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  • Angela Allyn

Festival Preview December 10, 2021

Early Warning: Chicago International Puppet Theatre Festival

Like so many cultural events and experiences we were looking forward to in 2020 and 2021, the biannual Chicago International Puppet Theatre Festival got pushed into 2022-- and you might want to pause from the holiday frenzy and block out January 20th to the 30th next month to catch as much of this landmark theatrical smorgasbord as you can at a host of venues around town.

The biggest news of the festival is that the mother of all spectacle puppet companies, the iconic political activist group Bread and Puppet Theatre will be headlining at the new Epiphany Center for the Arts. That alone makes this a major destination event—but wait there’s more! Basil Twist, perhaps the most significant image based theatre maker working today is also bringing his landmark work Dogugaeshi to Chicago Shakespeare’s Upstairs Theatre. There will be an installation and immersive performance in the Wrigley Building lobby by Robin Frohardt which is a meditation on the permanence and ubiquitous nature of plastic.

Chicago’s homegrown puppet visionary companies will also be offering incredible pieces, ranging from Cabinet of Curiosity bringing Sea Change inside to the MCA stage, to Rough House staging Nabokov’s novel Invitation to a Beheading in their home stage at Chopin Theatre. And of course fan favorites Nasty Brutish and Short will be offering a line up.

Make no mistake, this festival will enlighten, entertain and provoke you and is the perfect counterpoint to our inner bear nature that takes over in the heart of Chicago’s winter. The fest provides an unparalleled opportunity to see where this art form is at and partake of the work of masters.

There is a deeper story of this delayed festival: What Covid 19 gifted to the the folks who bring us the Chicago International Puppet Theatre Festival was time to dream, to imagine and strategically plan. Master puppeteer Blair Thomas, whose vision created the festival, is ready for this gathering to become an institution and an important player in Chicago’s cultural landscape. Thus the festival will become an annual event and in addition to the symposia it offers, it will also field an ongoing lab to support emerging artists, as well as year round educational opportunities, and the Chicago Puppet Studio, a manufacturing workshop that innovates, designs and fabricates puppetry elements for artists and theatres around the world. Thomas seeks to create a better environment for artists, and an institution that will provide an incubator for artists to develop this most ancient and yet brand new art form. So it seems that for this organization, the great pause of the pandemic became gestational and we all get to enjoy what's going to toddle forth next month.

For tickets and information go to or call 312-753-3234.


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