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Chicago International Festival of Puppet Theater

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Move over, Pinocchio, and make way for the experimental troupes assembled in this four-day showcase of puppetry from Europe, Asia, and the U.S. Presented by Performing Arts Chicago and the School of the Art Institute, the Chicago International Festival of Puppet Theater runs June 1 through 4 at various venues, as shown in the schedule below. Organized in part by Art Institute teacher Blair Thomas, cofounder of Chicago's Redmoon Theater, the fest features Janie Geiser & Co., the Saigon Water Puppet Theatre from Vietnam, and Slovenia's Horse Puppet Theatre as well as Redmoon. (Note that some performances are aimed at family audiences while others are decidedly adult in nature.) Tickets range from $10 to $22 (see individual listings for exact prices); call 773-722-5463 for reservations.

Festival performances are augmented by free lectures and panel discussions as shown below; call the festival for information on these events and on family-oriented puppetry workshops. In addition, a postfestival "Puppetry Institute" led by Blair Thomas, Warsaw-based puppet historian Henryk Jurkowski, and Horse Puppet Theatre director Jan Zakonjsek will take place June 5 through 22; for more information, call 312-899-5176 or 312-899-5227.

THURSDAY, JUNE 1

Janie Geiser & Co.

Making its Chicago debut, this ensemble of artists from New York and LA presents Evidence of Floods, a walk-through diorama-style performance piece about a woman fleeing from a violent domestic situation while being chased for a crime she didn't commit. Audience members are walked through the display eight at a time every 15 minutes during the performance (which is preceded by a screening of Geiser's short animated film The Red Book; the show is aimed at adult viewers). "Geiser's cardboard cutout figures attached to metal rods remind me more of paper dolls than puppets. And the elaborate sets she created for Evidence of Floods. . . are reminiscent of the complicated cardboard houses my sister would assemble for her dolls. But where a good puppeteer plays with our childish associations, a great one like Geiser works against our infantile regression, layering adult associations on top of nostalgia for childhood. Haunting and beautiful, Evidence of Floods tells a very adult tale of ennui and anomie and urban angst: its characters lie in bed, dream, sigh, meet in coffee shops, consider suicide, plan murders, fail to connect, and engage in the ten thousand aimless conversations and activities that make up a lonely city life. . . . Also beguiling is the obvious craft that goes into . . . every puppet and piece of scenery, each a carefully wrought work of art," says Reader critic Jack Helbig. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, performance space (room 012), 280 S. Columbus, 7 PM (starting time for staggered tours 15 minutes apart; the performance runs till 9:30 PM). $12.

Master Pedro's Puppet Show

See description in regular theater listings; this show is aimed at family audiences. Storefront Theater, Gallery 37 Center for the Arts, 66 E. Randolph, 7 PM. $15.

Saigon Water Puppet Theatre

This Vietnamese troupe makes its Chicago debut with a show (deemed suitable for all ages) that distills the nation's "last century of history and cultural essence," says a press release. The company employs hand-crafted wood puppets that "perform" in a pool of water to depict life in Vietnam's fishing and farming villages as well as myth and folklore. Daley Bicentennial Plaza ice rink, 337 E. Randolph, 7:30 PM. $20.

FRIDAY, JUNE 2

Janie Geiser & Co.

See listing for Thursday. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, performance space (room 012), 280 S. Columbus, 7 PM (starting time for staggered tours 15 minutes apart; the performance runs till 10 PM). $12.

Master Pedro's Puppet Show

See description in regular theater listings; this show is aimed at family audiences. Storefront Theater, Gallery 37 Center for the Arts, 66 E. Randolph, 7 and 9 PM. $15.

Horse Puppet Theatre

This Slovenian group, whose show is for adult audiences, performs Alfred Jarry's absurdist touchstone Ubu-roi (here called Ubu Rex), about a vicious would-be dictator who sets out to conquer Poland. Any resemblance to Adolf Hitler is purely coincidental, since the play (written when Jarry was 15 years old) was premiered in 1888 as a marionette show; it's usually done now by live actors, but this production (in Slovene with English translation available) returns the play to its roots. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, ballroom, 112 S. Michigan, 7 and 9 PM. $12.

Saigon Water Puppet Theatre

See listing for Thursday. Daley Bicentennial Plaza ice rink, 337 E. Randolph, 7:30 PM. $20.

SATURDAY, JUNE 3

The Cultural Functions of the Puppet

Historian Henryk Jurkowski discusses the history of puppetry as an art form in America, Asia, and Europe. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, ballroom, 112 S. Michigan, 11 AM. Free.

Janie Geiser & Co.

See listing for Thursday. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, performance space (room 012), 280 S. Columbus, noon (starting time for staggered tours 15 minutes apart; the performance runs till 2:45 PM) and 7 PM (the performance runs till 10 PM). $12.

Master Pedro's Puppet Show

See description in regular theater listings; this show is aimed at family audiences. Storefront Theater, Gallery 37 Center for the Arts, 66 E. Randolph, 2 and 4 PM. $15.

Hunchback

See description in regular theater listings; this show is recommended for audiences aged ten and up. Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Studio Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted, 3 and 7:30 PM. $22.

Saigon Water Puppet Theatre

See listing for Thursday. Daley Bicentennial Plaza ice rink, 337 E. Randolph, 4 and 7:30 PM. $20.

Horse Puppet Theatre

See listing for Friday. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, ballroom, 112 S. Michigan, 7 PM. $12.

Wildcard Puppet Cabaret

This late-night program of short pieces features Chicagoan Frank Maugeri with his miniature version of Fritz Lang's film M, New Orleans-based traditionalist puppeteer Miss Pussycat, and other artists. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, ballroom, 112 S. Michigan, 10 PM. $10.

SUNDAY, JUNE 4

Janie Geiser & Co.

See listing for Thursday. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, performance space (room 012), 280 S. Columbus, noon (starting time for staggered tours 15 minutes apart; the performance runs till 2:15 PM) and 7 PM (the piece runs till 9:30 PM). $12.

Saigon Water Puppet Theatre

See listing for Thursday. Daley Bicentennial Plaza ice rink, 337 E. Randolph, 2, 4, and 7:30 PM. $20.

Hunchback

See description in regular theater listings. Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Studio Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted, 3 PM. $22.

Why Believe the Puppet Is Alive?

Jessica Thebus, director of Steppenwolf Theatre's youth-oriented arts exchange program, moderates a panel discussion by artists from companies featured in the festival. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, ballroom, 112 S. Michigan, 4 PM. Free.

Horse Puppet Theatre

See listing for Friday. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, ballroom, 112 S. Michigan, 7 PM. $12.

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