Skip to main content Skip to footer site map


Created specifically for the 2020 holiday season the production is a visually inventive adaptation of Dickens's holiday classic ​​​​​​.


Manual Cinema, the Chicago-based interdisciplinary performance collective, will take on the most famous holiday tale of all time with Manual Cinema's Christmas Carol, a world premiere, live streaming adaption of Charles Dickens's holiday classic created specifically for the 2020 holiday season.

World premiere performances of Manual Cinema's Christmas Carol are December 3-20, 2020. Each show will be performed live in Manual Cinema's Chicago studio in a socially distanced manner, and live streamed to audiences at home.

The stream will be delivered by Marquee TV ( - the foremost digital deliverer for performing arts content. In signature Manual Cinema fashion, hundreds of paper puppets, miniatures, silhouettes and a live original score will come together to tell an imaginative re-invention of this cherished holiday classic.

In Manual Cinema's adaptation of Dickens's classic tale, Aunt Trudy, an avowed holiday skeptic, has been recruited to channel her late husband Joe's famous Christmas cheer. From the isolation of her studio apartment, she reconstructs his annual Christmas Carol puppet show over a Zoom call while the family celebrates Christmas Eve under lockdown. But as Trudy becomes more absorbed in her own version of the story, the puppets take on a life of their own, and the family's call transforms into a stunning cinematic retelling of Dickens's classic ghost story.

Tickets to live streamed performances of Manual Cinema's Christmas Carol go on sale October 5, 2020 at Patrons select a show date and time that fits their schedule and purchase a ticket, same as always.

Show times are Thursday and Friday, December 3 and 4 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, December 5 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Sunday, December 6 at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.; Wednesday, December 9, matinee (time TBA); Thursday, December 10 at 7 p.m.; Friday, December 11 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., Saturday, December 12 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Sunday, December 13 at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.; Wednesday, December 16, matinee (time TBA); Thursday, December 17 at 7 p.m.; Friday, December 18 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.; Saturday, September 19 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Sunday, December 20 at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. (all times CT).

Before each show begins, all audience members will receive an email with a private URL to access and stream their chosen performance. At the end of every show, the video stream will conclude and the link will no longer be accessible.

Stay tuned, however, for a schedule of live virtual post show talkbacks. These will offer the opportunity for audiences to gather live with the show's creative team to learn how Manual Cinema's Christmas Carol is performed.

To create their adaptation of A Christmas Carol, Manual Cinema has been actively seeking commissioning and presenting venues around the country. The idea is to help replenish Manual Cinema's primary source of income: touring, while also offering a prescient work created for the times to its presenting partners. Manual Cinema's A Christmas Carol offers their audiences fresh virtual content during this unprecedented time. In Chicago, Writers Theatre has confirmed it will be the exclusive local commissioner.

At press-time, confirmed co-commissioners include: Cal Performances at the University of California, Berkeley; COCA - Center of Creative Arts; College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University; Krannert Center for the Performing Arts/University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; Millersville University - The Ware and Winter Centers; Moss Arts Center, Virginia Tech; Stanford Live; and Williams Center for the Arts, Lafayette College.

Since its founding in 2010, Manual Cinema has been turning heads in Chicago and around the globe for a decade, combining handmade shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, and innovative sound and music to create immersive visual stories for stage and screen.

The Emmy Award winning performance collective, design studio, and film/video production company was founded in Chicago by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, Ben Kauffman, Julia Miller, and Kyle Vegter. Using vintage overhead projectors, multiple screens, puppets, actors, live feed cameras, multi-channel sound design, and a live music ensemble, Manual Cinema transforms the experience of attending the cinema and imbues it with liveness, ingenuity, and theatricality.

In addition to A Christmas Carol, upcoming projects include the debut of their shadow animations in the film remake of Candyman, directed by Nia DaCosta and produced by Academy Award-winner Jordan Peele's Monkeypaw Productions, slated to open in theaters in 2021.

Manual Cinema is also creating an adaptation of two Mo Willems' children's books, Leonardo, the Terrible Monster and Sam, the Most Scaredy-cat Kid in the Whole World, premiering at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. followed by a Chicago premiere with Chicago Children's Theatre in spring 2021.

In August, the company threw a month-long virtual birthday party, Manual Cinema's 10th Anniversary Retrospectacular!, streaming four of the company's most seminal shows from the past 10 years. Lula Del Ray, The End of TV, No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks and Frankenstein were all presented for free, on demand viewing on multi-camera, high-definition video in their entirety. The 10th anniversary celebration culminated with the live, online world premiere of Dream Delivery Service, Manual Cinema's first socially distanced performance made exclusively for live streaming.

