Thursday, November 9, 2023

FEST ALERT: 6th Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival January 18-28, 2024


Everything you need to know about the 
6th Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival 

January 18-28, 2024

January in Chicago isn't all dreary, cold, and grey. Puppet fest is back to put some color and joy into your January. Here at ChiIL Mama and ChiIL Live Shows, we've covered the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival every year since it's inception. We're elated that they're now an annual fest instead of every other year, and we'll be out to review as much of the fest as possible once again in 2024. Check out the schedule below to save the dates. There'll be plentiful family friendly and adult puppet fun and we'll have the scoop right here. Check back with us at and like we vote in Chi, IL... early and often. 

Tickets are now on sale for the 6th Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, the largest of its kind in North America, returning January 18-28, 2024, at venues large and small throughout the city. 
The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival is the largest event dedicated to the art form in North America. In the heart of winter, the Festival spans 11 days and dozens of Chicago venues, sharing 100+ puppetry activities with 14,000+ guests. The festival includes performances, the Free Neighborhood Tour, a Puppet Hub open throughout the festival on the fourth floor of the Fine Arts Building, a symposium, the Catapult Artist Intensive, workshops, and more. 

Following are details about all of this year's performances (in chronological order), special events and exhibits, including venues, dates, times, ticket prices, estimated run time, show descriptions and artist bios. 

Visit to purchase tickets or follow the festival on FacebookInstagram or Vimeo, hashtag #ChiPuppetFest.

Wakka Wakka's Animalia Trilogy
Wakka Wakka

The Immortal Jellyfish Girl

Steppenwolf's Downstairs Mainstage Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St., Lincoln Park
January 18-21
Four shows: Thursday, January 18 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday January 19 at 1:30 p.m.; Saturday, January 20 at 7 p.m.; Sunday, January 21 at 1:30 p.m. 
80 minutes
Ages: 10 and up
Tickets: $40-$45
Note|Free events: Come make your own masks at free Wakka Wakka drop-in mask making workshops, Saturday and Sunday, January 20 and 21 at 2:45 p.m.

A gripping tale of humanity on the brink of annihilation and the unlikely hero who might just save them all. The year is 2555. Large swaths of earth’s surface are considered dead zones, and mass extinction has begun. There is a war (there is always a war). As both sides grow desperate, their thirst for destruction becomes more and more volatile. An improbable meeting between an orphan and a jellyfish girl threatens to tip the balance forever, but in whose favor, and at what cost? A mysterious man in a homemade fox costume has seen this all before, has lived this tragedy too many times, but he is determined it will end differently. Hilarious, ridiculous and virtuosic, this puppet show blends innovative projection, original music and puppetry that soars through dimensions, unconfined by time, gravity or biology. 

The New York Times called it "A 26th-century love story." The New Yorker called it "stunning."

Watch a video clip from The Immortal Jellyfish Girl

World Premiere
Dead as a Dodo 

The Biograph Theater’s Začek-McVay Mainstage, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Lincoln Park
January 19-21
Three shows: Friday, January 19 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, January 20 at 1:30 p.m.; Sunday, January 21 at 7 p.m.
75 minutes
Ages: 8 and up
Tickets: $40-$45

Deep within the underworld, a skeleton Dodo and a skeleton Neanderthal are tirelessly digging for fresh bones; their ancient skeletal forms are quickly deteriorating and they are afraid of disappearing completely. One day, a peculiar occurrence disrupts their routine...without warning, the Dodo miraculously sprouts a new bone! A maelstrom of transformation begins to unravel within the realm of bones, shattering the established order. The great reversal has begun. Infused with a blend of puppetry, projections, and humor, Dead as a Dodo offers a fantastical glimpse into a future that harkens back to the distant past.

Animal R.I.O.T.

Steppenwolf's 1700 Theater, 1650 N. Halsted St., Lincoln Park
January 19-23
Five shows: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, January 19-21 at 9:30 p.m.; 
Monday and Tuesday, January 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. 
75 minutes
Ages: 13 and up
Tickets: $30-$40

Animal R.I.O.T (Animal Resurgence In Our Time) is an anonymous anthropomorphic organization, founded by the Fantastic Mr. Fox (the non-fictional one). Can you believe it? The human species will come together and save all animals from extinction (including ourselves)! Become a real life masked avenger answering the CALL of the WILD and join the BIO-ECCENTRIC PACIFIST FIGHT CLUB! Join us or die out! 

Wakka Wakka Productions, Inc. is a non-profit visual theater company based in New York City and Oslo. Its mission is to push the boundaries of the imagination by creating works that are bold, unique and unpredictable. The company is led by Gabrielle BrechnerKirjan Waage and Gwendolyn Warnock and supported by company members Andrew Manjuck and Peter Russo.
Since 2001 Wakka Wakka has created and produced 11 original works which have toured extensively throughout the U.S. and abroad. All of Wakka Wakka’s productions have been highly physical, overlapping in a wide range of styles and incorporating elements such as puppetry, object manipulation, masks and original music. Wakka Wakka has been honored with a Drama Desk Award, an Obie Award and two UNIMA Citations of Excellence, and nominated for four Drama Desk Awards, a Helen Hayes Award and a Hawes Design Award.

Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities: A Toy Theater Atlas

Matthew Gawryk and Dan Kerr-Hobert
Presented by Instituto Cervantes of Chicago and the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival
Instituto Cervantes of Chicago, 31 W. Ohio St., River North
January 18-21
Four shows: Thursday, January 18 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, January 19 at 4 p.m.; Saturday, January 20 at 2 p.m.; Sunday, January 21 at 5 p.m.
55 minutes
Ages 7 and up
Tickets: $20-$30

Kublai Khan feels his empire slipping away, and only from the tales of his emissary Marco Polo can he grasp it. A meditation on the nature and form of cities, of both their uniqueness and ubiquity, this toy theater adaptation of Italo Calvino's novel compresses 18 cities into a menagerie of objects that articulate the narrative, using a variety of mediums including puppetry, object theater, paper mechanics and living sculpture.
Matt Gawryk has been working as a lighting and scenic designer for 25 years. His designs have been seen on stages across Chicago including Metropolis Performing Arts Center, Lookingglass Theater, Red Orchid Theater and the University of Chicago where he taught theater design. He has traveled with the band Mucca Pazza and Hubbard Street Dance. 
Dan Kerr-Hobert is an ensemble member of The Neo-Futurists Theater and a long-time collaborator with Blair Thomas & Co. As a prolific Chicago-based writer, director, deviser, performer, and puppet designer, his work has been seen at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, La Monnaie de Munt in Belgium, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, The Wooly Mammoth Theatre in Washington D.C., the Detroit Institute of Art, NJPAC, Steppenwolf Theatre, the Pritzker Pavilion, HERE Arts Center in New York, Dad’s Garage in Atlanta and The Actors Theatre of Louisville. 

The Hip Hopera of SP1N0K10

Tarish “Jeghetto” Pipkins 
North Carolina
Presented by eta Creative Arts Foundation and the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival
At eta Creative Arts Foundation, 7558 S. South Chicago Ave., Grand Crossing
January 19-21
Four shows: Friday, January 19 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, January 20 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Sunday, January 21 at 1 p.m.
45 minutes
10 and up
Tickets: $20-$30

Set in an Afro-futuristic post-apocalyptic realm, The Hip Hopera of SP1N0K10 (pronounced "Spin-oh-kio") is a science fiction tale about an android who wants to be a real B-Boy. It’s co-written by Pierce Freelon and Tarish "Jeghetto" Pipkins, and performed with Tarish’s two sons, Divine and Tarin. Featuring an original score by hip-hop producer Hir-O, video, and emceeing, Jeghetto’s magical plywood marionettes share his "artivism" as the title character encounters racism, oppression and police brutality on their path toward a better future. 
Tarish "Jeghetto" Pipkins was born in a small steel mill town called Clairton, PA. He is a self taught artist and has been creating art from a very young age. As a teenager, he moved to the East Side of Pittsburgh and graduated from Taylor Allderdice High School. In the late 90’s, Pipkins joined the BridgeSpotters Collective and became known for his live paintings and poetry. He was also a barber for over 20 years. He moved to North Carolina in 2005 where he launched his career in puppetry doing street performances with his puppets. In 2008 he started working with Paperhand Puppet Intervention, building puppets and performing in Paperhand productions. Jeghetto had the pleasure to work with Missy Elliott on her music video, “WTF (Where They From),” controlling the Pharell puppet and doing some puppet building. He also worked on the Amazon Echo commercial featuring Missy Elliott and Alec Baldwin as puppets. Pipkins is a former teacher at Just Right Academy, a private alternative school for children with special needs. He is married and a proud father of five children.

Enjoy a few moments from The Hip Hopera of SP1N0K10

A Bucket of Beetles

Papermoon Puppet Theatre
Chopin Theatre (mainstage), 1543 W. Division St., Wicker Park
Four shows: Friday, January 19 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, January 20 at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, January 21 at 3 p.m. 
50 minutes
Ages 5 and up
Tickets: $30-$40

Wehea lives in a big rainforest where even the smallest of beings are his friends. Inspired by the drawings of a four-year-old and imbued with the exquisite puppetry of Indonesia's Papermoon Puppet Theatre, comes a story of a beautiful friendship, of enchanting creatures and of the delicate connection between humans and nature.
Papermoon Puppet Theatre believes that anything can come alive. Every creature, every object, every single thing in the world holds life somewhere inside of it. The company was founded in 2006 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia by Co-Artistic Director Maria Tri Sulistyani (Ria). She has since nurtured, developed and expanded the company with Co-Artistic Director Iwan Effendi, a visual artist and Papermoon’s puppet designer. The company works with a collective of puppeteers including Anton Fajri, Pambo Priyojati, Beni Sanjaya, Muhammad Alhaq and Hardiansyah Yoga. To date, Papermoon Puppet Theatre has created more than 30 puppet performances and visual art installations and exhibitions, which have toured more than 10 countries, from Japan to the Netherlands, from Australia to the U.S. In 2008, the company launched Pesta Boneka, an international puppet biennale that welcomes puppeteers from around the world to their home in Indonesia.

PEOPLE COMMENTS : A Bucket of Beetles
People Comments: A Bucket of Beetles

Song of the North

Hamid Rahmanian
Three shows: Friday, January 19 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, January 20 at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
80 minutes
All Ages
Tickets: $35-$45

Song of the Northadapted from the “Book of Kings” (Shahnameh), is a visually breathtaking, large-scale, cinematic play of shadow puppetry and projected animation. It tells the classic Persian tale of the courageous Manijeh, a heroine from ancient Persia, who must use all her strengths and talents to rescue her beloved, Bijan, from a perilous predicament of her own making to help prevent a war. This epic love story employs a cast of 500 handmade puppets and a talented ensemble of nine actors and puppeteers, which come together to create a spectacular experience that advances themes of unity, collaboration and experimentation through performance and story. 

