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Puppets Coming to Chicago

By Le Bon Travel and Culture

Chicago. Organizers of the inaugural Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival announced today the line-up of top contemporary puppets acts and artists from around the world, the U.S. and Chicago to be presented at venues large and small throughout the city January 14-25, 2015.

Founded to establish Chicago as a center for the advancement of the art of puppetry, the 11-day, city-wide Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival will showcase an entertaining and eclectic array of puppet styles from around the world. Nearly 50 different performances are currently scheduled, and will showcase more than 50 artists and a dozen puppet theater acts from around the globe, presented by 10 Chicago top cultural institutions in partnership with the festival.

The new Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival www.ChicagoPuppetFest.org is intended to be a bi-annual event to establish Chicago as a prominent center for the art of puppetry practices by artists in the world today.

Here are the presentations:
Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents Blind Summit’s The Table. Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand Ave., January 14- January 25    $20-$35.Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents The Table – the widely acclaimed production that played to sold-out houses last fall. Come meet Moses – a cantankerous puppet with a cardboard head immersed in an existential crisis on a table. Intended to be a theatrical interpretation of the biblical story of Moses, The Table is performed by a grizzled, crotchety old man – but the grumpy puppet narrator strays far from the planned storyline.

MCA Stage presents Manual Cinema’s Mementos Mori, Museum of Contemporary Art, Edlis Neelsin Theater, 220 E. Chicago Ave., January 15-January 18 $28; $22 MCA Members; $10 students. Manual Cinema, the inventive group of Chicago artists, uses simple tools – live music, paper puppets, and overhead projectors – to tell transformative stories. Their enchanting works unsettle the boundaries between cinema and theater.

With Mementos Mori, their new feature-length performance of cinematic shadow puppetry, Manual Cinema offers a beguiling meditation on how digital culture is changing our relationship to death and dying. Mementos Mori weaves together three interrelated stories about death and technology. After she steals a pocket watch from his grandmother’s mysterious visitor, five-year-old Melba sees visions of dying birds. A washed-up TV host with heart problems, Mel finds unexpected romance in the arms of a bewitching stranger. And bike messenger, Marie, finds herself playing a life-or-death chess match with a dangerous opponent.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Richard Jordan Productions LTD present Nick Steur in Freeze! Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand Ave.January 15- January 25  Times and ticket prices TBA. Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents the U.S. premiere of this one-of-a-kind live performance event from Belgium. Winner of the Edinburgh Fringe First award in 2013, Freeze! blurs the line between performer and audience as all collectively experience the unexplainable harmony that comes from balance and focus.

The Center for Community Arts Partnerships (CCAP) at Columbia College Chicago presents Sandglass Theater’s D-Generation: An Exaltation of Larks The Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan Ave. January 16 and 17, 6 p.m. $20   A piece about play, joy, and communication. A piece about dementia. From playful story circles to dark private terror, from lyrical inner visions to demanding confrontations, from the reflections of caregivers to the fragmented memories of residents of care facilities,
D-Generation: An Exaltation of Larks is a full-length theater piece based on stories written collaboratively by groups of people with late-stage dementia. The work is performed by three puppeteers (the caregivers) and five puppets (the residents of a care-facility). Set to a compelling original score and striking animated video segments, D-Generation takes us into a world that is all too much a part of our lives.

The Field Museum
presents Dozin’ with the Dinos, The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr. January 16, 5:30 p.m.- January 17, 9 a.m.$55-$88  For families with children 6 to 12. Spend the night at The Field Museum – Sue the T. rex is having a special, puppetry-filled sleepover! Bring the family for puppet shows, activities and self-guided tours. Then spread your sleeping bag amidst some of the most popular exhibitions. Bring your family and friends for a night of puppetry and fun you’ll never forget at Chicago’s Field Museum, one of the largest natural history museums in the world.

The Field Museum
presents Open Mic Puppets hosted by Jabberwocky Marionettes
The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., January 17, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.General Admission tickets ($13-$18) includes Open Mic Puppets program, which calls on all puppeteers! Be a part of Chicago’s International Festival of Puppet Theater. The Field Museum invites area puppeteers – young and old, professional and amateur, solo and ensemble – to perform on one of three stages at The Field Museum. Application process for family-focused puppet performances will open Monday, September 8 and performances will be confirmed by Friday, October 31. For information www.fieldmuseum.org.

The Field Museum
presents Chinese Theater Works’ Rich in Tradition – Chinese Shadow Puppets, The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr. One performance: Saturday, January 17, 3 p.m., Free with General Admission ticket to the Field Museum ($13-$18) This is a unique opportunity to see a beautiful tradition come to life in a shadow puppetry performance by renowned New York based Chinese Theatre Works (CTW). Featured works will take inspiration from The Field Museum’s own shadow puppet collection and will include famous stories like Monkey King and Journey to the West, which is still performed today.

The Art Institute of Chicago presents Family Festival: Puppets! Art Institute of Chicago, Ryan Education Center, Modern Wing entrance,159 E. Monroe St., Saturday, January 17, 10:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. See performances of Bullooney Puppetworks’ The Metamorphosis Box at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m, Interactive family gallery tours at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Free. And Visit Puppets!, an interactive installation in the Ryan Education Center where you can create a story and act it out with hand-made puppets inspired by artwork in the museum’s collection and the special exhibit Temptation: The Demons of James Ensor. Create your own puppets in a workshop and perform a show for your family and friends. Enjoy the museum on an interactive gallery tour at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m.

Furthermore, don’t miss Bullooney Puppetworks’ new production The Metamorphosis Box, a surreal story of transformation and identity told through artistic puppetry, innovative stagecraft, live music and intriguing narration. Performances are at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., but space is limited. Free tickets will be distributed in the Ryan Education Center an hour prior to each performance.

