Manual Cinema’s 10th Anniversary Retrospectacular, launched this week, will bring back four of the company’s most inventive shows from the past 10 years. The four productions will be shown on multi-camera, high-definition video in their entirety. All four shows will be free at manualcinema.com/watch.
The Chicago-based performance collective, design studio and film/video production company will celebrate the company’s 10th anniversary with a four-week virtual celebration. You can enjoy free streams of past Manual Cinema hits Lula Del Ray, The End of TV, No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks, and Frankenstein.
Each week’s show will be posted at noon on Monday, where it will be available free 24/7 on-demand viewing until the following Monday at noon, when it will be replaced with the next week’s show.
The company, founded by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, Ben Kauffman, Julia Miller, and Kyle Vegter, will also host a live Tele-Fun-draiser world premiere special variety show and Covid-relief benefit at 8pm on Saturday, August 22.
In the August 22 fundraiser, 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, with 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 with a musical set.
Climaxing this event will be the world premiere of a 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. Donations will be encouraged to compensate for lost touring income due to Covid-19.
Here’s information about the four Retrospectacular shows. Also see this backgrounder for more details.
Lula Del Rey: July 27-August 3
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. It tells a sweeping tale of a lonely adolescent girl who becomes obsessed with a country music duo and runs away from home to find them. Told almost entirely without dialogue, this 2012 Manual Cinema classic is performed with overhead projectors, shadow puppets, actors in silhouette, and live music.
The End of TV: August 3-10
The End of TV explores the quest to find meaning in the 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 Life of Gwendolyn Brooks: August 10-17
No Blue Memories 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 multimedia 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.
Frankenstein: 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 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.
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.
In addition, live, online, virtual talkbacks reuniting each production’s ;creators, collaborators and fans are at 8pm on Saturday, August 1, for Lula Del Ray; Saturday, August 8, for The End of TV; Saturday, August 15, for No Blue Memories; and Friday, August 21 for Frankenstein.
Manual Cinema productions combine handmade shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, and innovative sound and music to create immersive visual stories for stage and screen. The company uses vintage overhead projectors, multiple screens, puppets, actors, live feed cameras, multi-channel sound design, and a live music ensemble.
Current and upcoming projects include creating shadow animations for the film remake of Candyman debuting September 25, 2020, and a world premiere adaptation of two Mo Willems’ children’s books, Leonardo, the Terrible Monster and Sam, the Most Scaredy-cat Kid in the Whole World, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. followed by a Chicago premiere with Chicago Children’s Theatre.
All four anniversary shows are available free at manualcinema.com/watch.