Le Monde said Song of the North has “breathtaking fireworks of creativity” and Toute La Culture wrote ”the Persian soul and culture vibrate in this original and poetic show.” 
Hamid Rahmanian returns to Chicago after presenting Feathers of Fire at the 2nd Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival in 2017. Rahmanian is a 2014 John Guggenheim Fellow and recipient of the 2020 United States Artists Fellowship. He undertook the immense task of illustrating and commissioning a new translation and adaptation of the tenth-century Persian epic poem “Shahnameh” by Ferdowsi, entitled “Shahnameh: The Epic of the Persian Kings” (2013). This best-selling 600-page art book, hailed by the Wall Street Journal as a “masterpiece,” is in its second edition (Liveright Publishing). In 2017, he released an immersive audiobook version of “Shahnameh” with an introduction by Frances Ford Coppola. In 2018, he released a pop up book, “Zahhak: The Legend of the Serpent King” (Fantagraphics Books), in English and French. It received a Meggendorfer Prize and was hailed “simply breathtaking” by Le Monde. His films have screened at Venice, Sundance, Toronto, Tribeca, and IDFA film festivals and broadcast on PBSSundance ChannelIFCChannel 4BBCDR2 and Al Jazeera. In 2014, Rahmanian shifted his focus to theater arts, working with shadows and digital media. To date, he has created five theater pieces: Zahhak: The Legend of the Serpent King (2014), Mina’s Dream (2016), commissioned by the Onassis Foundation, and UNIMA-USA award winning Feathers Of Fire (2016) which toured in 23 cities around the world to an audience of over 100,000. In 2019, he was commissioned by Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble to create a video animation for their multimedia project, Heroes Take Their Stand. His latest stage production, Song of the North, premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2022.

Song of the North - a cinematic shadow theater - trailer

Figurentheater Wilde & Vogel
The Biograph's Richard Christiansen Theatre, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Lincoln Park
January 19-21
Four shows: Friday, January 19 at 9 p.m., Saturday, January 20 at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.; Sunday, January 21 at 5 p.m.
70 minutes
16 and up
Tickets: $20-$30

Spleen is a kaleidoscope of pictures, songs and miniatures, inspired by Charles Baudelaire’s collection of poems “Le Spleen de Paris,” published posthumously in 1869. Mankind on the threshold to modernity is described in scenes played out between thirst for life and longing for death, between a romantic search for infinity and a brutal triviality. The performers are on the stage with puppets and musical instruments, while Baudelaire’s texts are spoken by children recorded on tape. The magic of this kaleidoscope develops in the imagination between actors, material and audience - a sequence of pictures and live music that wants to counterpoint Baudelaire’s vision of the world and open it for a new understanding for the present.
Figurentheater Wilde & Vogel was founded in 1997 by musician Charlotte Wilde and puppeteer and puppet maker Michael Vogel, first in Stuttgart, from 2003 in Leipzig, where Wilde and Vogel are co-founders of the International Centre for Animated Theatre Westflügel. Wilde, who studied music, English and history in Karlsruhe, arranges, composes and plays the music (violin, guitar and keyboard instruments). Vogel studied in Prague with Milos Kirschner and the Spejbl & Hurvinek Theatre, and studied puppet theater in Stuttgart at the University of Music and Performing Arts. Today, puppetry and live music are the artistic means of Wilde & Vogel’s theater, with a repertoire including classical drama, adaptations of novels, poetry and original works. Themes and dramatic material for the productions are manifold, and are always reduced to the essence, to open space for imagination beyond the visible for the audience.

The Beast Dance (or The Secret Spell of the Wild)
La Liga Teatro Elástico
Presented by the National Museum of Mexican Art and the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival
National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th St., Pilsen
One show only: Saturday, January 20 at 2 p.m.
75 minutes
All ages

La Liga Teatro Elástico celebrates the important role of the wildest predators within our natural ecosystem using spectacle and community interaction in reverence to the wolf with The Beast Dance (or The Secret Spell of the Wild). This spectacle revives the ancient dance of the hunter and the prey to the rhythm of festive traditional sounds. Workshop participants young and old who have spent the prior week building puppet-beasts will assemble the production right in front of the audience and then release it into the public space. It’s been performed more than 50 times in streets, squares and parks on three continents, where people have participated to the rhythm of Oaxacan sones, Basque trikitritxas or Otomi tunditos on beaches, mountains, semi-deserts or snow. Now Chicago will take its turn continuing to evolve and enrich this community spectacle featuring the live band, Los Héroes del Destierro.
La Liga Teatro Elástico is a theater company founded by actress/stage director Jacqueline Serafín and artist/puppet designer Iker Vicente, focused on objects and animated figures. Starting from an interdisciplinary approach, the company develops projects that exist somewhere between sculpture, theater, performance and teaching. Their work melds street theater with games and celebration as a strategy for a new set of foundations and meanings inside the theater, museum, or urban spaces where they occur. The company has presented plays, installations and workshops at international festivals in America, Africa and Europe, including frequent collaborations with other artists and companies.

La Liga Teatro Elástico celebrates the important role of the wildest predators using spectacle and community interaction in The Beast Dance (The Secret Spell of the Wild).

