The aperture between human bodies and puppets has long been fascinating. The distance and the difference between people and their representations has conjured both the supernatural and the robotic summoning both good and evil.  Manual Cinema’s Lula del Ray does something different.   Poised between childhood and adulthood Lula is played by actor, shadow and puppet. The changing circumstances of her psychological and physical coming of age is present in the multiplication of the forms of her presence but not literally. Manual Cinema’s transparent use of overhead projectors summons the magic lantern era of film but adds liveness to the equation with the physical presence of actors and the creators of the onstage illusions. The actor’s exaggerated physical gestures were spot on when projected as shadow but strange when seen for themselves. What creates the real on stage is wonderful and enchanted artifice.

The invention of storytelling is furthered by the nearly wordless linear narrative that literally launches Lula from her desert youthful environment into the future by the end of the piece. ‘Postdramatic’ Han Thies Lehmann would tell us. ‘Invention of form,’ festival producer Andrew Kircher would say. I agree but there is something else equally important—a female protagonist in body, shadow and puppet who speaks for all of us about desire, ambition, vision and even science. What good is the invention of form if the story is in an old key in terms of gender or race? “You guys can relate to female protagonists, right?” I asked my male students. “Yeah, we’re totally sympathetic” was the answer. Be gone popular culture producers who proffer that men can only relate to men.