Sunday, July 17, 2022

FEST ALERT: Physical Fest Is Back July 16th-24th at Nichols Park in Hyde Park and The Den Theatre.



After holding a virtual festival in 2020 in response to the lockdown and producing their first outdoor event last year, the ninth edition of the Festival will present an expanded program of indoor and outdoor performances and in-person workshops, July 16th-24th, at Nichols Park in Hyde Park and The Den Theatre.

Physical Theater Festival Chicago is bringing back indoor performances for its ninth edition after going virtual in 2020 and presenting a downsized outdoors edition last year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns. Public response to the outdoor event was, in fact, so positive that Festival co-founders Marc Frost and Alice da Cunha are starting the Festival Saturday, July 16th with a full day of family-friendly outdoor shows in partnership with the Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Parks series. The free event will take place at Nichols Park, 1355 East 53rd St., in the Hyde Park neighborhood from 2-8 pm. The Festival will continue with a week of international, national and local performances, workshops and conversations at The Den Theater, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., from July 18th-24th. There will also be virtual offerings available on their website,

Artists scheduled to perform during the eight-day event include: Chicago’s Theatre Lumina, physical actor, juggler and performer Alex M. Knapp, clown and puppeteer Sharaina “Shay” Turnage, and contemporary circus company To X For; from the UK, Kuumba Nia Arts and Unlock the Chains Collective, two groups dedicated to bringing to life the stories and histories of people of African and Caribbean descent in the United Kingdom; and from Argentina, Payasos Cenizas.\

Tickets for individual shows at The Den Theatre are: General, $21; Industry/Students/Seniors/Veterans, $16. Festival passes for all 5 shows are General, $86; Industry/Students/Seniors/Veterans, $61. Tickets and passes can be purchased at For The Den Theatre’s covid policy visit their website.

“Being able to present our Festival last year, in person and outdoors, was a much needed balm for an artform that depends precisely on that human, physical contact. To see the joy, the smiles, in our audiences' faces, especially among the children was incredibly rewarding for both Alice and myself. So you can imagine how we feel about our return to the stage to introduce theatergoers to the amazing new creations from these dynamic  artists.” said Frost.

“Our Festival was conceived from Day One as an international festival so to not be able to bring these artists from around the world to the city of Chicago due to the pandemic, while necessary, truly saddened us.” added da Cunha. “In the theater world, two years feels like an eternity so we feel incredibly happy and blessed to be able to bring these local and international artists back to the space we all call home, the stage, and celebrate their resilience in these difficult times.”

The 9th Physical Theater Festival Chicago is made possible through the generosity of major supporters like the Richard HJ. Driehaus Foundation, the MacArthur Funds for Culture, Equity, and the Arts, Chicago Park District's Night Out in the Parks and The Chicago Latino Theater Alliance; our producer's board and the generous contributions of individuals like you. 



Saturday, July 16, 2-8 p.m.

Physical Theater Festival Chicago Family Event

Nichols Park, 1355 East 53rd St., Chicago

Performances by Alex M. Knapp (Chicago), Sharaina Turnage (Chicago) and Kuumba Nia Arts (UK)

Physical actor, juggler, magician and circus performer Alex M. Knapp attended the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University for Music (Vocal and Cello performance), as well as Columbia College Chicago for theater. He has studied Mime with The Mime Company in Evanston, Clown with 500 Clown, Paola Colletto, and The School for Theater Creators. He has received intensive circus training at New York Trapeze School in New York, Eche Arial Arts in Boston, and from Norbol Meirmanov at Meirmanov Sports Acro (MSA) in Chicago. Alex has performed with companies such as Redmoon Theater, Adventure Stage, the Inconvenience Theater and with 360 Entertainments national tour production of Peter Pan. On TV he has performed with Green Screen Adventures on WCIU. At clubs, bars, parties and festivals he performs with his band the Amen Brothers on Vocals, Ukulele and Cello.

Actor, puppeteer and clown Sharaina “Shay” Turnage is an actor/writer/voiceover/puppeteer/clown from the Southside of Chicago. Shay has toured with Manual Cinema and Theater Unspeakable. Shay also has performed with Free Street for the past few years. Shay studied “Du” Theater in Suriname, South America and was one of the first and currently only North Americans to perform the art form in Suriname and in the US. 

Kuumba Nia Arts is a Black led Oxford-based touring theater company that produces and develops work based on traditional African theatrical forms and aesthetics.  In Swahili, Kuumba means ‘creativity’ whilst Nia can be translated as ‘intention’ or ‘purpose’.  


1333 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Monday, July 18

7 p.m. – Scratch Night

Scratch Night is a curated, quarterly theater showcase of works-in-progress featuring innovative local theater makers. Scratch Night features 6-7 previews of original contemporary, visual, and physical theater by different Chicago artists to foster their development. Co-produced by Brittany Price Anderson and Scott Ray Merchant, Scratch Night aims to provide a social space for community, conversation, and collaboration.


