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Events Fri Feb 17 2012

Poetry, Quadraphonic Sound and Shadow Puppets

It's been in the making for a year, and you'll probably want to see it. And hear it.

FJORDS, a multi-media collaboration between a poet, a composer, musicians and puppet artists, will premiere at Chicago's Poetry Foundation (61 W. Superior St.) on Thursday, Feb. 23 at 7pm — and tickets are only $10. The show will only be here four nights, so don't wait too long.

Kyle Vegter, the composer, tells the story of how this meeting of the minds — and mediums — came to be.

"It was basically a series of things all coming together at exactly the right time." Vegter happened to pick up a copy of one of Portland transplant, poet Zach Schomburg's, books: From the Fjords. "His poems really resonated with me. They are emotionally devastating in a beautiful and nuanced way, he fits so much into a paragraph of poetry. I couldn't put his book down."

It was already in his mind to do something with these poems when he was contacted by Ellen McSweeney, a violinist for the Chicago Q Ensemble, about collaborating with him and Manual Cinema — who, if you haven't heard, are the masterminds behind last summer's ADA/AVA, a shadow puppet show unlike anything you've ever seen.

That is, of course, until now.

The path to the finished FJORDS project turned out to be a reverse of how Vegter and Manual Cinema have collaborated in the past. This time, instead of crafting the music to accompany an already-made visual performance, the puppets came last.

Vegter wrote a series of short musical pieces for the Q Ensemble, each inspired by one of Schomburg's poems — 15 all told. The recorded music was then passed along to the puppeteers, who, on the basis of both the poems and the music based on them, created "the visual world."

By "picking out motifs and creating character maps," the puppeteers — through overhead projectors, human silhouette and manipulated video — tell the story of "a young man through haunting surrealist landscapes as he struggles with work, family, love, and what would kill him."

Each show will begin with Schomburg, who will read through the adapted poems before the cinematic shadow puppetry begins — not your standard poetry-reading fare. "The visual, musical, and experiential approaches to poetry combined to make something wholly new — something that went far beyond the typical poetry reading," said Stephanie M. Hlywak, media director for the Poetry Foundation. "These kind of creative partnerships — ones in which artists forge bold new interpretations of poetry — reinvigorate the art form and help bring it to new audiences."

If you can't wait to get one at the show, you can pre-order Schomburg's book FJORDS, which won't be officially released until March 1 at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference. Get the hardcover and you'll also get a CD featuring music from the performance.

 
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