Shadow Puppets on the Silver Screen

Mementos Mori

I have a confession to make. By the time I’m done writing this I’ll probably have more than that, but I digress. Here goes:  I have never seen a puppet theater show.  I know, I know, it’s an art that’s alive and well, and … wait, you haven’t either?  Well, get ready to be submersed in puppet theater art as Chicago is hosting its first festival in January for ten whole days.  Since we’ll be enduring subzero temperatures at that time (hard to imagine right now, I know) what better thing to do than to traverse the city taking in theater like you’ve never before imagined.

This past Tuesday I attended a work-in-progress showing of Mementos Mori by Chicago’s own Manual Cinema at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA).  (Second and third confessions: I had not previously been to the MCA in the 10+ years I’ve lived in Chicago and I didn’t know they had a theater where they hold all sorts of fabulous performances in theater, dance, film and music.  Now we both know.)   Manual Cinema was founded about four years ago by five Chicago artists all with backgrounds in theater, music, sound and visual arts.  The show they are currently developing in residence at MCA will be presented at that venue during the puppet theater festival.

I had no notion of what I was in for and by the time I left I felt like a child who’d been to the theater for the very first time.  My mind was expanded by the visual spectacle that unfolded before me.  Imagine, if you will, seven overhead projectors (the kind used for snooze-inducing presentations in middle school), three screens on stage, live musicians, actors, and on-stage editing.  The show will encompass three tangential story lines that are presented in analog and digital, 2-d and 3-d, all without a single word of dialog. It employs early cinema techniques juxtaposed with modern technology.  Quite a bit went into the writing of the story line itself and how it should be presented, so that the end result is a tug at your heartstrings and identification with the characters, using shadow puppets and live actors.

I know January seems like eons away but mark your calendars for this city wide event. Manual Cinema’s production of Mementos Mori is the first of its kind especially on such a grand scale and you won’t want to miss it.

Here are links for the specifics:
Manual Cinema: http://manualcinema.com/
Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival:  http://www.chicagopuppetfest.org/  January 16-25, 2015

Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)  http://mcachicago.org/

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