Chicago International Puppet Theatre Festival 2017 - Recap/Reviews

Welcome back to the Creventive blog,

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Chicago International Puppet Theatre Festival in my hometown: Chicago, Illinois this past January 2017.

The Chicago International Puppet Theatre Festival is a bi-annual festival celebrating the art of puppetry in Chicago Illinois, started by "Blair Thomas" in 2015. During the fest, shows are held daily, bringing in puppet artists from across the world, to share their traditions bringing a variety of puppetry styles to theatres across Chicago. 

Creventive had involvement during the first celebration of the festival back in 2015, where we performed our first slam act: "Jeremy's Evolution of Dance" at the University of Chicago also having a booth during their "Puppet Zoo" to meet and greet guests and inform them of the art of puppetry. Although Creventive did not have any involvement in performances this year, I was able to attend 7 of the shows playing across town.

As a practitioner of the art, I took it highly upon myself to attend as many shows as I possibly could & share my thoughts with many of those who were unable to attend.



Show #1: Silencio Blanco

Rating: 4/5

Location: Museum of Contemporary Art

Date: 1/19/2017

Styles of puppetry used: Buraku/table top puppetry

Description: A young miner, to keep working, must travel to Chiflon del Diablo, one of the most dangerous mines in Chile. Entire show performed in silence and darkness.



-Great use of FX: light/sound

-Beautiful use of set/light transitions

-Gorgeous movement/manipulation

-Light rig was circular overhanging. Allowed transitions/able to turn off lights manually.

-Buraku was beautifully done, performed entirely in dark to a prerecorded track, puppeteers added sounds themselves live or through the puppets contact with a material/object.





Show #2: Sontana for 4 Feet

Rating: 5/5

Location: Beverly Arts Center

Date: 1/20/2017

Styles of puppetry used: Hand/Feet/Object

Description: Part-mime and part contortionist: Veronica Gonzalez puts their hands, feet, and knees together to create extraordinarily articulate creatures and stories.

Interests: Vaudevillian/cartoon humor. Variety of suitcases, each told a different story and was filled with props to tell that story. Stories: Hawaiian love story at war/robber/etc. Clothing/puppet parts could easily be changed, SO MANY PROPS, classical vaudeville music/show tunes.

Show #3: Nasty, Brutish & Short: Puppet Cabaret

Rating: 5/5

Location: Links Hall

Date: 1/20/2017

Styles of puppetry used: Buraku/table top puppetry

Description: Short works by international festival artists, regional puppeteers and local talent. A selection of raucous, raunchy, dark, sassy, sad and hilarious puppet anarchy.

Interests: Plastic Bags: Cartoony plastic bags brought to life by 2 puppeteers. Bags would eat each other, eat trash to see who could become the biggest. Discovery of flight if empty, then repeats (slapstick).

Noah Ginex Puppet Company characters hosting. Honey Goodenough Marionettes: Teddy bear escape from box, blanket moves around room, rocks itself to sleep in a rocking chair. Theatre of the Foot: Love story of a Hawaiian Sailor going to war. Silencio Blanco: Dancing/moving to different styles of songs. Mask Puppetry telling the story about what they missed after they moved from their homes. Lazer light puppetry: Improvised storytelling, 2 lasers, hand drawing on a screen that could temporarily hold the light of the laser pens to tell a visual story with live dialogue on a giant screen. Suggestion from the audience: Apple, Raccoon going to an apple tree, eating the apples.



Show #4: Kick the Klown Presents a Konkatenation of Kafka

Rating: 1/5

Location: Victory Gardens Theatre

Date: 1/22/2017

Styles of puppetry used: Object Puppetry, Glove Puppet/Mask

Description: This show was about a 1-man show telling the story about a father-son relationship. I rarely write bad reviews but this show was just awful. I felt like I was watching an hour-long puppet slam piece. The show overall was just very uninteresting and not executed well. The ideas and concepts were very interesting with certain gadgets/gizmos but they were used so briefly and then tucked away. It was also extremely repetitive in the gags that it did try to present, and the audience was quiet almost the entire show. 


-Glove Puppetry: Slapstick comedy in a box, used only very briefly

-Futuristic devices/gadgets



Show #5: Ubu the King

Rating: 5/5

Location: Links Hall, Studio B

Date: 1/27/2017

Styles of puppetry used: Buraku/table top puppetry

Description: Ubu the King was extremely well-executed by Rough house. A grotesque, absurd story about Ubu Roi: a selfish, egotistical dictator on his rise to power. Brought to life by a total of seven puppeteers.



-EVERY ASPECT is performed live, no pre-recorded sounds/music.

-The Puppeteers, aside from bringing the puppets to life, were cleverly involved in the show.

-This was the second time I attended "Ubu the King". I saw it the first time during it's run at "Roughhouse Theatre", it was SO good, I needed to come back a second time.

-There was a total of 7 puppeteers to bring the entire show to life.

-Ubu the King was originally performed with marionettes.






Show #6: Feathers of Fire

Rating: 4/5

Location: Hamid Rahmanian

Date: 1/28/2017

Styles of puppetry used: Shadow Puppetry, Body/Costume Puppetry/Projection

Description: Visually breathtaking cinematic shadow play for all ages. A magical story of star-crossed lovers from the 10th century.


-Uses a variety of puppets, costumes, masks, scenography, and digital animation

-Cinema-sized screen

Show #7: Mr. and Mrs. Pennyworth

Rating: 5/5

Location: Looking glass Theatre

Date: 1/29/2017

Styles of puppetry used: Buraku/table top puppetry, Hand/Rod, Shadow, Costume

Description: Traveling storytellers: Mr & Mrs Pennyworth captivate audiences with spellbinding tales. But one day, the Big Bad Wolf mysteriously dies before his story is complete. Mr. and Mrs. Pennyworth must journey through the stories to restore order before they are lost forever.


-This show involved so many different styles of puppetry, each performed beautifully!

-My personal favorite show I saw during the entire festival.