• Manual Cinema's Christmas Carol
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Program Notes
Manual Cinema’s Christmas Carol

A Cal Performances Co-commission

Thursday, December 17, 2020, 5pm
Friday, December 18, 2020, 7pm
Saturday, December 19, 2020, 1pm

Production Credits
A Manual Cinema Production
Adapted from the novel by Charles Dickens
Written by the Manual Cinema Artistic Directors:
Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, Ben Kauffman, Julia Miller, and Kyle Vegter
Storyboards: Drew Dir
Original Music and Sound Design: Ben Kauffman and Kyle Vegter
Puppet Design: Drew Dir with Lizi Breit
Puppet Build Assistants: Sarah Fornace and Julia Miller
Outside Eye: Sarah Fornace with Julia Miller
Additional Video Puppetry: Drew Dir
Costume Design: Maddy Low
Set Design: Julia Miller and Kyle Vegter
Aunt Trudy Lighting Design: Andrew Morgan
Violin Performance: Amanda Bailey
Technical Director and Sound Engineer: Mike Usrey
Stage Manager, Video Mixing, and Live Sound Effects: Shelby Sparkle
Streaming and UX: Ben Kauffman
Production Manager: Julia Miller
Creative Producer: Laura Colby, Elsie Management

Lizi Breit (Puppeteer)
Sarah Fornace (Puppeteer)
Ben Kauffman (Keys, Piano, Lead Vocals)
N. LaQuis Harkins (Aunt Trudy/Puppeteer)
Julia Miller (Puppeteer, Live DP, News Anchor)
Kyle Vegter (Cello, Keys, Bass, Vocals)

About the Artists

Manual Cinema is an Emmy Award-winning performance collective, design studio, and film/video pro­duction company founded in 2010 by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, Ben Kauffman, Julia Miller, and Kyle Vegter. The company combines hand­made shadow puppetry, cinematic tech­niques, and innovative sound and music to create immersive stories for stage and screen. Using vintage overhead projectors, multiple screens, puppets, actors, live feed cameras, multi-channel sound design, and a live music ensemble, Manual Cinema transforms the experience of attending the cinema and imbues it with live­ness, ingenuity, and theatricality. The company received an Emmy Award in 2017 for The Forger, a video created for the New York Times, and was named Chicago Artists of the Year in 2018 by the Chicago Tribune.

Manual Cinema has been presented by, worked in collaboration with, or brought its work to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Under the Radar Festival (New York City); the Kimmel Center (Philadelphia); the O, Miami Poetry Festival; Arts Emerson (Boston); the Yale Rep­er­­­tory Theatre; the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; the Kennedy Cen­ter (Washington, DC); the Ace Hotel Theater (Los Angeles), La Monnaie–DeMunt (Brus­sels); the Noorderzon Festival (Netherlands); the Tehran International Puppet Festival (Iran); the King Abdulaziz Cen­ter for World Culture (Saudi Arabia), the Hakawy International Arts Festival (Cairo), the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and elsewhere around the world. The company has also colla­borated with the three-time Grammy Award-winning Eighth Blackbird and Hub­bard Street Dance (Chi­cago); the New York Times and Story­Corps (New York City); Pop-Up Maga­zine (San Francisco); Nu Deco Ensemble (Miami); the New York Times best-selling author Reif Larsen; NPR’s Invisibilia; Topic magazine; the Grammy Award-winning Esperanza Spalding; Erratica (Lon­don); and the Belgian Royal Opera (Brussels).

For more, visit manualcinema.com.

Lizi Breit (puppeteer, puppet design) is a Chicago-based artist working pri­marily in illustration, animation, sculpture, and per­formance. She has been working with Manual Cinema since 2011 and is currently serving as associate designer. Breit is an artistic associate with the Neo-Futurists and a former member of Blair Thomas & Co. Her internet self lives at www.lizibreit.com.

Drew Dir (co-artistic director) is a writer, direc­tor, and puppet designer. Previously, he served as Resident Dra­ma­turg of Court Theatre and as a lecturer in theater and performance studies at the Univer­sity of Chicago. Dir holds a master’s degree in text and performance studies from King’s College London and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

Sarah Fornace (co-artistic director) is a director, pup­peteer, choreographer, and narrative designer based in Chicago, and a co-artistic director of Manual Cinema. Outside of Manual Cinema, Fornace has worked as a performer and/or choreographer with Redmoon Theatre, Look­ingglass Theatre Company, Court Theatre, Steppenwolf Garage, and Blair Thomas and Co. Most recently, she wrote the story mode for the video game Rivals of Aether. In 2017, For­nace directed and edited the first episode of the web series The Doula is IN. In 2016, she directed and devised an “animotion” pro­duction of Shake­speare’s Hamlet with Rokoko Studios for Ham­letScen at Kromborg Castle in Elsinore, Denmark.

N. LaQuis Harkins (Aunt Trudy) was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois and is a graduate of Howard University. Since her initial work in Rhyme Deferred with Hip-Hop Theatre Junc­tion, Harkins has been involved in Chicago productions including Repairing a Nation, How We Got On, and Blues for an Alabama Sky; in Manual Cinema’s own No Blue Memories; and in various commercials and independent films. She recently produced her first short film, Kayla’s Light, about a family in Chicago dealing with tragic loss. Harkins is grateful and honored to return to work with the magical Manual Cinema for such a delightful and modern twist on a classic.

