Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt, Manual Cinema: Ada/Ava Will Dazzle Audiences

February 19, 2024
Facts about Manual Cinema's Ava/Ada

Manual Cinema creates cinematic theater before your very eyes, using shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, and sound-effects combined with live pipe organ music supplied by the renowned Aaron David Miller. Read these featured facts to learn all about this handspun wonder before the performance of Manual Cinema: Ada/Ava Featuring Aaron David Miller, organist on Feb 29 at 7:00 pm.

Starting at 6:00 pm, join us in the Northrop lobby for a celebration of puppetry and family-friendly activities featuring Twin Cities’ 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.

Still from The Forger

Video still from The Forger

Emmy Award-Winning Manual Cinema

Manual Cinema is a Chicago-based performance collective, design studio, and film/video production company. As the Chicago Tribune says, “[They] have created a whole new art form”—and then they won an Emmy for it in 2016 for their documentary short The Forger. Created in collaboration with The New York Times, the documentary tells the story of Adolfo Kaminsky, a Parisian whose skill as a forger saved the lives of 14,000 Jews in World War II. Kaminsky continued to use his skills to help others for the rest of his life. Manual Cinema also contributed puppet animations to a remake of the classic film Candyman (2021), screenplay by Jordan Peele, directed by Nia DaCosta, and produced by Monkeypaw Productions. Take a look at Manual Cinema’s horror animation sequence. Viewer discretion advised.

An overhead projector

Image by J.Robert Williams, Shutterstock.

The Power of Projected Lights

Founded in 2010 by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, Ben Kauffman, Julia Miller, and Kyle Vegter, Manual Cinema uses vintage overhead projectors, multiple screens, puppets, actors, live feed cameras, multi-channel sound design, and live music to transform the experience of attending the cinema and imbue it with liveness, ingenuity, and theatricality. Speaking of, the overhead projector was invented in France in 1850. During World War II, the U.S. used projectors to train troops, and by the 1950s overhead projectors became a school staple and an absolutely essential piece of educational technology. Now, Manual Cinema uses overhead projectors to create stunning works of shadow puppetry.

Film stills from Phantom of the Opera and Aaron David Miller

Film stills from Phantom of the Opera and Aaron David Miller. Photo by James Mims.

A Symphony of Silent Films

Aaron David Miller serves as the director of music and organist at House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul. He is an acclaimed performer and composer who has received glowing reviews for his silent film accompaniments. Watch and listen to him perform his composition Oceanic Vision at House of Hope. Miller thrives outside of the limits of written compositions as well, having won numerous prestigious awards for improvisation, including the top prize for the coveted AGO National Improvisation Competition. Miller has performed at festivals and competitions across the country—as well as at Northrop during the 2022-23 season when he accompanied the silent film The Phantom of the Opera. Miller was the original organist for this arrangement of Ada/Ava, performed at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, PA.

Manual Cinema crew working around overhead projectors

Photo by Yi Zhao.

Five Facts for Five Manual Cinema Founding Directors

Heart of the Beast puppets.

Photo by Kameron Herndon courtesy Walker Art Center Minneapolis.

Meet The Puppets!

Puppets are an important part of the Minneapolis and St. Paul art scene. In the Heart of the Beast Theatre is a renowned puppet theater, founded in Powderhorn in 1973. For nearly 50 years, the HOTB has put on striking, large-scale puppet productions. Their works seek to transform, inform, and inspire political activism. Northrop’s Ada/Ava experience will feature HOTB puppets in the Northrop Lobby before the show. To explore how this timeless art form has been shared around the world and become a powerful tool for expressing joy and resilience, check out Strings of Resilience: A Puppetry Celebration on Feb 22.

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.