Tuesday, July 19 and Wednesday, July 20

7 p.m. – Song of Home by Theatre Lumina (USA/Chicago)

Theatre Lumina presents its newest devised work, Song of Home, a series of movement etudes confronting America’s complicated relationship with global displacement. Experienced by three displaced women coming to the United States, Song of Home is a theatrical meditation on the rich dynamic between a country’s identity and its accountability to the displaced. This project was first presented in a workshop phase in New Orleans in spring 2019 and then toured to Chisinau, Moldova and Lodz, Poland in February 2020.

Theatre Lumina is a group of artists devoted to cross-cultural collaboration and international exchange, founded by Monica Payne in 2014. Through the selection of diverse artists, subject matter, scripts, and influences, they seek to deepen audiences’ perspective and care for the world in which they live.  

Wednesday, July 20 and Thursday, July 21

9 p.m. – Surface Tension by To X For (USA/Chicago)

Surface Tension takes a beautiful and daring look at a queer friendship. At points ecstatic, dark, searching, and joyful, this intimate circus show celebrates vulnerable connection through sincere juggling. Utilizing acrobatics, weight-sharing, object manipulation, and dance, Surface Tension addresses the fear of loss, the power of trust, and the joy of vulnerability. 

To X For is a grassroots contemporary circus company based in Chicago, formed by artists Liam Bradley and David Chervony. Their aim is to make intimate performance that conveys a deeper sense of our humanity.

Thursday, July 21-Saturday, July 23

7 p.m. (Thursday and Friday), 9 p.m. (Saturday) – Sold by Kuumba Nia Arts (U.K.) and Unlock the Chains Collective (U.K.)

When one woman tells of her extraordinary journey to overcome the brutality of slavery, she becomes a beacon for the British anti-slavery movement. Born into slavery in the British colony of Bermuda, Mary Prince went on to become an autobiographer and champion of freedom. Published in 1831, Sold had an electrifying effect on the abolitionist movement helping to free many Africans in bondage. Through theater, song, music, drumming & dance, this masterpiece of Black British theater is inspired by the storytelling traditions of the West African Griot.

Kuumba Nia Arts was founded in 2009 to bring African and Caribbean peoples’ histories and contemporary stories to life through theater & film. Their storytelling theater form is a fusion of drama, song, dance and ritual linked to Caribbean and African roots. 

Unlock the Chains Collective was founded in 1986 by Euton Daley to explore performance poetry as a theatrical form and to develop a dialogue with various social struggles at the time. Dormant for over 20 years, they reformed in 2013 to continue the journey and give Black artists a performance platform and to present black experiences and cultural forms. 

Friday, July 22-Sunday, July 25

9 p.m. (Friday), 7 p.m. (Saturday) and 3 p.m. (Sunday) – Ruedos by Payasos Cenizas (Argentina). Co-presenting with Chicago Latino Theater Alliance

Silence, laughter and poetry come together in an extremely delicate and fun show that starts from minimal gestures and reaches the great questions of each and every one of us, by the hand of an artist. A clown show full of silences, angels and demons, where the body is in charge of writing words in a universal language. The arenas are corners in the life of this clown, who bares his soul while building crazy stories through a constant game with everyday elements.

Agustín Catriel Soler (Payasos Cenizas) is a founding member of the Los Tarantela theater company and has toured Europe doing presentations at the Cirque Starlight in Switzerland and at the Martin Handson’s Winter Circus in Holland. In 2013 he premiered his one-man show Ruedos in Buenos Aires, touring several festivals around the world. Performances of this show continue up to the present. He directed the plays Povorot (2018) Mortajas (2019) and Ciertas Petunias (2022).

WORKSHOPS (also at the Den Theatre)

Physical Theater Festival Chicago is pleased to offer workshops with visiting and local artists during the festival. Attendees will be able to hone their skills, add to their artistic toolbox, and meet physical theater practitioners in an engaging setting. All workshops will cost $51 and for those wanting to attend all four workshops there will be a workshop pass for $181.

Thursday, July 21

10 a.m.-1 p.m.

The Triptych: Storytelling in Three Panels

Taught by Monica Payne and members of Theatre Lumina

This workshop will explore physical expression and storytelling through the lens of the Triptych, a three-paneled composition drawn from the world of visual art. Through various exercises, primarily based in Viewpoints, the workshop will unlock the vocabulary necessary for making innovative, physical new work. Students will have the opportunity to create their own triptych and to discuss strategies for using it as either source material or character research. 

Friday, July 22

10 a.m.-1p.m.

Neoteric Juggling

Taught by Company To X For

An all-level crash course in contemporary juggling and a deep dive into Company To X For’s creative practices. In this three-hour workshop, participants will engage with the principles of object manipulation through composition, improvisation, and narrative storytelling. Participants will leave this workshop with a toolkit of exercises to explore the possibilities of juggling in performance. 

Saturday, July 23

10 a.m.-1 p.m.


