Manual Cinema creates film right before your eyes

MIDDLEBURY — Sometimes a work of art is so unusual, astonishing, or moving that the experience of it is hard to describe effectively. Such is the case with Manual Cinema’s “The End of TV” — a multi-media theater/film hybrid coming to Middlebury College on Wednesday, Jan. 30. The storyline of “The End of TV” explores two sides of the American Dream — its technicolor promise through TV advertising, and its failure witnessed in industrial decline. But the beautiful, moving story is only part of the appeal.
Using vintage overhead projectors, multiple screens, puppets, actors, live-feed cameras, multichannel sound design, and a live music ensemble, Manual Cinema transforms the experience of attending the movies into an immersive event created right before your eyes. Then, as a special treat at the end of the show, the audience is invited onstage to meet the company, see the equipment and puppetry, try out some video in front of the green screen, and learn how the complex production is made.
“Prepare to be surprised,” said Mahaney Arts Center Director Liza Sacheli, “seeing this company is like watching an intricately choreographed dance. One moment, you’ll be watching the puppets. Then you’ll get caught up in the GoPro part…. then it’s the musicians, who are scoring the whole show as it goes. Meanwhile, it all comes together as a movie above your head. The magic happens right before your eyes.”
This show will appeal to everyone. Performing Arts Series Director Allison Coyne Carroll previewed the show in Chicago with her 13-year-old son. “Now an artistic performance with a teen in tow is always an adventure,” she noted. “But I wasn’t prepared for how deeply moved I would be by a work that has virtually no dialogue. Even more incredibly, my son was actively attentive throughout the show. Afterward I asked him if this would be a good performance for Middlebury. He gave an immediate and enthusiastic ‘Oh yeah!’”
About Manual Cinema
Manual Cinema, founded in 2010, is a performance collective, design studio, and film/video production company which transforms the experience of attending the cinema, imbuing it with liveness, ingenuity, and theatricality, and creating immersive stories for stage and screen.
Manual Cinema is prolific and varied in their storytelling. In addition to “The End of TV,” they have created six other feature length shows as well as site-specific installations, music videos, short films, and live cinematic puppet adaptations of StoryCorps stories. Their work has been commissioned by the Logan Square Arts Center, the University of Chicago, and the Grammy-winning music ensemble Eighth Blackbird. Manual Cinema’s short film “The Forger” won a 2017 Emmy Award.
“If you haven’t seen one of our shows, the best way to describe it is a cinematic puppet show,” said Julia Miller, Director of “The End of TV” — she’s also one of the five co-artistic directors of Manual Cinema. “Everything is made in real time, and fed to the projector screens… It gives audience a little more agency. They get to see the chaos of everyone running around making the show happen, but then they also get to see final image projected like a movie. By doing it this way, we are sharing how we’re doing everything in real time.”
Thought it might seem a little chaotic at times, at the core they’re just trying to tell a story.
“It’s about two women growing up in the U.S. with the promise of the American Dream,” Miller explained. “That dream disappears and we follow the women as they become isolated… Even if people haven’t seen anything like this before, it’s still accessible. We’re telling a story that can affect people; one people can relate to.”
Manual Cinema will present “The End of TV” on Wednesday, Jan. 30, at 7:30 p.m. at Wright Memorial Theatre, on the campus of Middlebury College. Wright Theatre is located at 96 Chateau Road in Middlebury. Tickets are $22 for adults; $16 for Middlebury College faculty, staff, emeriti and alumni; $10 for youth; and $6 for Middlebury College students; and are on sale at 802-443-MIDD (6433) or middlebury.edu/arts/tickets.

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