Past Event

Feb 22—26, 2023


Manual Cinema / Chicago, USA

“Impossible to look away.”

— The Daily Beast

Animation, puppetry, live music, and a gothic twist that electrifies Mary Shelley’s classic novel for a new generation.

Love, loss, and creation merge in unexpected ways in this thrilling version of the classic Gothic tale, Frankenstein. Using more than 500 handmade puppets, old school projectors, as well as live actors and cinematic elements, Emmy-award winning troupe Manual Cinema returns to ArtsEmerson (Ada/Ava, The End of TV) to share its explosive, layered interpretation of the classic horror novel, Frankenstein

In this eye-popping visual feast, the Chicago-based performance collective imaginatively stitches together the classic tale of Frankenstein with the biography of its author, Mary Shelley, to create an unexpected story about the beauty and horror of creation. The real-life and fictional narratives of Shelley, Victor Frankenstein, and Frankenstein’s monster expose how family, community, and education shape personhood – or destroy it by their absence. 



Emerson Paramount Center
Robert J. Orchard Stage
559 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02111


Feb 22, 2023 - Feb 26, 2023

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70 minutes, no intermission

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Ages 13+

We understand that certain types of content could trigger past traumatic experiences for some viewers. Please be aware that this production contains a depiction of infant death.


Audio Described Performance
Sun, Feb 26 2:00 pm

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Produced By

Manual Cinema

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. Manual Cinema 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 was awarded an Emmy Award in 2017 for “The Forger,” a video created for The New York Times and named Chicago Artists of the Year in 2018 by the Chicago Tribune. Their shadow puppet animations are featured in the film remake of “Candyman,” (2021) directed by Nia DaCosta and produced by Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions.

Manual Cinema has been presented by, worked in collaboration with, or brought its work to The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC), BAM (NYC), Arts Emerson, Yale Repertory Theatre, The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, The Kennedy Center (DC), Under the Radar Festival (NYC), La Monnaie-DeMunt (Brussels), The Noorderzon Festival (Netherlands), The Kimmel Center (Philadelphia) The O, Miami Poetry Festival, The Tehran International Puppet Festival (Iran), Davies Symphony Hall (SF), The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Saudi Arabia), The Ace Hotel Theater (LA), The Hakaway International Arts Festival (Cairo), The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and elsewhere around the world. They have collaborated with StoryCorps (NYC), Erratica (London), The Belgian Royal Opera (Brussels), Hubbard Street Dance (Chicago), Pop-Up Magazine (SF), Nu Deco Ensemble (Miami), NYTimes best-selling author Reif Larsen (NYC), three time Grammy Award-winning eighth blackbird (Chicago), NPR’s Invisibilia, Topic Magazine, Grammy Award winning Esperanza Spalding and The New York Times.

In 2020 Manual Cinema celebrated their ten year anniversary and had their South American premiere (at the Santiago a Mil festival).


Adapted from the novel by

Mary Shelley

Concept and Storyboards by

Drew Dir

Devised by

Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace and Julia Miller

Original Music and Sound Design by

Ben Kauffman and Kyle Vegter

Shadow Puppet Design by

Drew Dir with Lizi Breit

Projections & Scenic Design by

Rasean Davonte Johnson

Costume & Wig Design by

Mieka van der Ploeg

Lighting Design by

Claire Chrzan

3D Creature Puppet Design by

Lizi Breit

Prop Design by

Lara Musard

Production Stage Manager

Erin Albrecht

Video Mixing & Live Sound Effects by

Shelby Sparkle

Sound Engineered by

Sadi Tremblay & Mike Usrey


Sarah Fornace (Victor, Mary Shelley); Julia Miller (The Creature, Elizabeth); Leah Casey (Percy, Vocals); Sara Sawicki (Alphonse, Lord Byron); Myra Su (Ensemble)


Peter Ferry (percussion); Zachary Good (clarinets, aux percussion); Deidre Huckabay (flutes, aux percussion, piano); Lia Kohl (cello, aux percussion, vocals)


“FASCINATING…a craftsmanship verging on wizardry.”

Boston Globe


Bloody Digusting

“…an exquisitely stylized, self-contained reality that seems to belong both to the early 19th century, when Shelley’s novel was written, and to the dark corridors of its author’s imagination.”

Ben Brantley, The New York Times

“…an unforgettable experience that transports its audience to the dark realm of Mary Shelley’s tragic tale.”

Edinburgh Festivals Magazine

“A piece of theatre that is full of boundless imagination, ingenious technique and beautiful storytelling that packs an emotional punch … simply outstanding.”

Elspeth Chapman, Fringe Review UK

“…impossible to look away”

David Freedlander, The Daily Beast

“…an experience like none other…ingenious”

Loren Noveck, Exeunt NYC

“a complex visual treat…impressive in scope and execution, entertaining, and (especially if you’ve never seen Manual Cinema before) absolutely fascinating to watch.”

Karen Topham, Chicago On Stage

“…an ingenious merger of live music and captivating visuals. No matter where you look, you’ll find beauty and intrigue.”

Catey Sullivan, Chicago Sun-Times

“ambitious…the epitome of what creative theater can be.”

Michael Horn, Around the Town Chicago

“brimming with accomplished performances and imaginative images, colored with sights and sounds, light and shadow…a majestic accomplishment that boggles the mind.”

Colin Douglas, Chicago Theater Review