Simple hand shadow puppets like birds and butterflies won't cut it at this week’s Manual Cinema collaboration with O, Miami. The Chicago-based company brings an entire cinematic show of shadow puppetry — created from paper and beamed onto walls and screens at Little River // Miami with vintage overhead projectors — to the Magic City’s monthlong poetry festival. And the world premiere of this original commission, My Soul’s Shadow, will take place this Thursday and run through Saturday.
The collaboration between O, Miami and Manual Cinema has been in the works for about a year, as O, Miami’s executive director, P. Scott Cunningham, notes he has admired the company’s multimedia presentations from afar. Though Manual Cinema has created live puppetry presentations, site-specific installations, music videos, and other works during its five-year history, this is only the second time the company has worked with poetry.
The cinematic shadow puppetry of My Soul’s Shadow is based on the world of 20th-century Spanish poet Federico García Lorca. “We gave Manual Cinema a list of poets we thought might be right for a Miami performance, and Lorca was the one they gravitated toward almost right away,” Cunningham says. “Much of what Manual Cinema does best is haunting and death-obsessed and romantic, and Lorca has all of that in spades.”
Calling from her South Beach hotel before heading back to Little River // Miami to prep for the shows, Manual Cinema director and co-artistic director Sarah Fornace elaborates that the team of nine worked with a number of Lorca poems. Though "El Diván del Tamarit" is the primary text, Manual Cinema also combines imagery from a number of Lorca poems.
“We tried to put an associative logic in it, which felt like the poems. Images are constantly appearing and slipping away. Something is being longed for and it’s not there, and it recedes and then returns,” she explains.
Additionally, the performance will include an original score by Manual Cinema’s Kyle Vegter, performed by a quartet of members of Miami’s Nu Deco Ensemble. Fornace says Vegter’s sound design is particularly response; for example, when the puppets close a door on a 2-D screen, the live soundtrack mimics the slamming sound.
Manual Cinema’s performance will last only about 40 minutes, but the event will also include a poetry installation, behind-the-scenes access to the puppets, free tacos from Hot Satellite, sangria made with michelada and wine donated by Whole Foods North Miami, and craft beer from Wynwood’s Boxelder.
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The site-specific creation by the multidisciplinary team at Manual Cinema promises to be an immersive, engaging experience. “We love doing live puppetry because it makes people experience time differently... We hope it makes people conscious of how time is passing for them and the fact that it’s all happening by hand,” Fornace says.
“We’re trying to transform our relationship with these screens that are around us all the time.”
The three presentations of My Soul’s Shadow will take place April 23 through 25 from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. at Little River // Miami (7357 NW Miami Ct., Miami). Tickets cost $30 are available via omiami.org.