We often think of film and theatre as two distinct entities that share similarities but function separately. What results when the presupposed separation of familiar modes is subverted and reinterpreted? One might say that something indefinable but definite, something with both theatrical depth and cinematic finesse, is born. What we experience is not just a film, not just a play, but an amalgam of disciplines and techniques that creates itself in real-time before the audience.
The internationally-acclaimed performance collective Manual Cinema, founded in 2010, combines handmade shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, and innovative sound and music to create immersive visual stories. The group’s name itself informs the nature of the performance: one comes to realize that the camera’s internal mechanisms are exposed, with all its parts in simultaneous operation. Reel and lens take on human aspects to produce a sense of immediacy from a multi-perspectival standpoint. The audience witnesses the coalescence of film and theatre production into a final product. Plot and process become intertwined, constructing a new awareness of the work created and the act of its creation.
Of equal importance to the group’s artistic approach is the elevation of unconventional forms and techniques into works of fine art, characteristic of some of the most innovative artists since the birth of Modernism. Manual Cinema inserts itself within this dialog with its eclectic exploration of shadow puppetry in theatre and film. Something so seemingly simple, whose craft-like character recalls a childlike naivete, acquires professional sophistication in their groundbreaking productions.
Manual Cinema’s upcoming performance at the Ent Center for the Arts caps off the group’s hands-on involvement with students during a two-week residency, exemplifying the collaborative dynamic UCCS Presents seeks to foster between VAPA curriculum and professional artists. Manual Cinema joined forces with UCCS theatre, film, and music students to develop ideas, techniques, and visuals for the upcoming feature-length show, Frankenstein, and showcased this work at the Ent Center’s opening gala.
Students progressed from the first phase of production to a place of accomplished artistry in this short period. A filmmaking student provided some insights into the experience: “They molded film, theatre, music, and visual art together in an experimental medium, which created something completely new. I can definitely say I was inspired to approach my own filmmaking in different ways, and it opened my eyes to ways of creating things through means I’d never thought of previously. The environment was extremely dynamic. There were so many moving parts and people with different responsibilities, which made rehearsing the complex choreography vital.”
The Artist Series, a brand new performing arts program at the Ent Center, brings the best of both internationally-acclaimed and emerging performers to Colorado Springs. Manual Cinema returns to UCCS on March 13 with its critically-acclaimed production, ADA/AVA, as part of the Artist Series’ inaugural season. Bereaved of her twin sister Ava, septuagenarian Ada solitarily marks time in the patterns of a life built for two. However, a traveling carnival and a trip to a mirror maze plunges her into a journey across the thresholds of life and death. Set in a landscape of the New England gothic, ADA/AVA uses a story of the fantastic and supernatural to explore mourning and melancholy, self and other. This breathtakingly unique show is one to be remembered.