Banners & Cranks Festival of Cantastoria Brief Run (Theater) Closing (Theater and Galleries) Member Picks Recommended The Short List (Theater)

When: Fridays-Sundays. Continues through May 9 2010

With all the talk about iPads and 3-D movies, I long for a great technological leap backward, and this looks like just the thing. Touted as the first festival of its kind in the U.S., Banners & Cranks celebrates cantastoria, a way-low-tech ancestor of moving pictures. The form dates back 14 centuries, to India, and basically consists of a performer telling or singing stories keyed to a set of illustrations. The images may be rolled up in a scroll and unspooled along with the tale, or they may appear on a single banner, with the performer pointing to one or another of them at the appropriate moment. In a fund-raising video made for the Kickstarter site, Clare Dolan, who curates with Dave Buchen, narrates the history of cantastoria itself with the aid of pictures painted on her dress. The festival unfurls at Links Hall (3435 N. Sheffield) over three weekends, starting April 23. Participants include local fringe stars Jenny Magnus, David Isaacson, and Blair Thomas, as well as illustrious visitors like Wisconsin's musical Dolly Wagglers, Great Small Works (which was also here in February, for Links Hall's toy theater event, The World Is Flat), and the legendary Bread and Puppet Theater. Also on hand: strangers with interesting names like Shoddy Puppet Company and Marsian (pronounced "martian"). In connection with the festival, Dolan has curated a gallery show, Tradition & Reinvention, comprising artifacts of "picture-story performance from the ancient to the post-modern." It kicks off Friday with a gala that features music, films, and live performance. --Tony Adler

Price: $8-$15

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