Free for U of M students; ticket required.

Bereaved of her twin sister Ava, Ada marks time in the patterns of a life built for two, until a traveling carnival’s mirror maze plunges her—and you—into a journey set in the New England gothic landscape. “This Chicago troupe is conjuring phantasms to die for in an unclassifiable story of spectral beauty” raves The New York Times. Manual Cinema creates handspun cinema combining shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, and innovative sound—all in plain view. Aaron David Miller adds to this magical mixture playing Northrop’s historic pipe organ. This event includes a live Q&A with the artists following the show. 

Pre-show Fun
Starting at 6:00 pm, all ages are welcome to join us in the Northrop lobby for a celebration of puppetry and family-friendly activities featuring Twin Cities’ very own In The Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre. 

Five extra-large, wandering puppets will greet visitors inside and outside the theater. Attendees can visit with artists from In The Heart of The Beast, and even create their own puppets to take home at a  ‘Make 'n Take’ center.

In the News 
Read all about how Manual Cinema uses "obsolete technology," handmade puppets, and actors in this interview with Drew Dir, co-founder and co-artistic director of Manual Cinema in MinnPost: "Ada/Ava weaves puppetry and cinematic techniques at Northrop."


Learn More - Explore These Themes

The content below derives from the Northrop Across Campus Program that supports Northrop's mission towards intersections between performing arts and education for the benefit of all participants now and for generations to come.

Find ways to make thematic connections to these suggested topics:

  • Art: Video, Film
  • Cultural Studies & Comparative Literature
  • Geriatrics, Gerontology
  • Moving Image Studies
  • Theatre Arts
  • Music: Organ, Theory, Composition
  • Education
  • Youth Development & Research

Start a conversation about the performance, or encourage reflection, using these questions as inspiration.

Ada/Ava uses projection, shadow work, and puppetry to create beautiful effects. During their performances, they allow the audience to see the actors and technology that go into creating the illusions on screen. As director Drew Dir explains in an interview with Stage Buddy, it didn’t start that way: “We realized that it was a lot of fun to be able to watch the work at the same time as you were able to watch how it was made.”

  • Why do you think it’s exciting for audiences to see the backstage elements of a performance? How might this artistic decision create a deeper understanding and appreciation for stagecraft?
  • How does seeing the methodology behind the effects blur the boundary between stagecraft and the art it produces?
  • What on-screen or on-stage effects in other productions would you like to have explained?

Ada/Ava draws inspiration from great filmmakers of the past, including Fritz Lang and Alfred Hitchcock, while also evoking comparisons to contemporary works like Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride. Owing to their unique DIY take on silent film storytelling, the New York Times calls Ada/Ava “transgenerational, blending past and present, old and new into one all-embracing package.”

  • Why do you suppose Manual Cinema chose to mimic older characteristics of film, like silent cinema and the use of puppetry?
  • How can combining the old and the new contribute to greater creativity?
  • Can you think of other examples of modern art that pays homage to earlier artists or types of media?

Ada/Ava follows an older woman coping with the loss of her twin sister. As director and designer Drew Dir explains, it is about “dealing with the death of someone that is almost your reflection.”

  • How can grief be expressed through art?
  • Ada/Ava’s design aesthetic draws on both horror and dream-like sequences. How might these influences reflect the experience of grieving?
  • Do you have siblings? In what ways do you reflect (and not reflect) one another?

As a New York Times review notes, while Ada/Ava is “virtually wordless, it is not soundless.” Ada/Ava, in its original iteration, included eerie sound effects and an original score. For their Northrop production, Twin Cities-based organist, improviser, and composer Aaron David Miller will provide live accompaniment.

  • Why do you think Manual Cinema decided to adapt the original score to feature a solo organist?
  • What might live music have to offer a film screening as opposed to the recorded music of modern soundtracks?
  • How do you imagine a musician, like Aaron David Miller, prepares for a performance like this? How might an awareness of the narrative influence his style of playing?


Minnesota State Arts Board - logos

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.