2015 Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival Lineup Announced; Runs Jan 14-25

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2015 Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival Lineup Announced; Runs Jan 14-25

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 including marionettes, shadow puppets, Bunraku puppets, tiny toy puppets, and distinctive, innovative styles of contemporary puppetry.

Nearly 50 different performances are currently slated, showcasing 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.

International acts (at press time) include Blind Summit's The Table and Nick Steur in Freeze! at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre; Laurent Bigot in Le Petit Cirque at Adventure Stage Chicago, co-presented with the Chicago Humanities Festival; Stan's Cafe's The Cardinals at the Museum of Contemporary Art; and Daniel Barrow in The Thief of Mirrors at the Storefront Theater.

Visiting U.S. artists include Sandglass Theater's D-Generation: An Exaltation of Larks at the Center for Community Arts Partnerships (CCAP) at Columbia College Chicago; Chinese Theater Works' Rich in Tradition - Chinese Shadow Puppets at The Field Museum; Modern Toy Theatre of David Commander at The Neo-Futurists; and In The Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre: Puppet Pageantry at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts.

Representing the host city Chicago are Manual Cinema's Mementos Mori at the Museum of Contemporary Art; a puppet-centric Dozin' with the Dinos sleepover followed by an Open Mic Puppets day hosted by Jabberwocky Marionettes at The Field Museum; Family Festival: Puppets! an all-ages drop-in festival at the Art Institute of Chicago with performances of Bullooney Puppetworks' The Metamorphosis Box; Blair Thomas & Co.'s The Selfish Giant at Chicago Children's Theatre/Ruth Page Center for the Arts; FlipFlap Productions' The Temp at the Logan Center for the Arts; and Nasty, Brutish & Short Presents..., a showcase of Chicago's rich puppet scene through five unique cabarets of puppet and object theater at Links Hall, as well as a Saturday, late-night International Puppet Slam featuring the riskier short-form work of the festival's visiting artists.

"We are thrilled that more than a dozen Chicago presenting organizations have joined together to ignite the spirit of this citywide event, which spans 10 days and features artists from abroad, from across the United States, and unique work born here in Chicago," said

Blair Thomas, Festival Founder and Artistic Director. "Today, puppetry is a living and thriving art, and the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival is a celebration of its many forms. For those of you whose imaginations are curious and whose hearts are young, I hope you can join us. And for those of you who have yet to see a contemporary puppet show, I can guarantee it will be like nothing you have ever seen before."

The festival website, ChicagoPuppetFest.org, is now live, and is your online gateway to learn about and book tickets to this world pageant of top puppet artists and shows for both residents and visitors to experience in January.

Many tickets are on sale now, or check ChicagoPuppetFest.org for on sale dates, times, ticket prices and more. Sign up at via the website to automatically receive important festival updates including the addition of more performances and venues, and behind-the-scenes news.

Or like the festival on Facebook at Facebook.com/ChicagoInternationalPuppetTheaterFestival and follow the festival on Twitter, @ChiPuppetFest, for social media updates about visiting artists from around the globe leading free, hands-on workshops, panel discussions and special presentations on the history and craft of puppetry.


International acts and artists confirmed today include:

Blind Summit's The Table at Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Thursday, January 14-Sunday, January 25

Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents a return engagement of London-based Blind Summit's The Table. This widely acclaimed production, featuring a cantankerous puppet with a cardboard head immersed in an existential crisis on a table, played to sold-out houses last fall.

Nick Steur in Freeze! at Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Thursday, January 15- Sunday, January 25

Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Richard Jordan Productions LTD present the U.S. premiere of this one-of-a-kind live performance event from Belgium. Winner of the Edinburgh Fringe First award in 2013,creator and performer Nick Steur welcomes audiences as he artfully balances stones without glue or other manipulations.

Laurent Bigot in Le Petit Cirque at Adventure Stage Chicago, co-presented with the Chicago Humanities Festival Saturday and Sunday, January 17 and 18

The Chicago Humanities Festival and Adventure Stage Chicago co-present Laurent Bigot in Le Petit Cirque (The Little Circus.) Within a circus-like, table-top installation, electroacoustic musician Bigot, from Grenoble, France, 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. Action nourishes sound, and sound gives new meaning to action, as spectators skip from one point of view to another, engaging ears, eyes, skin, imagination and thought associations.

