Past Performing Arts | Theater

Manual Cinema Ada/Ava

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“This Chicago troupe is conjuring phantasms to die for in an unclassifiable story of spectral beauty.”—New York Times

Fall under the spell of inventive, Chicago-based multimedia theater ensemble Manual Cinema at the Columbus debut of its haunting, critically acclaimed production Ada/Ava. In this vividly imagistic work, Manual Cinema combines shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, innovative sound, and live music to create immersive visual stories whose ingenuity pulls you into their compelling, richly detailed worlds.

Set in a gothic New England landscape, Ada/Ava uses a story of the fantastic and supernatural to explore mourning and melancholy, self and other. Bereaved of her twin sister Ava, septuagenarian Ada solitarily marks time in the patterns of a life built for two. However, a traveling carnival and a trip to its mirror maze plunges her—and you—into a journey across the thresholds of life and death.

A performance collective, design studio, and film/video production company, Manual Cinema was founded in 2010 by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, Ben Kauffman, Julia Miller, and Kyle Vegter. In their live cinema works you simultaneously see the magical images they concoct and how they construct them by hand, which only adds to your sense of discovery and delight. “The common wisdom is that once magicians reveal the secrets of their trade, the magic disappears. But that’s hardly the case with the uncanny coven of young sorcerers who operate under the name Manual Cinema,” noted a New York Times review. “Ada/Ava isn’t just transgeneric; it’s transgenerational, blending past and present, old and new into one all-embracing package.” If you’re among Wex theater fans fascinated by artists who meld live action with live animation and shadow play, such as Miwa Matreyek, 1927, Hotel Modern, and Improbable, count this among your must-see shows this fall. 

The Wexner Center for the Arts is an NPN Partner of the National Performance Network (NPN). This project is made possible in part by support from the NPN Performance Residency Program. Major contributors of NPN include the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency), the MetLife Foundation, and the Nathan Cummings Foundation.

Manual cinema performance: two women

Manual Cinema, Ada/Ava  Photos by Yi Zhao

Manual cinema performance: woman and a skeleton

Manual Cinema, Ada/Ava  Photos by Yi Zhao

performance title screen

Manual Cinema, Ada/Ava  Photos by Yi Zhao


Doris Duke Charitable Foundation



National Performance Network



The Blackwell



Greater Columbus Arts Council

Ohio Arts Council

Columbus Foundation

Nationwide Foundation


Past Performing Arts

Manual Cinema Ada/Ava