Ben Kauffman (co-artistic director) is a composer, director, and inter­active media artist, and a co-artistic director of Manual Cinema. His film and inter­active work has been shown at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Mu­seum in Chicago, and at CUNY’s Baruch Col­lege in New York City. Kauffman has lectured and given workshops at the Metropolitan Mu­seum of Art, New York University, and the Parsons School of Design/The New School. His past composer/sound designer credits with Manual Cinema include Ada/Ava, The End of TV, and the New York Times documentary The Forger. Kauffman holds a master’s degree from New York Uni­ver­sity’s Interactive Telecom­muni­­ca­tions Program (ITP).

Maddy Lowe (costume designer) is a costume designer, puppeteer, and performer from Illinois. Past costume work includes Manual Cinema’s Frankenstein, Rough House Theater’s Cicada Summer, The Skin of Our Teeth, and Bloomsday at Remy Bumppo; The Secretaries with About Face; and several productions at Lookingglass Theatre. When not sewing and gluing things together, Lowe co-curates Nasty, Brutish & Short, the quarterly puppet slam at Links Hall. Her original performance work has been seen around Chicago in living rooms, bars, DIY spaces, and various theaters. Lowe is a graduate of Northwestern University and the School at Steppenwolf.

Julia Miller (co-artistic director) is a director, pup­peteer, and puppet designer. With Manual Cinema, she has directed Mementos Mori and The End of TV and created original roles in Frankenstein (The Creature/Elizabeth), Ada/Ava (Ada), Lula del Ray (Lula’s Mother), The Magic City (Helen), and Hansel und Gretel (Hansel). In Chicago, she has worked as a per­former and puppeteer with Redmoon Thea­tre and Blair Thomas and Co. Miller spent several years training in devised theater, clown, and mask with Double Edge Theatre and Carlos García Estevez, as well as at the Accademia dell’Arte in Arezzo, Italy. She is a co-producer and direc­tor of several episodes of the new web series The Doula is IN.

Andrew Morgan (Aunt Trudy lighting design) has been working professionally as a director, cinematographer, and editor since graduating from Columbia College Chicago in 2008. In 2009, he formed Little Cabin Films with friend and business partner Nick Nummerdor. As co-director and producer of Vannin’ (2013), Morgan saw his first feature film go from conception to successful distribution via streaming services such as Amazon Prime. Morgan has also acted as a producer, director, and cinematographer on two short documentaries—North Branch (2018) and Hill Climb (2017)—that both focus on unique aspects of Americana. His mosts recent documentary, Sleeze Lake: Vanlife at its Lowest & Best, will screen at CUFF & SFDOCS. Most recently, Morgan found himself as director of photography for Manual Cinema’s shadow puppetry material to be included in the 2021 release of Monkey Paw Productions’ Candy­man, directed by Nia DaCosta.

Shelby Sparkle (stage manager) is grateful to have the opportunity to work on this gorgeous production with these amazing humans during these uncertain times. Sparkle has been with Manual Cinema for four years, stage managing several touring productions that have taken her across the United States and around the world, while also overseeing these touring operations as company manager. Before joining Manual Cinema, Sparkle stage-managed plays all over Chicago with companies including Sideshow Theatre Company, Lifeline Theatre, and the Strange Tree Group. She then went on to stage manage all over the country, including for various experimental theater projects with graduate students at the A.R.T. Institute, school touring productions with ArtsPower, and an opera with Dell’Arte Opera Ensemble. But nothing has brought her as much joy as working and traveling with the incredibly talented artists, puppeteers, and musicians of Manual Cinema.

Mike Usrey (technical director and sound engineer). “That may be the most important thing to understand about humans. It is the unknown that defines our existence. We are constantly searching, not just for answers to our questions, but for new questions. We are explorers. We explore our lives day by day, and we explore the galaxy trying to expand the boundaries of our knowledge. And that is why I am here: not to conquer you with weapons or ideas, but to co­exist and learn” (Benjamin Lafayette Sisko).

Kyle Vegter (co-artistic director) is a composer, producer, and sound designer, and the managing artistic director of Manual Cinema. As a composer of concert music, he has been commissioned by groups including the Chicago Symphony Orches­tra’s MusicNOW series, the Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Tigue. Vegter’s music and sound design for theater and film has been seen worldwide and commissioned by the New York Times, NPR’s Invisibilia, Topic (First Look Media), the Museum of Contemporary Art Chi­cago, StoryCorps, the Art Institute of Chi­cago, the Poetry Foundation, Hubbard Street Dance, the O, Miami Poetry Festival, and others. His past composer/sound designer credits with Manual Cinema include Lula del Ray, Ada/Ava, Fjords, Mementos Mori, The End of TV, and various other performance and video projects. Vegter has been an artist-in-residence at High Concept Laboratories and co-founded Chicago’s only contemporary classical music cassette label, Parlour Tapes+.


