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Manual Cinema Announces 10th Anniversary RETROSPECTACULAR!


Manual Cinema Announces 10th Anniversary RETROSPECTACULAR!

Manual Cinema, the Chicago-based performance collective, design studio, and film/video production company founded by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, Ben Kauffman, Julia Miller, and Kyle Vegter, will celebrate the company's 10th Anniversary with a four-week virtual celebration launching Monday, July 27 at Noon CST.

Titled Manual Cinema's 10th Anniversary Retrospectacular!, this month-long virtual birthday party will bring back four of the company's most seminal shows from the past 10 years on multi-camera, high-definition video and in their entirety.

All four shows will be free to enjoy at Each week's show will be posted on Monday at noon, where it will be available for free, 24/7 on-demand viewing until the following Monday at noon, when it will be replaced with the next week's show.

Here's more information about the four shows in Manual Cinema's 10th Anniversary Retrospectacular!:

Lula Del Ray (2012)

July 27-August 3

"A Spectral Parade of Fantastical Images"
- Ben Brantley, New York Times Critic's Pick, Under the Radar Festival, January 2017

Set in the mid-century American Southwest and inspired by the music of Hank Williams, Roy Orbison, and Patsy Cline, Lula Del Ray is a mythic reinvention of the classic coming-of-age story.

Lula Del Ray is performed with overhead projectors, shadow puppets, actors in silhouette, and live music. Told almost entirely sans dialogue, Lula del Ray is the story of a lonely adolescent girl who lives with her mother on the outskirts of a vast satellite array in the middle of the desert. After a chance encounter over the radio, Lula becomes obsessed with a soulful country music duo, the Baden Brothers. Inspired by their music, she runs away from home and into a world of danger, deception, and disappointment.

Lula Del Ray was developed at the University of Chicago in the Theater and Performance Studies Program where Manual Cinema served as Ensemble-in-Residence in the summer and fall of 2012. It was an Official Selection, Chicago International Movies and Music Festival in 2013, honored for Overall Excellence, Puppetry, in the 2013 New York International Festival, and was an Official Selection at the 2017 Under the Radar Festival.

Credits: Conceived by Julia Miller. Based on original text by Brendan Hill. Designed and Directed by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, and Julia Miller. Original Sound Design by Kyle Vegter with Ben Kauffman. Original Score by Kyle Vegter and Ben Kauffman with Maren Celest, Michael Hilger, and Jacob Winchester. Mask Design by Julia Miller.

Lula Del Ray was filmed in 2016 at Raritan Valley Community College in North Branch, New Jersey. The cast featured in this recording includes Sam Deutsch (Puppeteer), Drew Dir (Puppeteer), Sarah Fornace (Lula del Ray/Puppeteer), Julia Miller (Lula's Mother/Puppeteer), Maren Celest (Live Sound Effects, Vocals), Michael Hilger (Guitar, Percussion, Vocals), Ben Kauffman (Guitar, Bass) and Kyle Vegter (Cello, Vocals).

i??The End of TV (2017)

August 3-10

Set in a post-industrial Rust Belt city in the 1990s and told through a collection of original 70's R&B-inspired art pop songs, The End of TV explores the quest to find meaning amongst the increasingly constant barrage of commercial images and advertising white noise. Two sides of the American Dream - its technicolor promise as delivered through TV ads, and its failure, witnessed in the dark reality of industrial decline - are staged in cinematic shadow puppetry and lo-fi live video feeds with flat paper renderings of commercial products. The show is driven by a sweeping chamber art pop song cycle performed live by a five-piece band.

The End of TV depicts the promise and decline of the American rust belt through the stories of Flo and Louise, both residents of a fictional midwestern city. Flo is an elderly white woman who was once a supervisor at the thriving local auto plant. Now succumbing to dementia, the memories of her life are tangled with television commercials and the "call now" demands of QVC. Louise, a young black woman laid off from her job when the same local auto plant closes, meets Flo after she takes a job as a Meals-on-Wheels driver. An unlikely relationship grows as Flo approaches the end of her life and Louise prepares for the invention of a new one. Their story is intercut with commercials and TV programs, the constant background of their environment.

The End of TV premiered in June 2017 as a commission by The International Festival of Arts and Ideas, New Haven, CT, followed by a sold-out, self-produced run at Chicago's Chopin Theatre in summer 2018. The production was made possible with funding by the New England Foundation for the Arts' National Theater Project, with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The End of TV received ArtsEmeron's 2019 Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Design, Visiting or Large Theatre.

Credits: Screenplay by Kyle Vegter and Ben Kauffman. Direction and Storyboards by Julia Miller. Adapted for the screen by Lizi Breit, Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, Julia Miller, Ben Kauffman and Kyle Vegter. Music and Lyrics by Ben Kauffman and Kyle Vegter. Sound Design by Kyle Vegter. Puppet Design by Lizi Breit. Drew Dir is Associate Puppet Designer and Storyboard Artist. Assistant Director is Sarah Fornace. Costumes and Wigs by Mieka van der Ploeg. Lighting Design by Claire Chrzan. Masks by Julia Miller. Stage Manager is Shelby Glasgow. Production Manager is Mike Usrey. Puppet build interns are Zofia Lu Ya Zhang and Kathryn Ann Shivak.