Stan's Cafe's The Cardinals at the Museum of Contemporary Art
Thursday, January 22-Saturday, January 24

MCA Stage at the Museum of Contemporary Art presents The Cardinals from the British company Stan's Cafe. In this thought-provoking, witty, and hugely entertaining 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 and act their roles with touching deadpan sincerity.

Daniel Barrow in The Thief of Mirrors at the Storefront Theater
Thursday and Friday, January 22 and 23

The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, as part of its OnEdge series, presents the world premiere of Daniel Barrow's The Thief of Mirrors. Since the early 90s, Barrow, a Winnipeg-born, Montreal-based artist, has developed a unique style of "manual" animation, layering and manipulating his intricate drawings on overhead projectors. With The Thief of Mirrors, Barrow returns to Chicago with the story of a jewel thief who wears the mask of a sad clown. Exploring forgotten sexual mores and kitschy characters, Barrow walks the razor edge of irony, challenging systems of class and control in our culture.

U.S. presentations include:

Sandglass Theater's D-Generation: An Exaltation of Larks at the Center for Community Arts Partnerships (CCAP) at Columbia College Chicago
Friday and Saturday, January 16 and 17

The Center for Community Arts Partnerships (CCAP) at Columbia College Chicago presents this full-length theater piece by Vermont's Sandglass Theater based on stories written collaboratively by groups of people with late-stage dementia. The work, performed by three puppeteers (the caregivers) and five puppets (the residents of a care-facility), is a piece about play, joy, and communication, evoking the complex world of people living with dementia.

Chinese Theater Works' Rich in Tradition - Chinese Shadow Puppets at The Field Museum
Saturday, January 17

The Field Museum presents renowned New York-based shadow puppet theater artists Chinese Theatre Works. Street theaters and festivals in China featuring shadow puppets can be traced back for hundreds of years. The stories within these traditional performances have become legendary. Don't miss this unique opportunity to see this beautiful tradition come to life in a shadow puppetry performance that takes inspiration from The Field Museum's own shadow puppet collection and includes famous stories like Monkey King and Journey to the West.

Modern Toy Theatre of David Commander at The Neo-Futurists
Thursday, January 22-Saturday, January 24

The Neo-Futurists present Modern Toy Theatre of David Commander. The first piece by this New York-based artist is named In Flight, which is set on an airplane that is crashing to mock the market of mis-focusing information and our potential for mass apathy, and question what it is as a species that allows us to look the other way. Next, Commander moves to the miniature sets of Sacrament Burger, which focuses on our disconnection from the function and value of food, how that detachment contributes to the waste of nearly half of all food produced globally, while exploring the inherent need to ritualize the act of eating and how this ceremony is performed within restaurant culture.

In The Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre: Puppet Pageantry at the Logan Center for the Arts
Saturday, January 24

The University of Chicago's Theater and Performance Studies program and the Logan Center for the Arts present Minneapolis-based In the Heart of the Beast Theatre for a full family day of immersion into animation of character through movement and repetition, the ordinary - cardboard, cloth, paint - carries both meaning and connection in this time and this space. Performances and "Make-and-Take" workshops culminate in a building-wide pageant that is part of the Logan Center Winter Family Festival.

Representing the internationally acclaimed puppetry community in the host city, Chicago, are:

Manual Cinema's Mementos Mori at the Museum of Contemporary Art
Thursday, January 15-Sunday, January 18

MCA Stage at the Museum of Contemporary Art presents Manual Cinema, the endlessly inventive group of Chicago artists that uses disarmingly simple tools - live music, paper puppets, overhead projectors - to tell transformative stories that unsettle the boundaries between cinema and theater. With Mementos Mori, a world premiere feature-length performance of cinematic shadow puppetry commissioned by MCA Stage, Manual Cinema offers a beguiling meditation on how digital culture is changing our relationship to death and dying.

