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Manual Cinema 'No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks'


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In less than a decade, the bold and talented Chicago collective Manual Cinema has become a theatrical powerhouse with mesmerizing shadow-puppet spectacles. Blending techniques from animation and film and performing with original music, Manual Cinema reimagines puppetry, inventing what The New York Times calls “a spectral parade of fantastical images.” The company deploys handmade props and puppets animated by an army of actors working in shadow. Manual Cinema’s work has been called “a brilliant mix of hi-fi and lo-fi” (The Times UK), and “something like a vintage silent film” (The Washington Post). Visually stunning and technically inspired, the company has won an Emmy Award and a growing international reputation as a sensational theatrical innovator. Manual Cinema concludes its Duke Performances residency with its latest work, No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks, its most audacious yet. No Blue Memories celebrates the political awakening and poetic legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks, the pioneering American literary titan and community organizer who, in 1950, became the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize. In songs written by sisters Jamila and Ayanna Woods, No Blue Memories turns some of Brooks’ most provocative verses into new jazz compositions. As a quintet plays this score, Manual Cinema’s intricate shadow puppetry re-creates Brooks’ Chicago in miniature. No Blue Memories is a show the likes of which you’ve never seen before.

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