In sum, Manual Cinema has created nine feature length live multimedia theater shows (Lula del Ray, ADA/AVA, Fjords, Mementos Mori, My Soul's Shadow, The Magic City, The End of TV, No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks, and Frankenstein); a live cinematic contemporary dance show created for family audiences in collaboration with Hubbard Street Dance and the choreographer Robyn Mineko Williams (Mariko's Magical Mix: A Dance Adventure); an original site-specific installation for the MET Museum (La Celestina); an original adaptation of Hansel & Gretel created for the Belgian Royal Opera; music videos for Sony Masterworks, Gabriel Kahane, three time GRAMMY Award-winning eighth blackbird, NYTimes Best Selling author Reif Larson and Grammy Award winning Esperanza Spalding; a live non-fiction piece for Pop-Up Magazine; a self-produced short film (Chicagoland); a museum exhibit created in collaboration with the Chicago History Museum (The Secret Lives of Objects) a collection of cinematic shorts in collaboration with poet Zachary Schomburg and string quartet Chicago Q Ensemble (Fjords); live cinematic puppet adaptations of StoryCorps stories (Show & Tell) and NPR's Invisibilia and four animated videos for the Poetry Foundation (We Real Cool, Poem, Three WWI Poems and Multitudes). Manual Cinema's Emmy Award-winning collaboration with The New York Times (The Forger), was nominated for a documentary short Peabody Award and won 2nd prize in the World Press Photo 2017 Digital Storytelling Contest, Long Form.

Manual Cinema has been presented by, worked in collaboration with, or brought its work to: The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC), The Tehran International Puppet Festival (Iran), La Monnaie-De Munt (Brussels), Brooklyn Academy of Music (NYC), Underbelly (UK), Adelaide Festival (AU), The Avignon Off Festival (France), The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Saudi Arabia), Theatre World Festival Brno (Czechia), A Tarumba - Teatro de Marionetas (Portugal), The Chan Center for the Performing Arts (British Columbia), The Kennedy Center (DC), The Kimmel Center (Philadelphia), the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Noorderzon Festival (Netherlands), The O, Miami Poetry Festival, Handmade Worlds Puppet Festival (Minneapolis), The Screenwriters' Colony in Nantucket, The Detroit Institute of Art, The Future of Storytelling Conference (NYC), the NYC Fringe Festival, Arts Emerson (Boston), Yale Repertory Theatre (New Haven), The Poetry Foundation (Chicago), The Chicago International Puppet Theatre Festival, Pop-Up Magazine, The Chicago International Music and Movies Festival, The Puppeteers of America: Puppet Festival (R)evolution, The Public Theatre's Under the Radar Festival (NYC), and elsewhere around the world.

Manual Cinema was ensemble-in-residence at the University of Chicago in the Theater and Performance Studies program in the fall of 2012, where they taught as adjunct faculty. They were an ensemble in residence at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs in partnership with The Public Theatre in winter 2019. They lead the Catapult: Professional Training Workshop with the Chicago International Puppet Theatre Festival and the Poetry Foundation during spring 2018.

Manual Cinema has taught workshops at the School of the Art Institute Chicago, The Future of Storytelling Conference (NYC), Stanford University, Yale University, Puppeteers of America: Puppet Festival (R)evolution, the Chicago Parks District, and many other theaters and universities around the country. The company offers extensive workshops and education opportunities as part of its touring engagements.

In Fall 2016, Manual Cinema contributed visuals, music, and sound design for an immersive adaptation of Peter Pan with producer Randy Weiner (Sleep No More, The Donkey Show, Queen of the Night) which premiered in Beijing in December 2016. The company was awarded an Emmy Award in 2017 for "The Forger," a video created for The New York Times. In summer 2018 Manual Cinema premiered and self-produced a sold-out run of The End of TV at Chopin Theatre, which was quickly followed by its world premiere adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein at Chicago's Court Theatre. By year's end, the Chicago Tribune named Manual Cinema Chicago Artists of the Year in 2018. Frankenstein subsequently had its New York City premiere in January 2019 at The Public Theatre's Under the Radar Festival.

For more information, visit

Featured at the Theatre Shop

T-Shirts, Mugs, Phone Cases & More
Branded Broadway Merch

Related Articles View More Chicago Stories

More Hot Stories For You