Dozin' with the Dinos at The Field Museum
Friday, January 16

Spend the night at The Field Museum, where 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.

Open Mic Puppets at The Field Museum
Saturday, January 17

Puppetry fun continues the next day at The Field Museum, where area puppeteers - young and old, professional and amateur, solo and ensemble - will rotate performances on one of three stages from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Stages will be hosted by Chicago's Jabberwocky Marionettes.

Family Festival: Puppets! at the Art Institute of Chicago
Saturday, January 17

Explore the world of puppets at a drop-in festival for all ages tied to the Art Institute of Chicago's exhibit Puppets!, opening on December 6. Create a story and act it out with hand-made puppets inspired by artwork in the museum's collection and the special exhibition Temptation: The Demons of James Ensor. Make your own puppets and perform a show with family and friends. The day includes two performances of Bullooney Puppetworks' The Metamorphosis Box, a story of transformation and identity told through artistic puppetry, innovative stagecraft, live music and visual narration.

Nasty, Brutish & Short Presents... at Links Hall
Saturday, January 17-Saturday, January 24

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. Co-curated by Links Hall Artistic Associates Taylor Bibat and Mike Oleon, Nasty, Brutish & Shorts Presents... will feature artists including Dave Herzog's Marionettes, Noah Ginex Puppet Company, Meredith Miller, Rough House, Sea Beast Puppetry, Von Orthal Puppets and more to be announced.

Blair Thomas & Co.'s The Selfish Giant at Chicago Children's Theatre
(Ruth Page Center for the Arts) Friday, January 23-Sunday, January 25

Presented by Chicago Children's Theatre, Blair Thomas & Co.'s The Selfish Giant is a musical spectacle created by two Chicago icons, Blair Thomas and Michael Smith, based on Oscar Wilde's classic story about a grumpy giant who forbids children from playing in his garden. With original puppets and live music, The Selfish Giant is enormously imaginative, gigantically whimsical, and sure to thrill giants of all ages.

FlipFlap Productions' The Temp at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts
Friday, January 23-Saturday, January 24

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. This piece was developed by FlipFlap Productions in part through a residency with Summer, Inc. through Theater and Performance Studies at the University of Chicago.

The Volkenburg Puppetry Symposium

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, 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.


The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival (ChicagoPuppetFest.org ) is a direct descendent of three previous festivals from Chicago's past. It is chiefly designed to emulate the Chicago International Theatre Festival from 1986-1994. Then, in 2000, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Performing Arts Chicago presented a four-day international puppet theater festival co-curated by Susan Lipman and Blair Thomas. The third was Puppetropolis, a ten-day citywide festival sponsored in 2001 by the City of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and the Mayor's Office of Special Events.

Fast forward more than a dozen years, and the Chicago-based puppet theater company Blair Thomas & Company founded and is spearheading coordination of the new Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, 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.

Festival partners include many of the city's top cultural institutions (at press time): the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Children's Theatre, the Chicago Humanities Festival, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Columbia College Chicago Center for Community Arts Partnerships, The Field Museum, League of Chicago Theatres, Links Hall, the Museum of Contemporary Art, The Neo-Futurists, The Second City, the University of Chicago's Theater and Performance Studies program, and the University of Chicago's Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts.

A curatorial committee of representatives from each presenting institution is working closely with the festival's Managing Director, Claire Geall Sutton, former Director of Theater for the City of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs, and Blair Thomas, Founder and Artistic Director of the festival, and founder of Blair Thomas & Co.
The inaugural Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the MacArthur Foundation and the Jentes Family Foundation.

For more information, visit ChicagoPuppetFest.org.

Pictured: Top row, from left: Blind Summit's The Table at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Modern Toy Theater of David Commander at The Neo-Futurists, (middle row) Nick Steur in Freeze! at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Laurent Bigot in Le Petit Cirque at Adventure Stage co-presented with Chicago Humanities Festival, Daniel Barrow in The Thief of Mirrors at Storefront Theater, (bottom) Manual Cinema's Mementos Mori at MCA and Blair Thomas & Co's The Selfish Giant at Chicago Children's Theatre.

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