Taught by Kuumba Nia Arts & Unlock the Chains Collective

A practical exploration of the company's storytelling style as used in their award-winning production of Sold – the story of Mary Prince. Participants will work to create short pieces of theater that moves from improvisation to structure and explore how we shift from past to present to future and the utilization and fusion of prop, song, music, movement, symbol, character and chorus in creating stories.

Sunday, July 24

10 a.m.-1 p.m.

The Clown Body

Taught by Payasos Cenizas

This workshop will work on the construction of an available, sensitive, precise and present body, The Clown Body, through corporal, comic, and poetic writing.

The precision of the "movement" together with the "decision", both fundamental elements in a scene.The clown can be captured in a firm, present, and immense tree but it can also be the leaf that falls from the tree in absolute silence. 


Physical Theater Festival Chicago is an annual contemporary, visual, and physical theater festival that presents new forms of theater that are being performed around the world. In 2014, Alice da Cunha and Marc Frost launched the inaugural Physical Theater Festival through the Artistic Associate program at Links Hall. The inspiration for the Festival drew upon their combined experience in London as physical theater students at the London International School for the Performing Arts (LISPA). Moving from London to Chicago, they were inspired to start a new festival to promote a more progressive, fresh and physical approach to theater-making in Chicago. 

Originally from Brazil, Alice is an actress, producer and teacher who has lived and worked in Portugal, the US and the UK. While in London, Alice worked as an actress as well as producing a weekly short film festival, ShortCutz London, and as the Marketing Director for CASA, London’s Latin American Theatre Festival. Alice also serves as Artistic Consultant to Theater Unspeakable and has acted in various films, TV and theater shows including United Flight 232 (Jeff for Best Ensemble & Best Mid-Sized Prod.). Alice also does translation and interpreting for various companies including the Chicago Latino Film Festival.

Marc is an actor, deviser, educator and Chicago native who has performed and produced work in Brazil, Ireland, Spain, the USA and the UK. He created Theater Unspeakable as a platform for original works of devised, physical theater. Based in Chicago, the award-winning company has toured nationally, performing at venues including Lincoln Center Education (NY) and Kennedy Center (DC). He currently teaches physical theater at Northwestern University and Columbia College Chicago. Marc is also a proud graduate of the Commercial Theatre Institute’s 14-Week Training Program for Commercial Theatre Producers in New York City. 


CHICAGO PARK DISTRICT: This year, the 10th annual Night Out in the Parks edition will bring over 700 world-class events, including over 158 movies, 146 dance showcases, 128 musical performances, 120 theater, 71 nature experiences, 22 community festivals, 13 wellness immersions, and numerous holiday-themed events to every one of the city's 77 community areas and in all 50 wards. More than 120 Chicago-based artists will be involved as part of the family-friendly park event series, which will offer 2,000 hours of safe, high quality, cultural programming in 250 parks citywide. Nearly all events are offered with free admission. The Park District will also highlight more than 140 dance-themed outdoor performances that celebrate Chicago’s rich tapestry of cultures and storied dance industry as part of the “Year of Chicago Dance.” All events are available to view at and on the Night Out mobile application My Chi Parks™. Patrons who are exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19 are asked to stay home and join us for an event when symptoms subside. 

CHICAGO LATINO THEATER ALLIANCE (CLATA): The Chicago Latino Theater Alliance (CLATA) is committed to enticing, fostering and showcasing new thought provoking works of emerging Latino playwrights to inspire a cross-cultural audience. CLATA works to showcase existing and new thought-provoking U.S. Latino playwrights, actors and directors primarily in Chicago, along with national and international counterparts. CLATA strives to preserve cultural heritage and serve as a conduit to promote and identify new and exciting works. CLATA’s goals are to create a permanent home for Chicago’s Latino theater groups and companies and to create the country’s leading international Latino theater festival with an emphasis on showcasing local Latino theater artists and companies. CLATA also aims to provide technical and professional support for Chicago’s Latino theater groups and companies. CLATA is a sponsor of Physical Theater Festival Chicago.

THE MACARTHUR FUNDS FOR CULTURE, EQUITY, AND THE ARTS AT THE RICHARD H. DRIEHAUS FOUNDATION: Richard H. Driehaus, a successful investment advisor, made his first public philanthropic gesture in 1983, when he established his eponymous foundation. For the next decade, the Foundation made grants totaling $6,000,000. In 1992 a family board was appointed, an executive director was hired, and giving became more formal and focused. Today the Foundation awards approximately $5,000,000 annually in grants, a portion of which is in partnership with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The Driehaus Foundation benefits individuals and communities by supporting the preservation and enhancement of the built and natural environments through historic preservation in neighborhoods throughout Chicago, encouragement of quality architectural and landscape design, and conservation of open space. The Foundation also supports arts and culture, investigative reporting and government accountability, and organizations that provide opportunities for working poor people. The Driehaus Foundation has been a Lead Sponsor of Physical Theater Festival Chicago for the past five years.

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