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Plans for the 7th annual Physical Theater Festival were full steam ahead when the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic in March and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a statewide stay-at-home order following the announcement. Originally scheduled to take place from July 10-19, 2020, Festival organizers, like many theater companies and festivals across the city, state and country, started to explore the possibility of going virtual to connect local and International Artists not only with the Festival's traditional audience but also to audiences outside of Chicago.

The result: Physical Theater Festival at Home. The three-day virtual event will take place from July 17-19and will feature a combination of free and ticketed performances, panels and workshops from such companies and performers as: The Era Footwork Crew (Chicago); Cia de Teatro Manual (Brazil); Single Shoe Productions (Portugal, UK, USA); The Pandemic Project by UJ Arts & Project (South Africa); and Joana Barbosa (Brazil).

All the works being presented were created during the pandemic by theater artists and dancers. Admission for the ticketed performances are $3 per ticket, making this "at home" edition as affordable as possible. Ticket buyers will receive a confirmation email with a Zoom link once purchase has been made. For free events, just go to the Festival's events page and click on the video the day of the event. For tickets and other information, visit Audiences are encouraged to donate to the Festival as well.

Physical Theater pursues storytelling through primarily physical and virtual means to create original and contemporary work. It embraces a wide variety of styles, approaches and aesthetics including clown, puppetry, mask, mime, dance, vaudeville and circus, among others.


Ticketed events and workshops:

· The Testament by The Era Footwork Crew (Chicago), Friday, July 17, 7 pm: The Testament is a response to the industries that surround dance and to the times we're currently facing in the world today. Too often Black bodies, Black dancers, Black anything is cast to the wayside. The Testamentspeaks to dancers using battling as an instrument to fight oppression that comes in any form. Admission: $3 per ticket.

· The Woman Who Dreamed by Cia de Teatro Manual (Brazil), July 18, 7 pm: The Woman Who Dreamed is a theatrical experiment that mixes gestural, audiovisual, narration, animated forms and music to bring to life a universe inspired by fantastic realism to its audiences. Everything happens live, on a virtual interactive platform, where the audience feels close and can participate. The work tells the story of a woman who, being born and raised too quickly, perceives time and herself in a different way. She finds herself immersed in a world where choices are made all the time and when she finds herself without choices, she decides to dream and look inside herself. Admission: $3 per ticket.

· Scratch Night by Local Artists (Chicago, USA), July 19, 7 pm: Scratch Night features new contemporary, visual, and physical theater by Chicago artists. Each show brings together different theater makers to present short previews that require an audience to further their development. Six to seven separate pieces are curated for each show, each act lasting 10-15 minutes. The show's mission is to foster growth of these new theater works, expose diverse forms of theater to Chicago audiences, and bring together different communities of Chicago artists for conversation and collaborations. Admission: $3 per ticket.

· The Clown Within: a three-day workshop by Joana Barbosa, July 17, 18 & 19, 12-1:30 pm: This workshop is an introduction to the smallest mask in the world: the clown's red nose! Through exercises, dialogues and games, it presents to the student the wonderful and poetic universe of clowns. During this journey the student will start the exercise of seeking the child within himself/herself and search his own personal way to make comedy. Admission: $60 per ticket.

Free events and panels

· ​#TakeUsThere by Single Shoe Productions (Portugal, UK, USA), anytime from July 17-19: Is there someplace you miss? Somewhere you were supposed to be? Across the world, our lives have been put on hold. For Single Shoe Productions, that's meant everything from touring schedules to even a family wedding. So, they are embarking on homemade travels and invite you on a journey of the imagination as they recreate the places they miss using household objects. Join them us by making your own creations.

· The Pandemic Project by UJ Arts & Culture and Khaya Ndlovu, Athena Mazarais, Sunnyboy Motau, Fana Tshabalala and Ignatius van Heerden. (South Africa) anytime from July 17-19: On May 11, the UJ (University of Johannesburg) Choir launched its 9th album, When the Earth Stands Still, and with it came an emotional interdisciplinary project, The Pandemic. UJ Arts & Culture, a division of the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture (FADA) at the University of Johannesburg, invited visual artists & choreographers and 40 UJ Arts Academy poets to develop a new work inspired by music from the album. Other than the initial lockdown time period, there were no aesthetic restrictions on the commission and a literal interpretation of 'the pandemic' was not expected. Each creative was assigned one of the 20 tracks on the UJ Choir's album and was required to submit a short time-lapse video of the work in creation. The final artworks will be published on the UJ Arts & Culture online platform and will be presented in an exhibition at the UJ Art Gallery as soon as less stringent social distancing measures are necessary.

· International Panel: The Future of The Performing Arts, July 18 at 10 am: ​We are living in unprecedented and unpredictable times for the arts. Join us for a conversation about the future of the performing arts with an international panel of artists, curators, producers and directors from around the world. The panel will be moderated by Co-Artistic Director of Physical Theater Festival, Alice da Cunha. Panelists: Tara Willis, Associate Curator of Performance Museum of Contemporary Art (USA); Elayce Ismail, Theater and Opera Director (UK); Yuenhung Lei, Theater Producer (Hong Kong)


The Era Footwork Crew are pioneers of the battle dance known as Chicago footwork. Since 2014, they have expanded upon what it means to be a dance crew, addressing inequality and racism through their lyrics and panel discussions and supporting women and girls in the history of footwork through collaboration and documentation. They have performed from Japan to Peru, performing and choreographing alongside leading artists such as Chance the Rapper, DJ Rashad, DJ Spinn, and Theaster Gates. The Era's work has been in short documentaries by VICE, CBC (Canadian Broadcast Company), and the Chicago Tribune.

