Don’t expect the Neighborhood of Make-Believe or Howdy Doody at the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, taking place in various locations starting January 17. The performances at this 11-day extravaganza integrate elaborate creations that extend well beyond felt gloves. Here are three must-sees.
Heather Henson (daughter of Jim, of Muppets fame) is best known for combining puppetry with environmental activism, crafting enormous, colorful, and intricate animals for shows with an eco-friendly message. In the festival-opening Ajijaak on Turtle Island, she and writer Ty Defoe tell a story about the relationship between sandhill cranes and indigenous people.
Anyone looking for the artier and more adult side of puppets should be sure to catch this French-Norwegian outfit, which floored audiences last year with the eerie and thought-provoking Cendres. Plexus Polaire returns to perform Chambre Noire, an unsettling look at Valerie Solanas, the woman infamous for shooting Andy Warhol.
Nasty, Brutish & Short
For a taste of the regional puppetry scene, don’t miss this multinight variety show hosted by Rough House and Links Hall. If you saw Rough House’s The Walls of Harrow House in October, then you’ll know to anticipate like-minded brainiacs with spooky imaginations.