The End of TV was filmed in 2018 at the Chopin Theatre in Chicago. The cast featured in this recording includes Kara Davidson (Flo/Puppeteer), Aneisa Hicks (Louise/Puppeteer), Jeffrey Paschal (Ensemble/Puppeteer), Vanessa Valliere (Ensemble/Puppeteer), Maren Celest (Vocals, Live Sound FX, Live Video Mixing), Deidre Huckabay (Flutes, Vocals), Ben Kauffman (Vocals, Guitar, Keyboard), Lia Kohl (Cello, Vocals), Kai Black (Drums), Marques Toliver (Vocals, Violin) and Kyle Vegter (Bass).


i??No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks

August 10-17

No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks brings to life the true story of one of the city's most beloved figures by combining intricate paper puppetry, live actors working in shadow, and an original score for an unforgettable multi-media experience.

The first lady of Chicago poetry, Gwendolyn Brooks was an icon, a poet laureate, and a Pulitzer Prize winner. But she was also a treasured educator and mentor to the countless writers and children who knew her as their very own "Miss Brooks." Weaving together poetry, storytelling, sound design, original music, and striking visuals, No Blue Memories is an exploration of Brooks's beloved city and a story of how she navigated identity, craft, and politics over the course of one of the most remarkable careers in American literary history.

No Blue Memories was commissioned in 2017 by the Poetry Foundation for the Brooks Centennial.

Credits: Written by Crescendo Literary (Eve L. Ewing and Nate Marshall). Directed by Sarah Fornace. Music composed by Jamila Woods and Ayanna Woods. Music Direction by Ayanna Woods. Storyboards by Drew Dir. Puppet Design by Drew Dir and Lizi Breit. Sound Design by Ben Kauffman. Costume and Wig Design by Mieka van der Ploeg. Lighting Design by Claire Chrzan. Sound Engineered by Mike Usrey and Kim Kozak. Production managed by Ben Kauffman and Julia Miller.

No Blue Memories was filmed in 2017 at the Harold Washington Library in Chicago. The cast featured in this recording includes Felix Mayes (Puppeteer), Jyreika Guest (Puppeteer), N. LaQuis Harkins (Gwendolyn Brooks/Puppeteer), Eunice Woods (Puppeteer), Rasaan Booker (Haki R. Madhubuti/Puppeteer), Kai Black (Drums), Alexis Lombre (Piano, Vocals), Ryan Nyther (Trumpet), Randle Watson (Trumpet), Ayanna Woods (Bass, Vocals), Jamila Woods (Vocals, Guitar) and Ben Kauffman (Live Sound Effects).

i??Frankenstein (2018)

August 17-23

Love, loss, and discovery merge in unexpected ways when Manual Cinema stitches together the classic story of Frankenstein with Mary Shelley's own biography. This thrilling classic gothic tale about the horrors of creation weaves together the stories of Mary Shelley, Victor Frankenstein, and his Monster using shadow puppetry, a 3D creature puppet, live actors in camera, live music, and percussive robots. In the end, Frankenstein exposes how the forces of family, community, and education shape personhood-or destroy it by their absence.

The Court Theatre commissioned and presented the premiere of Frankenstein in Chicago in November, 2018, with additional commissioning support provided by the University of California, Berkeley. Frankenstein was originally developed with The Public Theater's Devised Theater Initiative in a research residency partnership with the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, with assistance from the Orchard Project, Ari Edelson, Artistic Director.

Frankenstein was the recipient of the 2018 Jim Henson Workshop Grant. Its Court Theatre debut captured five Jeff Award nominations, including new work, sound design, original music, puppet design and projection design. Frankenstein was subsequently presented by The Public Theatre's Under the Radar Festival (New York City) in January 2019. Its international debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival followed in August, 2019.

Credits: Adapted from the novel by Mary Shelley. Concept by Drew Dir. Devised by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace and Julia Miller. Original Music by Ben Kauffman and Kyle Vegter. Storyboards by Drew Dir. Music and Sound Design by Ben Kauffman and Kyle Vegter. Shadow Puppet Design by Drew Dir with Lizi Breit. Projections and Scenic Design by Rasean Davonte Johnson. Costume and Wig Design by Mieka van der Ploeg. Lighting Design by Claire Chrzan. 3D Creature Puppet Design by Lizi Breit. Prop Design by Lara Musard. Production Stage Manager is Erin Albrecht. Video Mixing and Live Sound Effects by Shelby Glasgow. Sound Engineered by Sadi Tremblay and Mike Usrey.

Frankenstein was filmed in 2019 at McEwan Hall at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. The cast featured in this recording includes Sarah Fornace (Victor Frankenstein, Mary Shelley), Julia Miller (The Creature, Elizabeth Frankenstein), Leah Casey (Caroline Frankenstein, Percy Shelley, Vocals), Sara Sawicki (Alphonse Frankenstein, Lord Byron) and Myra Su (Ensemble). Musicians: Peter Ferry (percussion), Zachary Good (clarinets and aux percussion), Deidre Huckabay (flutes, aux percussion, piano) and Lia Kohl (cello, aux percussion, vocals).
Note: Mark your calendar for Manual Cinema's LIVE Tele-FUN-draiser World Premiere Special, the culminating event of Manual Cinema's 10th Anniversary Retrospectacular! Saturday, August 22 at 8 p.m.

Manual Cinema's fans, friends, funders and artists will gather online for a one-night-only retro variety show, including the world premiere of a new, 15-minute work created and performed live by Manual Cinema's five co-artistic directors featuring shadow puppetry, toy theater, cinematic techniques, and innovative sound and music.

Visit for more information.

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