Cia de Teatro Manual was born in 2011 when Helena Marques and Matheus Lima - both bachelors in Performing Arts at Unirio - went to London to attend the Professional Development Program, a specialization course offered by the London International School of Performing Arts. In 2013, Rio de Janeiro actor and director Julio Adrião joined Cia with the aim of contributing to the deepening of language, the work of the actor and the scene. Hominus Brasilis (presented at the Third Annual Physical Theater Festival Chicago in 2016) was the company's first work and marked the beginning of its trajectory in the theatrical scene, with great success from audiences and critics. The Cia de Teatro Manual has also represented Brazil at the Beijing Comedy Week 2107 (China), FETI - Festíval Efímero de Teatro Independiente 2017 (Argentina) and FITA - Festival do Teatro do Alentejo (Portugal).

Single Shoe Productions is an international theatre company founded by immigrants whose mission is to create theatrical experiences that challenge boundaries, explore the connections that hold us together and celebrate our common humanity, regardless of where we come from. They combine in their work visual storytelling, physical comedy and a love for the absurd to create and tour original theatre for universal audiences. It privileges an ever-evolving array of visual theatrical forms, including mime, magic, projections and soundscapes. While their work uses language, it is not the primary method of storytelling. Their tours have included performing and teaching in remote rural communities where there is limited provision and reduced access to high quality contemporary theatre.


Khaya Ndlovu is a 28-year-old South African born performer and artist. She began her training at the tender age of three with Pat Jones completing all vocational and major exams through the Royal Academy of Dance.Khaya furthered her training at The National School of the Arts with a focus on her Ballet, Contemporary, Jazz and African Dance Studies. Whilst in school, she attended Mzansi Ballet Theatre (formerly known as The South African Ballet Theatre School) and participated in productions by the company at the time.

Athena Mazarakis is the founder and Managing Director of EMBODIMENT NOW. She holds a Master's Degree in Dramatic Arts and has come to Embodiment Practices through a 25-year career as an award-winning choreographer & physical performer, researcher, lecturer and movement arts educator. From 2016-2019, Athena held the position of Development Manager at The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative's trailblazing Ebhudlweni Arts Centre, in rural Mpumalanga. She continues to serve as an Executive Director on the Board of The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative while pursuing her interest in the embodiment field.

Sunnyboy Motau dances and choreographs for MIDM's Professional Dance Company. He began his training with the community arts groups in Alexandra. In 2008 he joined MIDM as part of the Performing Arts Training Course (PATC). His first choreographed solo, Within Me, was presented at the Dance Umbrella 2010 as part of the Stepping Stones Program and subsequently at MIDM's Dancing into Summer season. In 2010, he participated in the Crossings International Choreography Workshops and worked with Michel Kelemenis and Vincent Mantsoe. He toured worldwide with Robyn Orlin's Beauty Remained... and he toured Russia as part of the Russian / South African Season in 2016.

Fana Tshabalala is the 2013 Standard Bank Young Artist Award recipient for Dance. The 2014 Visas for Creation recipient and the 2018 Black Excellence Award winner in Chicago. Tshabalala is also the former associate artistic director for the Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative. Tshabalala has been choreographing and performing his work locally and internationally; one of his works titled "Between" was part of Dance Dialogue Africa. "Between" toured Germany and later toured Africa reaching 12 countries and 14 cities. More recently, he was awarded a Mellon artistic residency where he choreographed a full-length work for Flat Foot Dance Company and worked on his solo titled "Zann". Fana Tshabalala is currently the co-founder and artistic director for Broken borders Art Project.

Ignatius van Heerden displays his extensive dance training skills in the styles of Jazz, Ballet, and Contemporary Dance. He has successfully obtained a number of accolades over the last decade, which include The FNB Vita Award for the Most Promising Male Dancer, a Naledi Award for the Best Ensemble Performance in a musical and a Merit Award at the National Arts Festival for excellence in creativity and innovation in his work 6 Impossible Things for Oakfields College Faculty of Dance and Musical Theatre. His latest one hander, Birthing Nureyev, was received with immense critical acclaim.

Joana Barbosa is a mother, clown, actress, theater director and psychologist. In 2014, she founded the drama school Casa 11 in the city of São Paulo, where she works as a pedagogical coordinator and teacher. She specialized in the Jacques Lecoq method at the London International School of Performing Arts (LISPA). She has already performed and taught courses at different Brazilian institutions, as well as in England, Spain, Poland, Switzerland and Scotland. She is a member of Grupo Laje. Currently, she dedicates herself as a clown teacher and performing her solo clown show named Pia Mater, a show that addresses the theme of motherhood and puerperium.


Physical Theater Festival is an annual contemporary, visual, and physical theater festival that presents new forms of theater that are being performed around the world. In 2014, Alice da Cunha and Marc Frostlaunched the inaugural Physical Theater Festival through the Artistic Associate program at Links Hall. The inspiration for the Festival drew upon their combined experience in London as physical theater students at the London International School for the Performing Arts (LISPA). Moving from London to Chicago, they were inspired to start a new festival to promote a more progressive, fresh and physical approach to theater-making in Chicago.

Alice has worked for various festivals. While in London, she was the Marketing Director for CASA (London's Latin American Theatre Festival) and she produced, curated and presented SHORTCUTZ (a weekly short film festival). She was also the Production Assistant for TODOS Festival, an interdisciplinary festival in Lisbon, Portugal. In Chicago she has worked in Hospitality for the Chicago Latino Film Festival. Alice is also an actress and has performed in many plays and films.

Marc has started two theater companies and one theater festival. At Tufts University, he co-founded Bare Bodkin Theater Company to give student playwrights a platform for their work. In London, he co-created and curated "Physical" (a scratch night for new pieces of physical theater). Back in Chicago, he founded Theater Unspeakable to create devised, physical theater.

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