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About Us

String and Shadow is a troupe of multi-disciplinary performance artists based in Olympia, Washington. They create giant puppet shows set to live, original music. As storytellers, String and Shadow create 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 winter of 2017, String and Shadow has authored five original shows and toured regionally and nationally across the United States. They are currently a company-in-residence at The Olympia Family Theater.

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. 

Since the onset of Covid-19, S&S has been finding inventive ways to bring live theater to their community. In the spring of 2020, they spent two months touring a socially-distanced puppet show through the neighborhoods of Olympia, serenading folks in lockdown. That 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 

Their most recent production - Fauna Fantastique - debuted in the summer of 2021 at a public park in Olympia. They are currently in production on a stage-rendition and bi-lingual translation of 2020's The Paper Moon/ La Luna de Papel which will open March 11th at The Olympia Family Theater. They have plans for a new giant puppet spectacle for the summer of 2022.

Our Founders & Directors

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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 had to opportunity to collaborate with a variety of creative organizations including Paperhand Puppet Intervention, The Olympia Family Theater, Airbound Arts, and The Cabiri. 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 a Nutrition Educator with the Thurston County Food Bank. 

In 2019, Emily acted as the Creative Director for Radicackalacky, a festival of radical puppetry in Durham, NC. She also helps organize the Samhain Forest Parade in Olympia on Halloween.

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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.