Nasty, Brutish & Short

Various artists
Presented by Rough House Theatre Co., UChicago and the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival
Links Hall, 3111 N. Western Ave., Roscoe Village/Avondale
Friday and Saturday, January 19 and 20 at 10:30 p.m.
60 minutes
Ages 16 and up
Tickets: $15-$18

Hit the fan-favorite late show to take your puppetry experience from the highest heights to the best kind of lows. Enjoy Chicago's long-standing puppet cabaret with your host Jameson and somewhat furry friends for a naughty night of raucous, raunchy, dark, sassy, sad and mostly hilarious puppet theater. The best part? Fancy out-of-towner puppeteers are invited to join local legends in a bawdy night of revelry followed by friendly unwinding.
Chicago’s Rough House Theater Co. is on a mission to connect individuals and communities through art that celebrates the weird things that make people unique and the weirder things that bring us together. Rough House captures the heart through the eye, using puppetry, music and human performance to tell intimate stories, as strange as they are sincere. Their work has appeared in the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, the National Puppetry Festival, punk houses, funeral parlors, a lotion factory and the woods of Appalachia. They’re known for their Nasty Brutish & Short late night cabarets, showcases for new and experimental short-form and object-based theater for adults, and House of the Exquisite Corpse, Chicago’s only immersive puppet haunted house.

MAROONED! A Space Comedy

Alex and Olmsted
Chopin Theatre (mainstage), 1543 W. Division St., Wicker Park
January 22-24
Three shows: Monday and Tuesday, January 22 and 23 at 7 p.m.; Wednesday, January 24 at 5 p.m. 
60 minutes
All ages
Tickets: $30-$40

An astronaut traveling 87,000 light years into space crash-lands on an uncharted planet, where she must resort to emergency measures to seek rescue. From the award-winning team Alex and Olmsted, elegant puppetry design meets joyful, meaningful storytelling. Live performance, shadow puppetry and marionettes shine to delightful effect. 

"Achingly beautiful" hailed MD Theatre Guide. "Amusing, charming, delightful and, at times, utterly and completely astonishing” raved DC Theatre Scene. This is puppetry life support of the best kind - at just the right moment. 
Alex and Olmsted (Alex Vernon and Sarah Olmsted Thomas) is an internationally acclaimed puppet theater and filmmaking company based in Maryland. They have toured at festivals in Italy, Denmark, South Korea, and Canada, and have performed at numerous venues within the United States. Alex & Olmsted was awarded the 2020 State Independent Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts Council, the highest honor for performing artists in the State of Maryland. Their works have been supported by the Jim Henson Foundation and Greenbelt Community Foundation, recognized by the New York Times, and named an official selection of the Maryland Film Festival, Paris Art Film and others. Alex and Olmsted is a resident company at Baltimore Theatre Project.

Alex and Olmsted's "MAROONED! A Space Comedy" - New Puppet Show Trailer!
An astronaut traveling 87,000 light years into space crash-lands on 
an uncharted planet in Alex & Olmsted's Marooned! A Space Comedy.


Figurentheater Wilde & Vogel and Grupa Coincidentia
The Biograph Theater's Začek-McVay Mainstage, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Lincoln Park
January 25-28
Four shows: Thursday, January 25 at 7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, January 26 and 27 at 9 p.m.; Sunday, January 28 at 3 p.m.
70 minutes
13 and up
Tickets: $35-$45

Based on the classic German children's book “Krabat and the Sorcerer's Mill,” a stray war orphan finds shelter with eleven millers and their Master. Strict rules, dark practices, black magic…anything can be endured as long as the bowl is full and the bed is dry. Krabat grows closer and closer to the Master. Finally, it is not heroism, but disobedience - the motive of gaining a friend and a girl who loves him - that breaks the power of the spell. A play about hard times, human falls and the power of first love, Krabat goes straight to the heart with penetrating clarity, power of image, stage humor and a minimum of words. Dark, bold and at the same time incredibly light, it’s a carousel of feelings spinning among great musical landscapes.
Figurentheater Wilde & Vogel was founded in 1997 by musician Charlotte Wilde and puppeteer and puppet maker Michael Vogel, first in Stuttgart, from 2003 in Leipzig, where Wilde and Vogel are co-founders of the International Centre for Animated Theatre Westflügel. Their repertoire includes classical drama, adaptations of novels, poetry and original works. *see longer bio above
Grupa Coincidentia was founded in 2009 by Dagmara Sowa and Pawel Chomczyk, graduates of the Bialystok Puppet Art Department of the Theater Academy. Coincidentia has produced over a dozen performances in collaboration with artists such as Michael Vogel, Lukasz Kos, Christiane Zanger, Pawel Aigner, Michal Walczak, Robert Jarosz, Christoph Bochdansky, Pawel Passini, Robert Drobniuch and Konrad Dworakowski. Coincidentia's shows have been presented at numerous festivals in Europe, Asia and North America and have been honored with many awards (including The Bank of Scotland Herald Angel, Total Theater Award Edinburgh, Grand Prix of the Konteksty Festival, the Grand Prix of the MFTL in Torun). Coincidentia collaborates on a permanent basis with the German independent scene Lindenfels Westfluegel in Leipzig and the Figurentheater Wilde & Vogel. In 2016, Grupa Coincidentia established Siedlisko Kultury Solniki 44 - an independent cultural center located in the forest in Podlasie region, which has hosted dozens of theatrical performances, artistic and educational workshops, works in progress, concerts and panel discussions. In 2018, the center initiated LasFest - International Theater Festival in the Forest, and in 2020, LasKids - a festival addressed to children's audiences. Both include independent theaters, laboratory works, concerts, student shows, meetings with artists, film screenings and unconventional events combining art with nature.

Book of Mountain and Seas

Basil Twist
New York/China
Presented by the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival and Chicago Opera Theater
Studebaker Theater, 410 S. Michigan Ave., downtown Chicago
January 26-28
Three shows: Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
80 minutes
12 and up
Tickets: $40-$45

Book of Mountains and Seas examines our modern-day relationship with the natural world. Four fables centered around the creation and destruction of the earth are uniquely told by a company of 12 singers, two percussionists, and six puppeteers with staging by internationally celebrated puppeteer Basil Twist. Huang Ruo’s vibrant and inventive score, which draws inspiration from Chinese folk music, breathes new life into the ancient stories. This is a powerful and extraordinary work that will challenge the way audiences interact with nature and the environment.

