Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival Will Open in January 2015
Chicago residents and visitors can look forward to an exciting and wildly creative new city-wide cultural festival in 2015.
The inaugural Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, debuting January 16-25, 2015, will celebrate the full breadth of the art of contemporary puppetry with an international pageant of top puppets and puppet artists from Chicago, the U.S. and around the world.
Founded to establish Chicago as a center for the advancement of the art of puppetry, the 10-day festival will showcase an entertaining and eclectic array of international puppet styles including marionettes, shadow puppets, Bunraku puppets, tiny toy puppets, and distinctive, innovative styles of contemporary puppetry.
Festival events will be presented by some of the city's top cultural institutions including (at press time) the Art Institute of Chicago, 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 Second City, 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.
In addition to public performances, visiting artists from around the globe will lead free, hands-on workshops, panel discussions and special presentations on the history and craft of puppetry. The festival also will host a concurrent scholarly conference for artists and scholars devoted to advancing scholarship and research in the field of puppetry.
"Puppetry is growing in American theater today. It is frequently employed in both musicals and dramas, and is increasingly viewed as a contemporary art form that crosses the spectrum of audiences from young to old," said Blair Thomas, Founder and Artistic Director of the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival. "Yet there is currently no major international puppet theater festival offered in any other U.S. city. Chicago is ripe to be positioned as a leader in the current renaissance of the art of puppetry. Our city is well-known for having an indigenous theater audience that not only attends performances but supports new works and champions the creation of new art forms."
Many consider Chicago the birthplace of the contemporary art of puppetry. In fact, before 1912 the term "puppeteer" did not even exist in the English language. That was the year the Little Theater of Chicago was founded in the historic Fine Arts Building on Michigan Avenue, and is widely cited as the start of the "Little Theater" movement in the United States.
Ellen van Volkenburg, a director with the Little Theatre of Chicago, needed a program credit for the actors she had trained to manipulate marionettes while speaking the text of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Back then puppet artists were called "showmen," as the art form was mostly associated with sideshows and circuses. Van Volkenberg coined the word "puppeteer" at the dawn of the movement that has brought us to the rich art form now practiced around the world.
Today, Chicago boasts a diversity of cutting-edge puppet companies, ranging from the nationally unique Redmoon, whose language of spectacle is born out of puppetry, to the more intimate Manual Cinema, whose shadow puppet innovations have earned them top awards at national festivals.