadow play? Puppets from…?