Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival and the Poetry Foundation partner to remount Manual Cinema’s No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks, one-weekend-only, March 30 and 31 at the Studebaker


Performances, workshops part of The Catapult intensive
for professional puppeteers and poets; Student residency
follows April 3-6 at Pilsen’s Benito Juarez High School
CHICAGO, IL –  The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival and the Poetry Foundation are partnering to present Manual Cinema’s No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks, one-weekend-only, March 30 and 31 at Chicago’s historic Studebaker Theater, 410 S. Michigan Avenue, in Chicago’s Fine Arts Building.
Performances of Manual Cinema’s unforgettable multi-media retelling of Brooks’s life and work are Friday, March 30 at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, March 31 at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $25; $15 for students and seniors. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased in advance online at Tickets will also be on sale in person prior to each show, pending availability.
No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks combines poetry, puppetry and live jazz to bring to life the story of one of Chicago’s most beloved figures. Gwendolyn Brooks was an icon, a poet laureate, and a Pulitzer Prize winner—but she was also a treasured educator and mentor to the countless writers and children who knew her as their very own “Miss Brooks.” Weaving poetry, storytelling, sound design, original live music, and striking visuals, No Blue Memories is an exploration of Brooks’s beloved city and a story of how she navigated identity, craft, and politics over the course of one of the most remarkable careers in American literary history.
More about No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks
The Poetry Foundation commissioned Manual Cinema in 2016 to visually represent the life and work of Gwendolyn Brooks in a way that would be accessible for new fans and enticing for Brooks appreciators alike. The resulting production, No Blue Memories, received its world premiere in November 2017, what would have been Brooks’s hundredth year.
The 70-minute show combines intricate paper puppetry, live actors working in shadow, and an original score played live on stage. The script was co-written by Chicago poets Eve L. Ewing and Nate Marshall. The music was commissioned from Jamila Woods and Ayanna Woods, who were granted permission from the Brooks estate for the first time to write a song using Brooks’s famous poem “We Real Cool.” The production also samples many of Brooks’s most memorable poems including “Eventide,” Beverly Hills, Chicago,” “Speech to the Young, Speech to the Progress Toward,” and “Chicago Picasso.”
“Manual Cinema turns Gwendolyn Brooks into poetry magic,” wrote the Chicago Reader when No Blue Memories premiered last September at the Harold Washington Library Center. Chicago Magazine promised “You’ve never seen Gwendolyn Brooks like this before.”
“Whether you’re a diehard Brooks fan or someone who is new to her work, we want everyone to walk away with a new favorite poem,” says co-author and poet Eve Ewing. “Her work continues to be relevant, and will always be relevant, because it will always be important for regular people to tell stories about where they’re from.”
“It was an honor to take Eve Ewing’s and Nate Marshall’s nuanced, detailed vision of Brooks’s life and realize it in paper and acetate,” said Manual Cinema Director Sarah Fornace. “We cannot wait to get our incredible team of actors together again and perform this epic live cinematic show bursting with poetry, puppetry, and live music in Chicago’s historic Studebaker Theater.”
Watch a video preview of Manual Cinema’s No Blue Memories: The Live of Gwendolyn Brooks
The Catapult: Puppetry and Poetry – Artists Intensive, March 28-31, to foster future poets and puppeteers
Another component of this new partnership between the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival and the Poetry Foundation is The Catapult: Shadow Image in Puppetry and Poetry, running Wednesday, March 28 through Saturday, March 31.
This is a four-day professional training workshop, presented in conjunction with Manual Cinema’s No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks, focusing on the dynamic relationship and shared language of poetry and puppetry. Lead by Festival Director and puppeteer Blair Thomas and poet avery r. young from the Poetry Foundation, participants will explore the traditions of shadow theater, written and spoken word poetry and their contemporary intersection. Artistic Directors Sarah Fornace and Drew Dir will be the featured artists from Manual Cinema leading puppet technique workshops.
(from left) Blair Thomas, director of the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival,
and poet avery r. young from the Poetry Foundation will lead
The Catapult: Shadow Image in Puppetry and Poetry
The Catapult will take place on stage at the historic Studebaker Theater in the Fine Arts Building. The program fee is $440, and covers select meals and tickets to all workshops, a performance of No Blue Memories, a backstage tour/demo with Manual Cinema, and an ongoing puppetry workshop with Manual Cinema culminating in a final presentation among members of the program. A $730 package is also available for the full program plus three nights of hotel accommodation.
Space is limited. To apply, visit Note: Full or partial program fee scholarships are offered by the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival for artists in financial need who show a commitment to advancing the art with puppetry and/or poetry. There is no financial support for travel to Chicago. To apply for a scholarship, send a Statement of Need to
Introducing Gwendolyn Brooks to a new generation of readers
Immediately following its weekend run at the Studebaker, No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks travels to Benito Juarez High School, 1450-1510 W. Cermak Avenue in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, for a four-day residency, April 3-6.
Presented by the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival and the Poetry Foundation, the No Blue Memories in-school residency program is designed to introduce Chicago’s newest generation of readers to the life and works of Gwendolyn Brooks. High schoolers will be given the opportunity to participate in hands-on workshops lead by artists and puppeteers from Manual Cinema. The residency also includes four free matinee performances exclusively for students from Benito Juarez and other Chicago-area high schools.
For more information, visit, follow the Poetry Foundation and Poetry on Facebook at, on Instagram at or on Twitter @PoetryFound.
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