When Death takes an unexpected holiday, an elderly film projectionist finds a new lease on life; a ghost explores the afterlife with her iPhone; and a seven-year-old girl discovers her own mortality. In Manual Cinema’s most ambitious show to date, a cast of six puppeteers use hundreds of paper puppets, seven overhead projectors, two cameras, and three screens to create a live “movie” in front of the audience. Accompanied by four musicians and live sound effects, the result is a rich mosaic of cinematic storytelling all performed live with puppets. Mementos Mori is a lively, beguiling meditation on death and dying.

Mementos Mori premiered in 2015 at the Museum of Contemporary Art as part of the Chicago International Puppetry Festival.


Mementos Mori was written by Manual Cinema Artistic Directors: Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, Julia VanArsdale Miller, Kyle Vegter and Ben Kauffman
Director: Julia VanArsdale Miller
Puppet Designer: Drew Dir
Associate Puppet Designer: Lizi Breit
Score by: Kyle Vegter
Sound Design by: Kyle Vegter
Costume Designer: Mieka van der Ploeg
Choreographer: Sarah Fornace
Mask Design: Julia VanArsdale Miller
Stage Manager and Live Video Editor: Mariana Green
Company Manager: Shelby Glasgow
Sound Engineer: Mike Usrey

Puppeteers: Lizi Breit (Laura), Linsey Falls (Mel), Diane Maire (Anna Francesca), Sara Sawicki (Lady), Shay Turnage (Marie)
Musicians: Deidre Huckabay (Flute, Vocals), Michael Hilger (Synthesizer, Guitar, Vocals) , Alex Ellsworth (Cello), Maren Celest (Vocals)
Live SFX: Maren Celest

Mementos Mori was developed in part through the MCA Stage New Works Initiative, the University of Chicago Theatre and Performance Studies Summer, Inc. Residency, the National Museum of Health and Medicine Chicago, and the Almanack Farms Arts Colony.  Mementos Mori was funded in part by a 2015 Project Grant from The Jim Henson Foundation.


“Manual Cinema’s remarkable sleight-of-hand goes far beyond puppetry”
Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun Times January 2015