The Wall Street Journal called it “an exquisite masterpiece of suggestion, an immersive tapestry of sound and image that weaves itself into your consciousness.” 
Basil Twist, a third generation puppeteer, has significantly contributed to the art of puppetry since 1998, known worldwide for creating original abstract adult puppet works focused on their integration with music. His famous work Symphonie Fantastique, which takes place in a tank of water, is performed to the symphony of the same name. A new film version was screened last year as part of the 2023 Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival. Twist created the puppetry for the Broadway productions of The Pee-wee Herman Show and The Addams Family. Other works include Dogugaeshi (another highlight of last year’s Chicago Puppet Festival)La Bella Dormente nel BoscoPetrushkaHansel and GretelMaster Peter's Puppet ShowTheAraneidae ShowBehind the Lid and Arias with a Twist. He has received numerous awards, including a Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, an Obie Award, a Creative Capital Award in Performing Arts and a Guggenheim fellowship. He was a 2015 MacArthur Fellow at the NYU Center for Ballet and the Arts. He attended Oberlin College and graduated from the École Supérieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionnette in Charleville-Mézières, France. He is founder and director of the Dream Music Puppetry Program at Here Arts Center in New York. In 2023, he led the puppetry in the Royal Shakespeare Company adaptation of My Neighbor Totoro at the Barbican Theatre, London.

Book of Mountains & Seas | PROTOTYPE 2022
Watch a trailer for Basil Twist's Book of Mountains and Seas

Lunch with Sonia 

Loco7 Dance Puppet Theater
Presented by the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago and Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival
The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, 1306 S. Michigan Ave., downtown Chicago
January 25-27
Three shows: Thursday and Friday, January 25 and 26 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, January 27 at 4 p.m.
55 minutes
12 and up
Tickets: $30-$40

Lunch with Sonia is inspired by Loco 7 founder and artistic director Federico Restrepo’s true-life experience with his Aunt Sonia, who at the age of 72, asked her family to gather for lunch. Lyrical storytelling, dance, projection and a team of talented puppeteers tell the story of this larger-than-life, unapologetic and robust woman. It’s a piece of incredible intimacy proposing the idea that dying is the final event of living a self-actualized, individual human life. 

The New York Times called Lunch with Sonia “strange, daring, gorgeous and far from the mainstream.
Loco7 is a Latinx-run organization that feels it is of the utmost importance to be inclusive and represent the voices of underrepresented people. More than 75% of its staff, board of directors, and artists identify as people of color, female, and/or LGBTQ+. The company is a modest, not-for-profit experimental theater ensemble that is artist-run and maintains a small office and storage facility in New York City. In addition, the company provides an artistic home and professional foundation for a multicultural group of performers, designers and theatre artists who collaborate with Loco7 on a project basis. The company’s leaders are Federico Restrepo, founder, artistic director and designer, and Denise Greber, executive director and performer.


Belova-Iacobelli Theatre Company
Chopin Theatre (mainstage), 1543 W. Division St., Wicker Park
January 26-28
Three shows: Friday and Saturday, January 26 and 27 at 7 p.m.; Sunday, January 28 at 3 p.m.
60 minutes
Ages 13 and up
Tickets: $30-$40

In the backstage of a theater, an aging actress named Chayka struggles to remember why she is there. A young woman arrives to remind her: tonight she must play the part of Arkadina in Chekhov’s The Seagull. As her memory fades, not knowing quite who she is nor the part she is meant to be playing, Chayka is determined at least to give this last performance. In her struggle and descent, reality and fiction intersect. 
This multi-award winning production, told in a dreamlike style, is a duo performance for one actress and one puppet, and is the first piece from the Belgo-Chilean company Belova ~ Iacobelli. In 2012, the Chilean actress and stage director Tita Iacobelli met the Belgo-Russian puppeteer Natacha Belova in Santiago, Chile, at the La Rebelión de los Muñecos Festival. In 2015, again in Santiago, they created an experimental theater laboratory for contemporary puppet theater. When the two-month experience was over, they decided to develop a play together. Chayka was the first production, created in June 2018 in Santiago de Chile, followed In September 2021, by LOCO at the Théâtre National Wallonie-Bruxelles in Belgium. In October 2022, the performance Sisypholia, by Natacha Belova co-directed with Dorian Chavez, was presented at the International Biennial of Living Arts Toulouse Occitanie in France.

Chaika con Tita Iacobelli y marionetas de Natacha Belova
In the backstage of a theater, an aging actress struggles to remember 
why she is there in Chayka from Belova-Iacobelli Theatre Company.

Leonardo! A Wonderful Show About A Terrible Monster

Manual Cinema
The DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center, 740 E. 56th St., Hyde Park
January 26-28
Three shows: Friday, January 26 at 5 p.m.; Saturday, January 27 at 3 p.m.; Sunday, January 28 at 1 p.m.
45 minutes
All ages
Tickets: $30-$40

Leonardo is a terrible monster. He tries so hard to be scary, but he just…isn’t. Then Leonardo finds Sam, the most scaredy-cat kid in the world. Will Leonardo finally get to scare the tuna salad out of someone? Or will it be the start of an unlikely friendship? The plot thickens when this pair meets Kerry and Frankenthaler, an even scaredier-cat and her monster friend. Kerry and Sam need to make a big decision: will they just be scaredy cats or can they become friends? Chicago’s Manual Cinema brings two of Mo Willems' popular children’s books to life with hundreds of illustrated paper puppets, book pages, two-dimensional props, furry monster puppets and original songs. 

