Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival coming in 2015
Blair Thomas spearheads a new fest aimed at making Chicago a puppet master
by Kris Vire
Chicago’s unofficial Puppeteer General, Blair Thomas, is spearheading a grand-scale new festival aiming to make the city a center for puppet arts.The inaugural Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival is set for January 16–25, 2015, with major institutions from the Art Institute to the Second City on board to present events.
Chicago audiences are well accustomed to puppetry in theater, from companies that specialize in aspects of the genre—Redmoon, Quest Theatre Ensemble, Manual Cinema and Thomas’s eponymous Blair Thomas & Company all come to mind—to the integration of puppetry into more traditional theater by companies like the House Theatre, InFusion Theatre Company or the Hypocrites (whose current production of the Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods includes a deft and charming shadow-puppet sequence).
With Thomas as artistic director and Claire Geall Sutton, former director of theater for the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs, as managing director, the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival will offer public performances, panel discussions and hands-on workshops; a scholarly conference on the art of puppetry will run concurrent to the festival.
In addition to the Art Institute and Second City, the Chicago Humanities Festival, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the Field Museum, Links Hall, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Theater and Performance Studies Program at the University of Chicago and the University of Chicago’s Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts have all signed on as presenters. The festival is intended to become a biannual event.