Manual Cinema (United States of America)




18 and 19 May at 9pm (Fri, Sat)

20 May at 5.30pm (Sun)


Portuguese Premiere


Technique: Shadow theatre and live animation film Language: Without words For audiences over: +8 Running time: 60 min.



“Manual Cinema mix Shakespeare with Hitchcock and use more than 400 puppets to create a gothic show (...). An exquisitely precise piece of visual storytelling."
-Lyn Gardner, The Guardian


Manual Cinema combines handmade shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, and innovative sound and music to create immersive visual stories for stage and screen. Using vintage overhead projectors, multiple screens, puppets, actors, live feed cameras, multi-channel sound design, and a live music ensemble, Manual Cinema transforms the experience of attending the cinema and imbues it with liveness, ingenuity, and theatricality.

Driven by innovation, the masterful technicians of Chicago-based Manual Cinema are one of the hottest rising ensembles in America, with audiences marveling at their creations even as their methods are plainly revealed. 

Delightfully gothic, beautiful and emotionally complex, Ada/Ava conjures a magic spell of multimedia storytelling, complete with a live musical score.

Bereaved of her twin sister Ava, septuagenarian Ada solitarily marks time in the patterns of a life built for two. However, a traveling carnival and a trip to a mirror maze plunges her into a journey across the thresholds of life and death. Set in a landscape of the New England gothic, Ada/Ava uses a story of the fantastic and super natural to explore mourning and melancholy, self and other. 
A show to discover in family, which mixes theatre and cinema, with a special universe that reminds us of Hitchcock and Tim Burton. Not to be missed!

“(…) This Chicago troupe is conjuring phantasms to die for in an unclassifiable story of spectral beauty (...). The completed 'film' itself evokes the vocabulary of silent movies as practiced by Fritz Lang, F.W. Murnau and D.W. Griffith, among others, and gleefully creepy animated works by Tim Burton, like 'The Corpse Bride'. The use of expository close-up here is eloquent and efficient in the manner of Hitchcock, another obvious inspiration (...)."
-Ben Brantley, New York Times Critics 'Pick


“To describe Manual Cinema as just a shadow puppet show is to say Pixar makes cartoons.”
-Chicago Tribune


"I feel like I’m not doing justice to explaining how magical this all was (…) unimaginably intricate."
-Loren Novek, NY


"The piece mixes extraordinary sophistication – a rich quadraphonic sound design, cinematic transitions (...). The overall effect is gente, lovely, fascinanting.”
-Tony Adler, Chicago Reader


Manual Cinema is a performance collective, design studio, and film/video production company founded in 2010 by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, Ben Kauffman, Julia Miller, and Kyle Vegter. To date Manual Cinema has created five original feature length live cinematic shadow puppet shows (Lula Del Ray, Ada/Ava, Mementos Mori, My Soul’s Shadow, The Magic City); a live cinematic contemporary dance show created for family audiences in collaboration with Hubbard Street Dance and the choreographer Robyn Mineko Williams (Mariko’s Magical Mix); an original site-specific installations (La Celestina); an original adaptation of Hansel & Gretel created for the Belgian Royal Opera; music videos for Sony Masterworks, Gabriel Kahane, three time Grammy Award-winning eighth blackbird, and NYTimes Best Selling author Reif Larson; a live non-fiction piece for Pop-Up Magazine; a self-produced short film (Chicagoland); a museum exhibit created in collaboration with the Chicago History Museum (The Secret Lives of Objects ) a collection of cinematic shorts in collaboration with poet Zachary Schomburg and string quartet Chicago Q Ensemble (FJORDS); and live cinematic puppet adaptations of StoryCorps stories (Show & Tell).
Manual Cinema has been presented by, worked in collaboration with, or brought its work to The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC), Under the Radar Festival (NYC), The Tehran International Puppet Festival (Iran), La Monnaie-De Munt (Brussels), BAM (NYC), Underbelly (UK), Adelaide Festival (AU), The Kennedy Center (DC), The Kimmel Center (Philadelphia), the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Noorderzon Festival (Netherlands), The O, Miami Poetry Festival, Davies Symphony Hall (SF), The Ace Hotel Theater (LA), Handmade Worlds Puppet Festival (Minneapolis), The Screenwriters’ Colony in Nantucket, The Detroit Institute of Art, The Future of Storytelling Conference (NYC), the NYC Fringe Festival, The Poetry Foundation (Chicago), the Chicago International Music and Movies Festival, the Puppeteers of America: Puppet Festival (R)evolution, and elsewhere around the world.
Recently, Manual Cinema premiered The Magic City, a new show for children and their families, adapted from a novel by Edith Nesbit, at Chicago Children’s Theatre. In Fall 2016, they contributed visuals, music, and sound design for an immersive adaptation of Peter Pan with producer Randy Weiner (Sleep No More, The Donkey Show, Queen of the Night) which premiered in Beijing in December 2016. In 2017 they begin production on another feature length show, The End of TV, to premiere at the International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven, June 19-22, 2017. They are also currently creating a new performance, No Blue Memories, about the life and work of poet Gwendolyn Brooks, commissioned by the Poetry Foundation and based on a screenplay by Eve Ewing and Nathaniel Marshall.
In 2017, the company went to Australia, France and Germany and to the Edinburgh Fringe with Lula del Ray, among other countries and festivals.



Direction: Drew Dir Sound design and original score: Kyle Vegter, Ben Kauffman Concept: Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, Julia Miller Additional drums, synthesizer, piano: Michael Hilger Wigs and costumes: Mieka van der Ploeg Masks design: Julia Miller Puppeteers: Vanessa Valliere, Kara Davidson, Myra Su, Jeffrey Paschal, Sara Sawicki Vocals, saxophone, live sound effects: Izzy Olive Synthesizer, guitar: Michael Hilger Cellokeyboard: Lia Kohl Sound Engineer: Mike Usrey Stage Manager: Shelby Glasgow Photography: Drew Dir, Luis Andrade, Murdo MacLeod/Guardian, Yi Zhao Technique: Shadow theatre and live animation film Language: Without words For audiences over: +8 Running time: 60 min.