The Edinburgh Festival for Kids wrote Leonardo is “filled with wonder, humor and oodles of warmth,” and the Chicago Tribune called it “a show that tackles important and serious themes with whimsy, humor and some darn cute puppets.”
Manual Cinema is an Emmy Award-winning 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 tours internationally, combining 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. Recent productions includeLeonardo! A Wonderful Show About a Terrible Monster, co-commissioned by Chicago Children’s Theatre and The Kennedy Center, and Manual Cinema’s Christmas

Manual Cinema Presents: Leonardo! A Wonderful Show About A Terrible Monster (Official Trailer)
Will Leonardo finally get to scare the tuna salad out of someone? Watch 
Manual Cinema's trailer for Leonardo! A Wonderful Show about a Terrible Monster.

Little Carl

Theatre Y and Michael Montenegro
The Biograph's Richard Christiansen Theatre, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Lincoln Park
January 26-28
Four shows: Friday, January 26 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, January 27 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, January 28 at 3 p.m.
80 minutes
12 and up 
Tickets: $20-$30

In Little Carl, Theatre Y’s Youth Ensemble grapples with the difficult issue of gun violence by creating a dream play using puppets, masks, and poetry, making beautiful imagery as an antidote to despair. 

Members of Theatre Y’s youth program have steered this project, guided by an extraordinary set of tools and support from veteran masters of their craft including multidisciplinary artist and North Lawndale native Marvin Tate, puppetry artisan Michael Montenegro, and the Firehouse Community Arts Center. Youth from Chicago’s west side have created each aspect of the vision, while maintaining a critical distance from the work to protect them from re-traumatization or any feelings of exploitation.
Theatre Y is a Chicago-based international incubator that creates connections between diverse artists seeking mutual growth through collaboration. ​​The company is in its 17th year of experimental productions, challenging international content, and employing a member-based FREE theater model, which helps it occupy a unique place in Chicago's theater community. Theatre Y recently launched a new campus in North Lawndale as part of a revitalization concept that centers cooperative artistic residencies. At the helm of Theatre Y’s reinvention is the multidisciplinary artist, musician, and educator Marvin Tate. Originally from North Lawndale, Tate has brought his unique, futuristic genius to the direction of Theatre Y’s project, taking the lead on everything from the building’s aesthetic to Theatre Y’s programming. The company’s youth program encourages multidisciplinary, lateral thinking in young people and teaches the necessary hard and soft skills for successful careers in the arts and social justice fields.
For 25 years, Midwestern audiences have enjoyed Michael Montenegro’ssolo performances, group projects, and puppetry design collaborations including Argonautica (Lookingglass Theatre) directed by Mary Zimmerman, The War With the Newts and The Long Christmas Ride Home (Next Theatre), and The Puppetmaster of Lodz (Writers’ Theatre), which won a Jeff Award for Puppet Design. He last performed in 2017 at the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, presenting his solo work Kick the Klown Presents a Konkatenation of Kafka.

Logan Center Family Puppet Cabaret

Co-presented in partnership with the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts and Theater and Performance Studies at The University of Chicago
Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, Performance Penthouse, 
915 E. 60th St., Hyde Park
Saturday, January 27 at 4 p.m.
60 minutes
All ages
Tickets: $15-$18

Bring the kids to see local puppeteers performing a diverse set of short, family-friendly works, set against fantastic panoramic views of the city from the Logan Center Penthouse. 

Nasty, Brutish & Short

Various artists
Presented by Rough House Theatre Co., UChicago and the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival
Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, Performance Penthouse, The University of Chicago, 915 E. 60th St., Hyde Park
Friday and Saturday, January 26 and 27 at 10:30 p.m.
60 minutes
Ages 16 and up
Tickets: $15-$18

Rough House heads south to Hyde Park on the festival’s final weekend for two more nights of its Nasty, Brutish & Short puppet cabaret. It’s an evening of raucous, raunchy, dark, sassy, sad and mostly hilarious puppet theater. The best part? Fancy out of towner puppeteers will join local legends in two final nights of puppet revelry.

Free Neighborhood Tour: Tears by the River

Krystal Puppeteers
Presented by the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, Navy Pier the Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Parksm and UChicago
January 18-28
10 performances at 9 locations throughout the city 
35 minutes
All ages

Tears by the River beautifully blends traditional Kenyan puppetry, artistry and vocals to tell this classic folktale about the brave monkey called Libendi. A great famine sends him seeking a far away river and a better life. Crossing valleys, mountains, deserts, and barren land, Libendi risks everything and although many animals of the forest honor, respect and praise him, others will do anything for fame. 

Bring the family to enjoy one of 10 free public performances at nine sites around the city:

Thursday, January 18, 4:30 p.m.
Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center, 4046 W. Armitage Ave., Hermosa

Friday, January 19, 4:30 p.m.
Marshall Fields Garden Apartments/Art on Sedgwick, 1408 N. Sedgwick St., Old Town

Saturday, January 20, 4 p.m.
Theater Y, 3611 W. Cermak Rd., North Lawndale

Sunday, January 21, 2 p.m.
345 Art Gallery, 345 N. Kedzie Ave., Garfield Park

Wednesday, January 24, 6 p.m.
Berger Park Coachhouse, 6205 N. Sheridan Rd., Edgewater

Thursday, January 25, 10:30 a.m. (school groups) and 7 p.m.
Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, Performance Hall, The University of Chicago, 915 E. 60th St., Hyde Park

Friday, January 26, 6 p.m.
Mandrake Park, 3858 S. Cottage Grove Ave., Bronzeville 

Saturday, January 27, Noon and 2 p.m.
Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., downtown Chicago

Sunday, January 28, 3 p.m.
South Shore Cultural Center Paul Robeson Theatre, 7059 S. South Shore Dr., South Shore
Krystal Puppeteers is a Kenyan-German puppetry and performing company established in 1995 in Mombasa, Kenya by puppeteers Fedelis Kyalo and Chrispin Mwashagha. Combining traditional and contemporary puppetry techniques with live music and dances, Krystal puppet shows are not only captivating and creative but also transfer the audience to another world where puppets come alive and become one with the audience. The company has taken part in puppet festivals all over the world including, Spain, Germany, Austria, Poland, Argentina, Ecuador, and Brazil. 

