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About Us

String and Shadow is a theater company based in Olympia, Washington. Each summer, they create a giant outdoor touring puppet show that weaves together a variety of puppetry styles, circus arts, and original music. With copious amounts of cardboard, fabric, and paper-mache, String and Shadow's worlds of fantasy and fable aim to pluck at the strings of universal wonder, innocence, and joy. Formed in the summer of 2020 to bring a Drive-In puppet show to their community in lock-down, String and Shadow has gone on to create five original full length shows and to tour their shows throughout Washington. Oregon, California, Montana, and Utah. They regularly collaborate with parks departments, libraries, nonprofits, and public schools to bring their unique performances to the public. They are currently a company-in-residence at The Olympia Family Theater.


Since their founding, all of String and Shadow's shows have been presented on a free/by-donation basis. They believe that access to the arts is a human right, and it is their goal to make high-quality, live theater that is accessible for everyone in the communities they visit. They are also deeply dedicated to creating work that resonates with audiences of all ages. It is their hope that their performances will nurture the imaginations of those young and old, and create environments that pluck at the universal strings of innocence in wonder. They believe that experiencing collective joy strengthens the bonds of community.

Our Mission

String and Shadow Puppet Theater’s mission is to create high-quality, accessible, all-ages theater that nurtures the imagination, sparks joy, and strengthens community through the expansive art forms of puppetry and storytelling.

Our Founders & Directors


Emily McHugh 

Co-founder and Director

Emily McHugh is a puppet-maker, performer, paper-cutter, and print-maker. Since falling in love with puppetry in 2015 as an apprentice with Paperhand Puppet Intervention, she has suffered innumerable paper-cuts and countless hot-glue burns, been compelled to learn the pick-up times of all local cardboard dumpsters, and was once lost in a sea of fabric scraps for three days. Despite all this, she is deeply grateful for the opportunity to make art with her community. 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 to a variety of audiences and teaches puppetry camps at The Olympia Family Theater.


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.

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