By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.
The Chicago-based performance collective streams last three of four “best of shows,” one per week, for its month-long 10th Anniversary Retrospectacular! that began July 27
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, continues its celebration of the company’s 10th Anniversary with multi-camera, high-definition video, with “Lula Del Ray,” which ended last week. The remaining three shows include “The End of TV” (August 3-10), “No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks” (August 10-17) and “Frankenstein” (August 17-23).
All four shows will be free to enjoy at [manualcinema.com].
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. In this case, “Lula Del Ray” will be available to view until Monday, August 10. Afterward, “No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks” will be available.
Each show will open with a personal introduction from one of the company’s five co-artistic directors, who will briefly introduce its place in Manual Cinema’s history. The streams also come with a suggested donation to Manual Cinema to compensate for lost touring income due to COVID-19.
In addition, the remaining live, online, virtual talkbacks reuniting each production’s creators, collaborators and fans are Saturday, August 8, for “The End of TV,” Saturday, August 15, for “No Blue Memories” and Friday, August 21, for “Frankenstein.” Talkbacks start at 8:00 p.m. CST.
“The End of TV” explores the quest to find meaning among the increasingly constant barrage of commercial images and advertising white noise. Set in a post-industrial Rust Belt city in the 1990s, this 2017 production is staged in cinematic shadow puppetry and lo-fi live video feeds with flat paper renderings of commercial products, and driven by a 70s inspired R&B-inspired art pop song cycle performed by a five-piece band.
“No Blue Memories: The Story of Gwendolyn Brooks” tells the true story of the first lady of Chicago poetry by combining intricate paper puppetry, live actors working in shadow, and an original score for an unforgettable multi-media experience. This 2017 Manual Cinema premiere was written by Crescendo Literary (Eve L. Ewing and Nate Marshall) and features music composed by Jamila Woods and Ayanna Woods. “You’ve Never Seen Gwendolyn Brooks Like This Before” – Chicago Magazine.
I was able to view the Gwendolyn Brooks’ story, and I can’t get the music and song dedicated to “We Real Cool” out of my head. It is as sassy and cool as the poem that Brooks wrote in 1959 about some young men hanging out at the pool hall during a time when she thought they should have been in school.
The combination of the puppetry and the actors working in shadow bring to vivid life the story of one of Chicago’s literary heroines Brooks, as the performance traces her publishing her first poem called “Eventide” at the age of 13 to her earning the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1950 and her being named Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968. This is a position that Brooks held until her death
in 2000. Visit [https://vimeo.com/355184601] for a quick trailer of this fascinating production.
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 2018 Court Theatre world premiere is a thrilling classic gothic tale about the horrors of creation, weaving 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.
Mark your calendar for the culminating event of Manual Cinema’s 10th Anniversary Retrospectacular!: Manual Cinema’s LIVE Tele-FUN-draiser World Premiere Special on Saturday, August 22, at 8:00 p.m. CST.
Manual Cinema’s fans, friends, funders and artists will gather online for a one-night-only retro variety show. This live virtual celebration will be hosted by Manual Cinema’s Julia Miller, includes cameos by characters featured in past Manual Cinema productions, along with special guest artists like Myra Su, who will perform one of her unique shadow crankie pieces, and singer/songwriter/visual artist Maren Celest, who will share a musical set.
Climaxing this must-see event is 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. Again, donations will be encouraged to compensate for lost touring income due to COVID-19.
Visit [manualcinema.com] for more information about Manual Cinema’s 10th Anniversary Retrospectular! and Manual Cinema’s LIVE Tele-FUN-draiser World Premiere Special.