Chi Puppet Festival & Poetry Foundation celebrate Gwendolyn Brooks with Manual Cinema's NO BLUE MEMORIES
The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival and the Poetry Foundation are partnering to present Manual Cinema’s No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks, one-weekend-only, March 30 and 31 at Chicago’s historic Studebaker Theater, 410 S. Michigan Avenue, in Chicago’s Fine Arts Building.
Performances of Manual Cinema’s unforgettable multi-media retelling of Brooks’s life and work are Friday, March 30 at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, March 31 at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $25; $15 for students and seniors. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased in advance online at chicagopuppetfest.org. Tickets will also be on sale in person prior to each show, pending availability.
No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks combines poetry, puppetry and live jazz to bring to life the story of one of Chicago’s most beloved figures. Gwendolyn Brooks was an icon, a poet laureate, and a Pulitzer Prize winner—but she was also a treasured educator and mentor to the countless writers and children who knew her as their very own “Miss Brooks.” Weaving poetry, storytelling, sound design, original live music, and striking visuals, No Blue Memories is an exploration of Brooks’s beloved city and a story of how she navigated identity, craft, and politics over the course of one of the most remarkable careers in American literary history.
More about No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks
The Poetry Foundation commissioned Manual Cinema in 2016 to visually represent the life and work of Gwendolyn Brooks in a way that would be accessible for new fans and enticing for Brooks appreciators alike. The resulting production, No Blue Memories, received its world premiere in November 2017, what would have been Brooks’s hundredth year.
The 70-minute show combines intricate paper puppetry, live actors working in shadow, and an original score played live on stage. The script was co-written by Chicago poets Eve L. Ewing and Nate Marshall. The music was commissioned from Jamila Woods and Ayanna Woods, who were granted permission from the Brooks estate for the first time to write a song using Brooks’s famous poem “We Real Cool.” The production also samples many of Brooks’s most memorable poems including “Eventide,” Beverly Hills, Chicago,” “Speech to the Young, Speech to the Progress Toward,” and “Chicago Picasso.”
“Manual Cinema turns Gwendolyn Brooks into poetry magic,” wrote the Chicago Readerwhen No Blue Memories premiered last September at the Harold Washington Library Center. Chicago Magazine promised “You’ve never seen Gwendolyn Brooks like this before.”
“Whether you’re a diehard Brooks fan or someone who is new to her work, we want everyone to walk away with a new favorite poem,” says co-author and poet Eve Ewing. “Her work continues to be relevant, and will always be relevant, because it will always be important for regular people to tell stories about where they’re from.”
“It was an honor to take Eve Ewing’s and Nate Marshall’s nuanced, detailed vision of Brooks’s life and realize it in paper and acetate,” said Manual Cinema Director Sarah Fornace. “We cannot wait to get our incredible team of actors together again and perform this epic live cinematic show bursting with poetry, puppetry, and live music in Chicago’s historic Studebaker Theater.”
The Catapult: Puppetry and Poetry – Artists Intensive, March 28-31, to foster future poets and puppeteers
Another component of this new partnership between the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival and the Poetry Foundation is The Catapult: Shadow Image in Puppetry and Poetry, running Wednesday, March 28 through Saturday, March 31.
This is a four-day professional training workshop, presented in conjunction with Manual Cinema’s No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks, focusing on the dynamic relationship and shared language of poetry and puppetry. Lead by Festival Director and puppeteer Blair Thomas and poet avery r. young from the Poetry Foundation, participants will explore the traditions of shadow theater, written and spoken word poetry and their contemporary intersection. Artistic Directors Sarah Fornace and Drew Dir will be the featured artists from Manual Cinema leading puppet technique workshops.
The Catapult will take place on stage at the historic Studebaker Theater in the Fine Arts Building. The program fee is $440, and covers select meals and tickets to all workshops, a performance of No Blue Memories, a backstage tour/demo with Manual Cinema, and an ongoing puppetry workshop with Manual Cinema culminating in a final presentation among members of the program. A $730 package is also available for the full program plus three nights of hotel accommodation.
Space is limited. To apply, visit chicagopuppetfest.org/catapult. Note: Full or partial program fee scholarships are offered by the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival for artists in financial need who show a commitment to advancing the art with puppetry and/or poetry. There is no financial support for travel to Chicago. To apply for a scholarship, send a Statement of Need to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Introducing Gwendolyn Brooks to a new generation of readers
Immediately following its weekend run at the Studebaker, No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks travels to Benito Juarez High School, 1450-1510 W. Cermak Avenue in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, for a four-day residency, April 3-6.
Presented by the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival and the Poetry Foundation, the No Blue Memories in-school residency program is designed to introduce Chicago’s newest generation of readers to the life and works of Gwendolyn Brooks. High schoolers will be given the opportunity to participate in hands-on workshops lead by artists and puppeteers from Manual Cinema. The residency also includes four free matinee performances exclusively for students from Benito Juarez and other Chicago-area high schools.
About Gwendolyn Brooks
Brooks was 13 when her first published poem, “Eventide,” appeared in American Childhood; by the time she was seventeen she was publishing poems frequently in the Chicago Defender. Her first collection of poems, A Street in Bronzeville, was published in 1945. Her Pulitzer Prize–winning book of poetry, Annie Allen, followed in 1949. In 1959, her acclaimed poem “We Real Cool” was first published by Poetry magazine, a program of the Poetry Foundation. The magazine went on to become one of the most ardent supporters of her work.
About the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival
The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival was founded to establish Chicago as a prominent center for the art of puppetry. The biannual festival, returning January 17-27, 2019, presents the highest quality local, national and international puppet shows in venues across the city, showcasing an entertaining and eclectic array of puppet styles from around the world including marionettes, shadow puppets, Bunraku puppets, tiny toy puppets, and distinctive, innovative styles of contemporary puppetry. Each festival takes place at dozens of Chicago civic venues in partnership with many cultural partners and welcomes over 14,000 audience members. The festival is a mission-driven program of Chicago-based theater company Blair Thomas & Co.
For more, visit chicagopuppetfest.org, follow the festival on Facebook atfacebook.com/ChicagoInternationalPuppetTheaterFestival, on Instagram atinstagram.com/chipuppetfest and on Twitter @ChiPuppetFest.
About the Poetry Foundation
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs.
For more information, visit poetryfoundation.org, follow the Poetry Foundation and Poetry on Facebook at facebook.com/poetryfoundation, on Instagram atinstagram.com/poetryfoundation or on Twitter @PoetryFound.
About Manual Cinema
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 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.
For more, visit manualcinema.com, follow the company on Facebook atfacebook.com/manualcinema, on Instagram at instagram.com/manual_cinemaand on Twitter @ManualCinema.