Set in a post-industrial Rust Belt city in the 1990s and told through a collection of original 70’s R&B-inspired art pop songs, The End of TV explores the quest to find meaning amongst the increasingly constant barrage of commercial images and advertising white-noise. Two sides of the American Dream — its technicolor promise as delivered through TV ads, and its failure, witnessed in the dark reality of industrial decline — are staged in cinematic shadow puppetry and lo-fi live video feeds with flat paper renderings of commercial products. The show is driven by a sweeping chamber art pop song cycle performed live by a five-piece band.

The End of TV depicts the promise and decline of the American rust belt, through the stories of Flo and Louise, both residents of a fictional Midwestern city. Flo is an elderly white woman who was once a supervisor at the thriving local auto plant. Now succumbing to dementia, the memories of her life are tangled with television commercials and the “call now” demands of QVC. Louise, a young black woman laid off from her job when the same local auto plant closes, meets Flo when she takes a job as a Meals-on-Wheels driver. An unlikely relationship grows as Flo approaches the end of her life and Louise prepares for the invention of a new one. Their story is intercut with commercials and TV programs, the constant background of their environment.

The End of TV premiered in June, 2017 as a commission by The International Festival of Arts and Ideas, New Haven, CT.


Screenplay by: Kyle Vegter and Ben Kauffman
Direction and Storyboards by: Julia VanArsdale Miller
Adapted for the screen by: Lizi Breit, Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, JuliaVanArsdale Miller, Ben Kauffman and Kyle Vegter
Music by: Ben Kauffman and Kyle Vegter
Sound Design by: Kyle Vegter
Puppet Designer: Lizi Breit
Associate Puppet Designer and Story Board Artist: Drew Dir
Assistant Director: Sarah Fornace
Costumes by: Mieka van der Ploeg
Lighting Design by: Claire Chrzan
Masks by: Julia VanArsdale Miller
Stage Manager: Shelby Glasgow
Production Manager: Mike Usrey
Puppet build interns: Zofia Lu Ya Zhang and Kathryn Ann Shivak


Kara Davidson (Flo/Puppeteer)
Aneisa Hicks (Louise/Puppeteer)
Jeffry Paschal (Ensemble/Puppeteer)
Vanessa Valliere (Ensemble/Puppeteer)
Maren Celest (Vocals, Live Sound FX, Live Video Mixing)
Deidre Huckabay (Flutes, Vocals)
Ben Kauffman (Vocals, Guitar, Keyboard)
Lia Kohl (Cello, Vocals)
Marques Toliver (Vocals, Violin)



“Puppets, green screens: How did Manual Cinema become the toughest ticket in Wicker Park?”
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune The End of TV, August 2018

“With puppets, projections and a Rust Belt story, Manual Cinema works magic”
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune The End of TV, July 2018

“The End of TV’s artistry is awesome. Its impact is profound, unique, indescribable.”
Christopher Arnott, Hartford Courant June 2017

” a fascinating theatergoing experience blending live music, old TV video clips and shadow puppetry”
E. Kyle Minor, New Haven Register June 2017

“the audience gets to experience . . . a moment of live artistic creation, playing out on the stage in front of them, with little to hide and lots to show” 
Thomas Breen, New Haven Independent June 2017

“akin to a behind-the-scenes look of the making of a movie, with the film itself made in real time”
Elena Goukassian, Hyperallergic, July 2017


Elliot Norton Award.png

2019 Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Design, Visiting or Large Theatre (ArtsEmerson)