TEARS BY THE RIVER - Krystall Puppeteers
Tears by the River beautifully blends traditional Kenyan puppetry, artistry 
and vocals to tell this classic folktale about the brave monkey called Libendi.

The Puppet Hub
Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Ave., Studio 433, Chicago
Curated by the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival
Presented in partnership with The Spoke & Bird Cafe

In addition to the incredible pageant of international and U.S. puppetry artists, the Puppet Hub is back and open throughout the festival. It’s the perfect place to relax between shows, meet up with friends, make new ones, and learn more about contemporary puppetry. 

Attractions include: 
The Spoke & Bird Pop-Up Cafe

Stop by The Spoke & Bird Pop-Up Cafe if you’re coming to a show at the Studebaker Theater, workshops, readings and special events in the Fine Arts Building, or any Puppet Fest show downtown. Enjoy coffee, tea, winter soups and baked treats in a cozy, puppet-inspired setting, and check out the surrounding exhibits. 

(Cafe hours: Friday, January 19, 10 a.m-10 p.m.; Saturday, January 20, 9 a.m.-
8 p.m.; Sunday, January 21, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Closed Monday, January 22; Tuesday, January 23, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday, January 24 and 25, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Friday, January 26, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday, January 27, 9 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, January 28, 9 a.m.-7:30 p.m.)

¿ lobo estás ahi? (The Beasts wait inside)

An up-close look at the preliminary drawings and wild animal puppets in The Beast Dance by visiting company La Liga Teatro Elástico, Mexico. Catch their free spectacle production, one-show-only, Saturday, January 20 at 2 p.m. at the National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th St., Pilsen.

The Materiality of the Puppet

A special exhibit showcasing design renderings from the 2024 festival productions.

Pop-Up Puppet Shop

The perfect spot to stock up on your newest Chicago Puppet Fest swag and all of the books featured in the Book Talks.

Ellen Van Volkenburg Puppetry Symposium

Talking Stuff: The Materiality of the Puppet

Presented by the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, sponsored by UNIMA-USA
Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Ave., Little Studio, 7th Floor, Chicago
Four free panel discussions 
In person and streaming via HowlRound

Named in honor of Little Theatre of Chicago director Ellen Van Volkenburg, who coined the term “puppeteer” in 1912, the festival’s annual Ellen Van Volkenburg Puppetry Symposium brings together puppetry enthusiasts, scholars and festival artists from Chicago, the U.S. and internationally for free discussions around the intersection of puppetry with other disciplines and ideas. 

This year's symposium, Talking Stuff: The Materiality of the Puppet, will feature festival artists on four different panels discussing the materiality of the puppet in both theory and practice. 

Panel 1 - Mechanisms
Saturday, January 20, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

How do mechanisms, both digital and mechanical, ingenious and simple work to animate the material characters and performance? Panelists include Matthew Gawryk and Dan Kerr-Hobert (Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities: A Toy Theater Atlas), Tarish "Jeghetto" Pipkins (The Hip Hopera of SP1N0K10) and Michael Vogel (Spleen). 

Panel 2 - Materials
Sunday, January 21, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

What tells the story? How does the performance start with the selection of materials chosen for the puppet and set fabrication? Featuring Iwan Effendiand Maria Tri Sulistyani (A Bucket of Beetles), Jacqueline Serafín and Iker Vicente (The Beast Dance) and Hamid Rahmanian (Song of the North).

Panel 3 - Manipulation
Saturday, January 27, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

How does the material used to construct the puppet affect the manipulation technique used to animate it? How do the needs of the performance influence the choice of materials and manipulation techniques? Panelists include Michael Montenegro (Little Carl) and Basil Twist (Book of Mountains and Seas). 

Panel 4 - Construction Techniques
Sunday, January 28, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

How do various building techniques - simple and direct, or complex - impact character, presentation and storytelling? Featuring Dagmara Sowa and Paweł Chomczyk (Krabat), Fedelis Kyalo (Tears by the River) and Federico Restrepo (Lunch with Sonia). 

New in 2024! Book Talks

New to the festival are a series of Book Talks with four puppet scholars who are all releasing new U.S. publications this year. Book Talks are free, for all ages and are all held in the Fine Arts Building, Little Studio, 7th Floor:
Book Talk with Author Colette Searls
Author, “A Galaxy of Things: The Power of Puppets and Masks in Star Wars and Beyond”
Friday, January 19, 5-6 p.m.
Searls’ new book “A Galaxy of Things” explores the ways in which all puppets, masks, and makeup-prosthetic figures are "material characters," using iconic Star Wars characters like Yoda and R2-D2 to illustrate what makes them so compelling.

