Past Event

Art School with Manual Cinema: A Master Class in Cinematic Puppetry

Art School with Manual Cinema: A Master Class in Cinematic Puppetry
Part of Illinois Humanities’ Elective Studies Series for artists

Sunday, May 15th; 12-3pm
Links Hall (3111 N Western Ave)

Email to inquire about enrollment

Internationally acclaimed performance collective Manual Cinema opens up its unique process in this three hour course designed for Chicago’s practicing artists and innovators. Learn about the many facets of Manual Cinema‘s work and get hands-on training in the elements of cinematic puppetry and visual storytelling. During the final hour of the class, participants will have the opportunity to devise their own short, narrative pieces to share with the group.

The Elective Studies series is made possible by generous support from The Joyce Foundation.

Ada Ava image 18 taken be Yi Zhao
Photo by Yi Zhao

More about the artists:

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. Manual Cinema combines handmade shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, and innovative sound and music to create immersive 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.

To date they have created three feature length live cinematic shadow puppet shows (Lula Del Ray, ADA/ AVA, Mementos Mori); 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); two original site-specific installations (La Celestina, My Soul’s Shadow); 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 (SF); cinematic trailers; a short, self-produced 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‘s work has been featured at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC) The Tehran International Puppet Festival (Iran), La Monnaie-De Munt (Brussels) The Kennedy Center (DC), The Kimmel Center (Philadelphia), the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, The Lincoln Center (NYC), 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 Wexner Center for the Arts, 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.

Ada Ava image 51 taken be Yi Zhao
Photo by Yi Zhao

Manual Cinema was ensemble-in-residence at the University of Chicago in the Theater and Performance Studies program in the fall of 2012, where they taught as adjunct faculty. In 2013 Manual Cinema held residencies and taught workshops at the School of the Art Institute (Chicago), Duke University (Durham, NC), The Future of Storytelling Conference (NYC), RCAH at Michigan State University, Puppeteers of America: Puppet Festival (R)evolution (Swarthmore, PA), Southern Illinois University, and the Chicago Parks District. In Spring 2016 Manual Cinema held workshops at Yale University as visiting lecturers in the theater department.

Currently, they are developing an original, immersive adaptation of Peter Pan with Randy Weiner (Sleep No More, The Donkey Show, Queen of the Night) that will premiere in an open ended run in Beijing in Fall 2016. They’ve begun work on a similar adaptation of Little Prince that will premiere in an open ended run in Shanghai in late 2017. They are designing projections for Lookingglass Theatre Company at the end of 2016, and they will premier three new feature length shows during 2017. This summer they’ll begin production on a second, self-produced short film based on Virginia Woolf’s The Haunted House to premiere in late 2017. They’ll also create a live performed companion piece to the film that will premiere in October 2017 as part of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNOW series.

Manual Cinema‘s 2016-2017 touring season includes performances at Spoleto Festival, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Stanford University, and The Overture Center for the Arts.


If you are interested in being added to the list of artists invited to these gatherings, please email
If you require a sign interpreter or any other arrangements to fully participate in this program, please contact at least 72 hours in advance of the event.