How to Build a Flying Machine

How to Build a Flying Machine is a performance about trial, error, and achieving the impossible. Using the medium of puppetry and the story of the Wright brothers, this production explores the process of invention from elation to despair. Hand-operated machines attempt to soar, historical figures come to life, wooden stages transform and puppets balance in thin air, giving form to this story told by three adept performers. Just short of providing blueprints for solving the un-solvable, How to Build a Flying Machine exemplifies the spirit of ingenuity and creative thinking employed by the Wrights, offering an inspiring example of how it can be done indeed.

The puppets range from gruff talking heads to delicate miniature models, to hand-carved figures engineered to come alive with a subtle touch. The smallest is held in the palm of the hand, while the largest contraption takes up the entire stage. This is a world where every object might come to life and every person is a mechanical wonder, crafted with clear appreciation for both the science of physics and the poetry of metaphysics. Even Wind is embodied by a puppet, beautiful and powerful and holding the key to the elusive secret of lift.

Performed by skilled storytellers sharing all the roles, How to Build a Flying Machine is an immersion into an inventor's workshop where artisans are hard at work collaborating on the next masterpiece. They build the story by hand right before our eyes, using every tool they possess -- choreography, musicality, puppetry, and acrobatics. There are no hidden theatrical mechanisms, all special effects are achieved onstage without artifice. This show is every bit science experiment, spectacle theater, family drama, and artistic meditation. Just like the Wright's first flight.

The show's development was inaugurated during a artist in residency at the UChicago Performance Lab, culminating in a workshop performance for the 2017 Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival. Its further development is supported by a Jim Henson Foundation Family Grant, the Puppeteers of America Rose Endowment Fund, the thousands of people who give generously to the ArtsWave Community Campaign,  and the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, with many opportunities for interested supporters and presenting venues to partner in the process.

Luigi Bullooney's Circus Menagerie

See the Butterfly Lady and the Bear Boy, the Strong Man and the Misfit Clown. Come to the puppet circus where all manner of strange and delightful characters come to life. Hosted with pizzazz by Luigi Bullooney, the alter ego of a certain well-known puppeteer, under the small big top filled with wonder.

Rikki Tikki Tavi

This unique puppet adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's classic short story weaves a tale of loyalty and valor as it brings to life unforgettable characters. A brave young mongoose arrives in a garden overrun with conniving cobras. Rikki musters all his courage and skill to protect the people and animals who befriend him. Enchantingly told using hand puppets, rod puppets, and masks within a lush landscape of leaves, trees and original music, Rikki Tikki Tavi is filled with a richness that will captivate and delight audiences young and old. Performed across the Midwest, including at the Art Institute of Chicago as part of the 2015 Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival.


Bear Boy

A finely-crafted puppet show about a boy who has an unusually beastly side – he's quite a bear when he gets mad! He meets some strange and comical characters who help him find a way to be himself without being a terror to those around him. Funny and meaningful, this original story will entertain, delight, and offer one way of dealing with a particularly overwhelming temper.