Book Talk with Author Dr. Paulette Richards
Author, “Object Performance in the Black Atlantic”
Tuesday, January 23, 5-6 p.m.
Given that slaveholders prohibited the creation of African-style performing objects, is there a traceable connection between traditional African puppets, masks, and performing objects, and contemporary African American puppetry? Dr. Richards’ study approaches the question by looking at the whole performance complex surrounding African performing objects and examines the material culture of object performance.

Book Talk with Author Dr. Claudia Orenstein
Author, “Reading the Puppet Stage: Reflections on the Dramaturgy of Performing Objects”
Friday, January 26, 4:30-5:30 p.m.
Drawing on the author’s two decades of seeing, writing on, and teaching about puppetry from a critical perspective, “Reading the Puppet Stage” offers a collection of insights into how we watch, understand and appreciate puppetry.

Book Talk with Author Dr. Claudia Orenstein and Tim Cusack
Authors, “Puppet and Spirit: Ritual, Religion, and Performing Objects”
Saturday, January 27, 4:30-5:30 p.m.
The relationship between human consciousness and the material world raises ontological questions about the nature of reality itself. “Puppet and Spirit” asks “What is the ontological nature of a supposed spirit perceived as acting through objects?”

Catapult Artist Intensive

Experience the 6th Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival how founder and artistic director Blair Thomas says “I’d like to attend a festival.” 

The Catapult Artist Intensive returns with two professional development weekends designed to advance the form and expand understanding of the field of puppetry in the United States. Each weekend, practicing artists of all disciplines are taken on a three-day, curated, guided experience of festival programming. Join an intimate cohort, escorted by a professional leader, for discussions, a performance workshop, backstage access to the shows and more. Each immersive weekend includes eight performances, with symposiums and local transportation.

Registration is $595 per weekend, including some meals. Limited capacity. Scholarships available. Hotel not included. Go to to sign up. 

Study the art and practice of puppetry, hands-on, with top local and visiting puppet artists by enrolling in a Chicago Puppet Festival workshop. They’re open to adult professional artists working in any discipline. The fee for each workshop is $60.

Krystal Puppeteers Theatre Master Class
Friday, January 19, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Ave., Little Studio, 7th Floor

Papermoon Puppet Theatre Master Class
Saturday, January 20, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division St., Wicker Park

Manual Cinema Master Class
Sunday, January 21, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Manual Cinema Studio, 2203 W. 21st St., Pilsen

Grupa Coincidenta Master Class
Saturday, January 27, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
The Biograph’s Začek-McVay Mainstage, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Lincoln Park

Loco7 Master Class
Saturday, January 27, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Dance Center Columbia College Chicago, 1306 S. Michigan Ave., downtown Chicago

Fundraising events

Opening Night Prelude Reception
Steppenwolf's Balcony Bar, 1650 N. Halsted St., Lincoln Park
Thursday, January 18, 5:30 p.m.-7:15 p.m.
Tickets: $125/$250 benefactor

Join top supporters, festival artistic directors and staff to toast the opening of the 6th edition of the festival at this exclusive, pre-show reception including early access to opening night festivities, immediately followed by the opening night performance of Wakka Wakka’s The Immortal Jellyfish Girl. Show tickets sold separately.

Opening Night Post-Show Party 
Steppenwolf's Tap Bar & Circle Theater Lobby, 1650 N. Halsted St., Lincoln Park
Thursday, January 18, 8:45-10:45 p.m.
Tickets: $75

Celebrate opening night with the artists and acts ready to astonish and delight you for the next 12 days of the festival. Enjoy drinks, dessert and the regionally-inspired Mexico City ensemble Los Héroes del Desfierro's wind and brass band music.

The Warwick Allerton Hotel Chicago: Official Hotel 
of the 6th Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival

Discounted lodging is available with code Puppetfest24 at The Warwick Allerton Hotel Chicago, 701 N. Michigan Ave. on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, the official hotel of the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival. Visit or call (312) 440-1500 to reserve.

Festival Partners

Festival partners include Art on Sedgwick/Marshall Field Garden ApartmentsBerger ParkThe Biograph TheaterChicago Opera TheaterChicago Park District Night Out in the Parks ProgramChopin TheatreColumbia College ChicagoDance Center Columbia College ChicagoDuSable Black History Museum and Education Centereta Creative Arts Foundation, the Fine Arts Building345 Art GalleryInstituto Cervantes of ChicagoLinks HallMandrake ParkManual CinemaNational Museum of Mexican ArtNavy PierOne Lawndale Youth Advisory CouncilReva and David Logan Center for the Arts at UChicagoRough House Theater Co.Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural CenterSouth Shore Cultural CenterThe Spoke & Bird CafeSteppenwolf Theatre CompanyTheater and Performance Studies at The University of ChicagoTheatre Y, UNIMA-USA and Warwick Allerton Hotel Chicago.

Festival funders

Festival funders include the American Indonesian Cultural Exchange FoundationChicago Park District Night Out in the Parks ProgramChicago DCASE CityArts ProgramFerdi FoundationGaylord and Dorothy Donnelley FoundationIllinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Travel and Tourism ProgramIllinois Arts Council AgencyIllinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity B2B Arts ProgramJentes Family FoundationJohn D. and Catherine T. MacArthur FoundationManaaki FoundationMarshall Frankel FoundationNational Endowment for the ArtsPaul M. Angell Family FoundationPritzker FoundationReva and David Logan FoundationRichard H. Driehaus Foundation and Walder Foundation. Individuals include Ginger Farley and Robert ShapiroJustine Jentes and Dan KarunaElizabeth LiebmanCheryl Lynn Bruce and Kerry James Marshall, Julie MollerKristy and Brandon MoranNina and Steven SchroederDavid and Beatrice Pritzker and Cheryl Henson.


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