Redmoon Theater: Engaging Community Through Puppetry, Gadgetry, and Engineering Wonders

redmoon theater
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I know what you’re thinking. Puppetry? Like Pinocchio? Like the finger puppets at children’s talent shows and in Harry Potter spinoffs? Not quite. Redmoon productions are more than the average puppet show; they are an awe-inspiring spectacle unlike any puppet show I’ve seen before—and most of the shows aren’t even appropriate for kids. Instead of Pinocchio singing about wanting to be a real boy, try to imagine something a little darker, more sinister. Imagine something more along the lines of John Cusack’s puppetry in Being John Malkovich. Imagine Cirque du Soleil with marionettes. Imagine this.

Now imagine you are watching this spectacle in a warehouse hidden behind parking lots and other warehouses on the far west side of the West Loop. It’s the kind of area that, before you arrive at your location, you wonder if there is really any such thing as the Redmoon Theater. You wonder if maybe whoever told you to go (was it me?) is playing an elaborate prank on you and is sitting at home laughing while you’re peeking around behind dark buildings to find this so-called puppet show everyone is raving about.

Before you write me off for sending you to this warehouse theater in the middle of nowhere, let me further pique your interest by telling you that sometimes, you can find Redmoon Theater productions at other locations in the city. Like the MCA (that doesn’t sound so bad, does it?). Or a traveling show on a flaming Mazda RX-7 Chassis. The possibilities are endless. And the reason lies in the history of the theater.

The Redmoon Theater, founded in Chicago in 1990, defines its productions as equal parts pageantry, gadgetry, acrobatics, and ephemera. Their mission is to “engage community through art in public spaces.” Redmoon is committed to creating out of the ordinary, daring productions that surprise you, dazzle you, and take place in unexpected and new locations (such as warehouses… or Mazdas).

Redmoon Theater began, simply enough, as a puppet theater in Logan Square. For five years, artists collaborated on productions using puppets, found objects, junk, and performers to create a brand-new spectacle the theater community in Chicago was craving. In the mid-90s, Redmoon expanded to ritual productions once each All Hallow’s Eve and Winter Solstice to celebrate theater and collaborative art. With audience numbers and community buzz growing each year, the small-time, independent theater collective was thrust into the Chicago and international spotlight. Today, Redmoon does productions not only around Chicago but around the world in Holland, Ireland, France, and Australia.

All Redmoon productions are truly collaborative, put together by Redmoon staff, actors, and volunteers. Because they aim to engage the community through their performances, the Redmoon staff often invites audience members to view the contraptions, peek behind the sets, touch the marionettes, and speak with the actors after each show. Productions are also few and far between, and unless you are lucky enough to catch one of their pop-up shows or one of their annual ritual celebrations, you may be hard-pressed to find a Redmoon production in the city. Check their website often and join their mailing list, because they may be working on something new and exciting at any time of the year. Also consider donating to Redmoon to make sure Chicago continues to be home to inspiring and daring art.

So, what exactly am I talking about when I talk about the Redmoon Theater? Is it a puppet show? Is it a circus? Is it a play or a concert? You’ll have to make the trek to the Hubbard Street location or catch one of their spontaneous shows around the city to find out.

The Essentials
Location: 1463 W. Hubbard
Price: Varies depending on production
Phone: 312.850.8440 (Box Office is Ex. 111)

Getting there:
Driving: Parking lot available
Bus: #65 to Armour Street
L: Harlem/Lake Green Line train to Ashland

About Molly Tranberg

Molly Tranberg loves discovering new things in Chicago–especially all of its wonderful food. She is a freelance writer and editor currently working from her very comfy couch on the Northside of Chicago. Her dream is to one day ride a segway around the city and heli-ski in Alaska.

One Comment

  • December 23, 2011 | Permalink | Reply

    You’ll have to make the trek to the Hubbard Street location or catch one of their spontaneous shows around the city to find out.

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