Manual Cinema’s Christmas Carol was made possible by the contributions of co-commissioners: Cal Performances at the University of California, Berkeley; COCA – Center of Creative Arts; College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University; Kahilu Theatre; Krannert Center for the Performing Arts/University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; Millersville University – The Ware and Winter Centers; Moss Arts Center, Virginia Tech; Stanford Live; Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s Arts & Issues; Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts at California State University, Northridge; Williams Center for the Arts, Lafayette College; and Writers Theatre, with substantial in-kind commissioning support from Marquee TV; additional commissioning support from South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, and support from the Newman Center for the Performing Arts at University of Denver.

Presenting Partners
Arizona Arts Live; Carlsen Center, Johnson County Community College; Chico Performances at Cali­fornia State University, Chico; Clovis Com­munity College Cultural Arts Series; Des Moines Per­forming Arts; Hult Center for the Performing Arts; Irvine Barclay Theatre; Maui Arts & Cultural Cen­ter; OzArts; Purdue Con­vocations; Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts; Santiago a Mil; Seattle Theatre Group; Society for the Performing Arts; Texas Performing Arts; Warren Miller Performing Arts Center; and the Weis Center for the Per­form­ing Arts at Bucknell University.

Video Stream delivered by Marquee.

For all North, Central, and South American booking enquiries, please contact:
Laura Colby, Director, Elsie Management
Tel: 1 718 797 4577

Exclusive Asian Touring representation:
Broadway Asia Company
Tel: 1 212 203 9986

For Cal Performances at Home
Tiffani Snow, Producer
Jeremy Little, Technical Director

For Ibis Productions, Inc.
Jeremy Robins, Video Director
Zach Herchen, Audio Engineer

For Future Tense Media
Jesse Yang, Creative Director

For Cal Performances
Jeremy Geffen, Executive and Artistic Director
Kelly Brown, Executive Assistant to the Director

Andy Kraus, Director of Strategy and Administration
Calvin Eng, Chief Financial Officer
Rafael Soto, Finance Specialist
Marilyn Stanley, Finance Specialist
Gawain Lavers, Applications Programmer
Ingrid Williams, IT Support Analyst
Sean Nittner, Systems Administrator

Katy Tucker, Director of Artistic Planning
Robin Pomerance, Artistic Administrator

Taun Miller Wright, Chief Development Officer
Elizabeth Meyer, Director of Institutional Giving
Jennifer Sime, Associate Director of Development, Individual Giving
Jamie McClave, Individual Giving and Special Events Officer
Alex Higgins, Director of Annual Fund
Jocelyn Aptowitz, Major Gifts Associate

Rica Anderson, Interim Director, Artistic Literacy

Human Resources
Judy Hatch, Human Resources Director
Shan Whitney, Human Resources Generalist

Jenny Reik, Director of Marketing and Communications
Ron Foster-Smith, Associate Director of Marketing
Mark Van Oss, Communications Editor
Louisa Spier, Public Relations Manager
Cheryl Games, Digital Platform Program Manager
Jeanette Peach, Public Relations Senior Associate
Elise Chen, Email Production Associate
Lynn Zummo, New Technology Coordinator
Terri Washington, Social Media and Digital Content Specialist

Jeremy Little, Production Manager
Alan Herro, Production Admin Manager
Kevin Riggall, Head Carpenter
Matt Norman, Head Electrician
Tom Craft, Audio/Video Department Head
Jo Parks, Video Engineer
Tiffani Snow, Event Manager
Ginarose Perino, Rental Business Manager
Rob Bean, Event Operations Manager

Charles Clear, Senior Scene Technician
David Ambrose, Senior Scene Technician
Jacob Heule, Senior Scene Technician
Jorg Peter “Winter” Sichelschmidt, Senior Scene Technician
Joseph Swails, Senior Scene Technician
Mark Mensch, Senior Scene Technician
Mathison Ott, Senior Scene Technician
Mike Bragg , Senior Scene Technician
Ricky Artis, Senior Scene Technician
Robert Haycock, Senior Scene Technician

Mark Sumner, Director, UC Choral Ensembles
Bill Ganz, Associate Director, UC Choral Ensembles
Matthew Sadowski, Director, Cal Marching Band
Ted Moore, Director, UC Jazz Ensembles
Brittney Nguyen, SMA Coordinator

Liz Baqir, Ticket Services Manager
Gordon Young, Assistant Ticket Office Manager
Sherice Jones, Assistant Ticket Office Manager
Jeffrey Mason, Patron Services Associate

Opening fanfare used by permission from Jordi Savall from his 2015 recording of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo on Alia Vox.

Major support for the Cal Performances Digital Classroom is provided by Wells Fargo.
Major support for Beyond the Stage is provided by Bank of America.


© 2020 Regents of the University of California

Stream Premiere

Dec 17–19, 2020
Add to Calendar 12/17/2020 05:00 pm 12/17/2020 06:30 pm America/Los_Angeles Manual Cinema's Christmas Carol https://calperformances.org/events/2020-21/holidays/manual-cinema-a-christmas-carol/
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Manual Cinema’s Christmas Carol
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