Society for the Performing Arts Brings Manual Cinema and their Immersive Multimedia Performance of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein to Jones Hall for Halloween

A combination of handmade shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques and innovative sound design bring the story of Frankenstein to life

Video: Manual Cinema’s Frankenstein – Official Trailer

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Photos:  Manual Cinema’s Frankenstein

HOUSTON (SEPTEMBER 26, 2019) – Society for the Performing Arts (SPA) presents the internationally-renowned multimedia company Manual Cinema’s Frankenstein on Wednesday, October 30, 2019 at 8:00 p.m. in Jones Hall for the Performing Arts.

Love, loss and creation merge in unexpected ways in this thrilling classic gothic tale retold through Manual Cinema’s creative storytelling techniques. In their extraordinary trademark style, Manual Cinema use overhead projectors, over 500 shadow puppets, actors in silhouette and live music to bring this enthralling production to life as a piece of live cinema. In the original novel by Mary Shelley, the story is told in a series of narrative frames with each frame narrated by a different character. In this ingenious adaptation, each frame of the story is told through a different cinematic genre. Similar to the “Creature” in the story, the production is a pastiche of different visual idioms scavenged from a century of cinema.

“I grew up watching the classic Boris Karloff Frankenstein on VHS tapes, and I’d always wanted to give that story the Manual Cinema treatment,” said Manual Cinema’s Director, Drew Dir. “It’s perfect for our medium: a gothic setting, a mythic story and a rich cinematic legacy on which to draw. What surprised us was that we began sneaking more and more of Mary Shelley’s biography into our adaptation, especially aspects of birth and motherhood that underpin her original novel.  Our goal was to pay tribute to Frankenstein‘s cinematic forebears while situating it in the context of the author’s life, giving the story a new spark of life, so to speak.”

Manual Cinema is a performance collective, design studio and film/video production company founded in 2010 by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, Ben Kauffman, Julia Miller and Kyle Vegter. The company combines handmade shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques and innovative sound and music to create immersive visual stories for stage and screen. Using vintage overhead projectors, multiple screens, puppets, actors, live feed cameras, multi-channel sound design and a live music ensemble, Manual Cinema transforms the experience of attending the cinema and imbues it with liveness, ingenuity and theatricality.

Manual Cinema has been presented by, worked in collaboration with or brought its work to The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC), BAM (NYC), Arts Emerson, The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, The Kennedy Center (DC), Under the Radar Festival (NYC), La Monnaie-DeMunt (Brussels), The Noorderzon Festival (Netherlands), The Kimmel Center (DC) The O, Miami Poetry Festival, The Tehran International Puppet Festival (Iran), Davies Symphony Hall (SF), The Ace Hotel Theater (LA), The Hakaway International Arts Festival (Cairo), The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and elsewhere around the world. They have collaborated with StoryCorps (NYC), Erratica (London), The Belgian Royal Opera (Brussels), Hubbard Street Dance (Chicago), Pop-Up Magazine (SF), Nu Deco Ensemble (Miami), NYTimes best-selling author Reif Larsen (NYC), three time Grammy Award-winning eighth blackbird (Chicago), NPR’s InvisibiliaTopic Magazine and The New York Times.

In November 2018, Court Theatre presented the World Premiere of Manual Cinema’s Frankenstein in Chicago. Frankenstein had its New York premiere at The Public Theatre’s Under the Radar Festival in January 2019. Most recently, Frankenstein made its international debut in Scotland at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2019 where it received raving 5-star reviews.


Adapted from the novel by Mary Shelley

Concept by Drew Dir

Devised by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace and Julia Miller

Original Music by Ben Kauffman and Kyle Vegter

Storyboards by Drew Dir

Music and Sound Design by Ben Kauffman and Kyle Vegter

Shadow Puppet Design by Drew Dir with Lizi Breit

Projections and Scenic Design by Davonte Johnson

Costume and Wig Design by Mieka van der Ploeg

Lighting Design by Claire Chrzan

3D Creature Puppet Design by Lizi Breit

Prop Design by Lara Musard

Video Mixing and Live Sound Effects by Shelby Glasgow

Sound Engineered by Mike Usrey




Sarah Fornace (Victor Frankenstein, Mary Shelley)

Kara Davidson (The Creature, Elizabeth Frankenstein)

Leah Casey (Caroline Frankenstein, Percy Shelley, Vocals)

Sara Sawicki (Alphonse Frankenstein, Lord Byron)

Myra Su (Ensemble)



Peter Ferry (percussion)

Zachary Good (clarinets and aux percussion)

Deidre Huckabay (flutes, aux percussion, piano)

Lia Kohl (cello, aux percussion, vocals)


About Society for the Performing Arts

Founded in 1966, Society for the Performing Arts (SPA) is the largest independent non-profit presenting organization in the Southwest. Since its inception, SPA has sponsored more than 1,000 performances of the world’s finest music, dance and theater events, in adherence to the belief that the arts are fundamental to the overall enrichment and quality of life within a community. In addition to presenting artists, SPA seeks to provide a variety of learning experiences for adults and children through master classes, lectures and special student performances, as well as build relationships between the performing arts and other interests within the greater Houston area and throughout the state of Texas.