Theater Preview: A CHRISTMAS CAROL (Manual Cinema)

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by Tony Frankel on November 24, 2020

in Theater-Chicago,Virtual


I have seen three shows from the Chicago-based performance collective Manual Cinema, and the theatricality is truly awesome. You wouldn’t expect this from a simple description, but you must believe me when I say that this endlessly inventive group of artists uses disarmingly simple tools — live music, paper puppets, overhead projectors — to tell transformative stories. Their enchanting works unsettle the boundaries between cinema and theater.

Now, this performance collective premieres its visually inventive all-new adaptation of the most famous holiday tale of all time, A Christmas Carol. In signature Manual Cinema style, hundreds of paper puppets, miniatures, silhouettes and a live original score come together for an imaginative reincarnation of Dickens’s holiday classic. It also warms my chestnuts to know that each performance is LIVE. There are so many pre-recorded events these days that this event promises to be something special.

All live streamed performances December 3-20, 2020, are sent directly to audiences at home by Marquee TV and are available at Manual Cinema, or for Soraya patrons December 11-13 and Cal Performances audiences December 17-20. Before each show, all audience members will receive an email with a private URL to access and stream their chosen performance. After each performance, audiences will have the opportunity to ask Manual Cinema’s artists questions live and in real time via a post-show “Puppet Time” live chat.

In this version, avowed holiday skeptic Aunt Trudy has been tasked with presenting her family’s annual Christmas Carol puppet show from the isolation of her studio apartment 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 holiday call transforms into a cinematic adaptation of Dickens’ classic ghost story.

The five founders and co-artistic directors of Manual Cinema are (standing, from left)
Kyle Vegter, Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, (front, from left) Julia Miller and Ben Kauffman.

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