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About Us

Nestled in the temperate rainforests of Olympia, WA, String and Shadow is a company of artists creating giant puppet shows, masks and costumes, shadow plays, (more petite) traveling puppet shows, and – occassionally – short films.


As storytellers, String and Shadow blur the line between children's stories and stories for adults, creating heartfelt performances for people of all ages. A mix of magical realism, science fiction, and folk tale, their stories take audiences to the surface of moon, into the belly of a giant fish, and to the headquarters of a sinister intergalactic corporation specializing in the production of "worlds." Formed in the fall of 2016, String and Shadow has authored five original shows and toured regionally and nationally across the United States.

Since the onset of Covid-19, S&S has been finding inventive ways to bring live theater to their community in a safe manner. In the spring, they spent two months touring a socially-distanced puppet show through the neighborhoods of Olympia, serenading folks in lockdown. Over the summer they produced possibly the world's first drive-in puppet show, a full-length pageant of giant puppets and masks, with music and narration broadcast on the radio by a low-frequency FM transmitter so audience members could enjoy the show from the safety of their vehicles. 

"Truly beautiful. Every tired activist heart should try to check out this beautiful production. It’s a collective experience, which feels so rare these days, and it’s safe to social distance in your car!"

 - Emily McArthur, audience review 


String and Shadow is committed to bringing high-quality, accessible live theater to their communities. All of their shows are by suggested donation, with no one turned away for lack of funds. Community involvement is essential to what they do, contributing to and informing the work itself. They believe that in this technological time, live theater is a necessary and life-giving practice, providing an opportunity for community members to come together in the public square and engage with each other through story and art. 

Our Founders & Directors


Emily McHugh 

Co-founder and Director

Emily McHugh is a puppet-maker, performer, paper-cutter, and printmaker. Since first falling in love with puppetry in 2015, she has collaborated with a variety of creative organizations including Paperhand Puppet Intervention, The Olympia Family Theater, Airbound Arts, The Cabiri, and Big Show City. She co-founded String and Shadow with Donald Palardy in 2016. In addition to all the sketching, sculpting, painting, sewing, cutting, gluing, stapling, and drilling that goes into making a puppet show, she also teaches workshops on her craft and works as an event organizer. In 2019, Emily acted as the Creative Director for Radicackalacky, a festival 


Donald Palardy III

Co-founder & Director

A street performer with a B.S. in Computer Science, Donald Palardy has been fusing art and technology for live performances in Olympia, WA since 2016 - developing immersive light and sound experiences for puppet shows, variety acts, burlesque and experimental theater. He has used his passion for programming and hobby electronics to build fully automated puppet worlds out of 3D printed gears, microcontrollers, motors and corn starch. Since co-founding String & Shadow Puppet Theater, he has developed and managed their mobile theater infrastructure - setting up and breaking down an entire small theater's worth of sound and light equipment every performance in order to deliver an entirely unique theater experience directly to the people.

He can often be found on the streets of Olympia disguised as an animal playing folk music.

of radical puppetry in Durham, NC. She also organized the Samhain Forest Parade in Olympia last Halloween.