Preview: Puppet Theater Festival Opens With the Social Commentary of The Plastic Bag Store

Image courtesy of Robin Frohardt.

At long last the 4th annual Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, after a COVID 19- induced delay, is here. If the opening of Robin Frohardt’s Plastic Bag Store on Michigan Avenue is any indication, it has been well worth the wait. You need to brave the weather and bolster yourself with mask and vaccination card against Omicron and get to the Wrigley Building.

Upon entering the Plastic Bag Store, you will find yourself in a conceptual minimart where exquisite installation art meets environmental activism with black humor. If you book tickets to see the puppet show film that is the beating heart of this project, you will see the compassionate artistry that brings deep meaning and humanity to all the depressing facts.

Image courtesy Robin Frohardt.

I cannot recommend this experience enough—examining everything from sushi to produce to cakes and cupcakes meticulously fashioned from single use plastic and looking disturbingly like the edible items, and then following the rich story line of anthropological fantasy rooted in fact of the film, then touring the hidden museum—is a truly unusual experience challenging mind and emotion. There are twists and moments of quiet joy amid painful realizations. The compelling and sympathetic bunraku puppets that star in the film serve to highlight our humanity—it is so disorienting that objects can reveal so plaintively who we are. The Plastic Bag Store is social commentary that whispers more questions than it answers even while delighting our eyes and feelings.

Image courtesy Robin Frohardt.

The Plastic Bag Store is in the street level storefront of the north tower of the Wrigley Building at Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River. It’s open through January 30, Tuesdays through Fridays 11 am to 3pm, with ticketed immersive film showings (don’t miss this) at 4pm, 6pm and 8pm. Saturdays the store opens from 1pm to 3pm, with film showings at 11am, 4pm, 6pm and 8pm. Sundays the store is open 1pm to 3pm with film showings at 11am, 4pm and 6pm. Store entry is free; film tickets are $31 with $21 tickets for students and seniors. For tickets, go to chicagopuppetfest.org.

The 4th Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, running through January 30, will transform Chicago into the Puppetry Capital of the World, presenting over 100 performances of more than 20 national and local shows and events at venues around the city. Visit the website to see the full line-up and purchase tickets. Follow the festival on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, hashtag #ChiPuppetFest for the latest updates.

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Angela Allyn

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