In addition to Saturday’s Family Festival, Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival-goers are encouraged to stop by the Puppets! exhibition anytime during the festival. Puppets! debuts in the Art Institute of Chicago’s Ryan Education Center on December 6 and is open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Thursday nights until 8 p.m.) Admission is free. Proof of museum admission or an Art Institute member card is required for adults and children age 14 and over.

Chicago Humanities Festival and Adventure Stage Chicago co-present Laurent Bigot in Le Petit Cirque (The Little Circus), Adventure Stage Chicago,Vittum Theater, 1012 N. Noble St., Saturday and Sunday, January 17 and 18, 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. $20 – on sale in November/  Within a circus-like, table-top installation, electroacoustic musician Laurent Bigot sets various objects in motion. A “circus of sound” and a theater of objects, Le Petit Cirque is made from odds and ends, salvaged material and cheap gadgets.

The piece explores two distinct and interacting concepts. The first is how stereotypical circus imagery alters one’s perception of the performance’s musical aspect. The second, and more abstract, is how sound allows the spectator to see these theatrical situations from a different perspective. The spectator skips from one point of view to another, engaging ears, eyes, skin, imagination, and thought associations.

Nasty, Brutish & Short Presents
Curated by Links Hall Artistic Associates Taylor Bibat and Mike Oleon
Links Hall, 3111 N. Western Ave., Saturday, January 17-Saturday, January 24. $30 NASTYPASS – on sale now; single tickets $8-$15 – on sale September 29. Presented by Links Hall, Nasty, Brutish & Short Presents… showcases Chicago’s rich puppet scene through five unique cabarets of puppet and object theater as well as a late-night International Puppet Slam featuring the riskier short-form work of the festival’s visiting artists.

The Neo-Futurists
present Modern Toy Theatre of David Commander
at The Neo-Futurists, 5153 N Ashland Ave., Three performances: Thursday, January 22-Saturday, January 24, 7:30 p.m., $10. The first piece by this New York-based artist is named In Flight, which mocks the market of mis-focusing information and our potential for mass apathy, and questions what it is as a species that allows us to look the other way. The story begins on an airplane that is crashing. The passengers of the doomed vessel are saturated with fast-paced, numbing entertainment and advertising in an attempt to distract them from their imminent doom. The airline crew use commercials for Sky Mall products, and a talk show that is a demonic blend of ‘Oprah’ and ‘Ellen’ to cull the passengers into being distracted from their fate in flames that is only moments away.

Next, Commander moves to the miniature sets of Sacrament Burger, which focuses on our disconnection from the function and value of food and how that detachment contributes to the waste of nearly half of all food produced globally. It also explores the inherent need to ritualize the act of eating and how this ceremony is performed within restaurant culture.

MCA Stage presents Stan’s Cafe’s The Cardinals, Museum of Contemporary Art, Edlis Neelson Theater, 220 E. Chicago Ave. Thursday, January 22-Saturday, January 24, 7:30 p.m.$28; $22 museum members; $10 students. In this thought-provoking show, three Cardinals in crimson robes are on an evangelical mission. They’re touring a puppet show to broaden knowledge of the Bible, undeterred by the loss of their puppets they take to the miniature stage themselves amid the two dimensional scenery.

Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, as part of its OnEdge performance series, presents Daniel Barrow in The Thief of Mirrors, Storefront Theater, 66 E. Randolph St., January 22 and 23, 7:30 p.m. Free, no reservations required. The Thief of Mirrors is a world premiere story of a jewel thief who wears the mask of a sad clown. His deep, emotive eyes charge the mask with supernatural powers-so captivating is his expression that his gaze can permanently inscribe his visage in the glass.

The Thief of Mirrors pays homage to the classic archetype of the “Kissing Bandit”- the cat burglar who creeps into women’s homes, collects their jewelry, and kisses them in their sleep, leaving them both violated and charmed. Exploring forgotten sexual mores and kitschy characters, Barrow walks the razor edge of irony, challenging systems of class and control in our culture.

Chicago Children’s Theatre presents Blair Thomas & Co.’s production of The Selfish Giant, Chicago Children’s Theatre at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St. January 23-Sunday, January 25 , $28 children/$38 adults; $5 off with promo code PUPPET.The Selfish Giant, a musical spectacle created for Chicago Children’s Theatre by two Chicago theater icons – Blair Thomas and Michael Smith – is based on Oscar Wilde’s classic story about a grumpy giant who forbids children from playing in his garden. After the children are locked out, the trees and flowers refuse to grow and the garden plunges into an eternal winter. Then one morning, the children sneak back into the garden, bringing with them the joyous rebirth of spring. Featuring original puppets and music,

The University of Chicago’s Theater and Performance Studies program presents FlipFlap Productions’ The Temp, Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., January 23-Saturday, January 24, 7:30 pm  $15. Presented by The University of Chicago’s Theater and Performance Studies program, The Temp is a darkly comic tale exploring the life of an over-age temp who wants to be anything else. Told with music, puppets, and video, The Temp confronts demons, strangers, and the eternal search for the bathroom.

The University of Chicago’s Theater and Performance Studies program and the Logan Center for the Arts present In The Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre: Puppet Pageantry, Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St, Saturday, January 24, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Free

In addition to public performances, the festival will present the Volkenburg Puppetry Symposium, coinciding with the festival January 22-24, 2015, hosted by the University of Chicago. A celebration of the form and its contemporary resonances, the symposium will unite scholars and practitioners in unlikely conversations and spontaneous performances. During the day, symposium participants will witness guided exchanges among puppeteers, anthropologists, archaeologists, musicologists and medical doctors; by night, they will join their peers at festival performances in venues around the city.

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