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Get ready for a fun Halloween Skelebration

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Updated: November 25, 2013 12:46PM



Spellbinding. Fun. Intellectually stimulating. Beautiful. These are some of the words that online reviewers use to describe past Redmoon Theater productions.

Skelebration is Redmoon’s upcoming family-friendly non-traditional take on Halloween, combining their signature puppetry, elaborate machines and creative artistry with interactive elements.

“A big, weird museum from future-past” is one way that Frank Maugeri, Redmoon artistic director, described his vision for Skelebration as he led a recent tour of preparations evolving for the event, as artists, designers and craftspeople were at work in Redmoon’s new Chicago home, a 57,000-square-foot space in a former warehouse and manufacturing area in the Pilsen neighborhood, near Chinatown.

This big space will be filled with a variety of interactive delights, big and small, that families can experience together, and the young and the young at heart will enjoy.

“When you walk in, the first thing you’ll see is a giant sling shot,” Maugeri explained. “You’ll be able to shoot something — tomatoes, or teddy bears, or something — at a knight in armor, who will be dodging the things being shot.”

Tires piled up against a wall across the big room were part of the next activity: skull races. Visitors will navigate motorized remote control skulls, or possibly rats (the details on many of the activities were still in the works during the tour) in a race through an obstacle course. Kids participating this year will be encouraged to design and build their own remote control skulls before next year’s races in what Maugeri sees as the beginning of a new Redmoon tradition.

One long-standing tradition of Redmoon is puppetry, small and large. “Laika’s Coffin,” a Redmoon signature piece, will be performed at Skelebration. Described as a suitcase puppet opera, it tells the tale of the first dog in space. “The Underwater Shadow Sea” will have traditional Javanese-style shadow puppets of a sea monster, sharks, fish and mermaids projected onto several large panels of floor to ceiling curtains across one side of the cavernous space. Participants can make their own shadow puppets at one of the event’s “creation stations” and then go backstage to perform with Redmoon puppeteers.

Other outlets for participant creativity include making skull masks for a parade through the event space, and acting in a film while exploring inside a cave where random objects appear. It might be fun for parents to bring a camera to record the events, or else to just sit back and enjoy the experience.

On the quieter balcony above the main room visitors can relax, look at the Victorian-inspired automata machines, or experience a unique personal performance — having someone sing in your ear to the action of a puppet show across the room as you watch through a telescope.

Large Victorian-era machine contraptions will be interspersed through the event space. One depicts a police chase of guests while on a merry-go-round type ride. Another is a 12-foot high mobile disc jockey stand.

Youth bands will perform while attendees can roller skate on the “dinky rink” or bike around the space, with bikes available or bring your own, and skates provided. You can take a rickshaw ride past the cages of costumed human-birds, watch old school cartoons and much more.

Skelebration is Nov. 2 and 3 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 2 to 4 p.m.; and 5 to 7 p.m. Tickets for each time slot cost $20 for adults and $12 for children, with children under age 3 admitted free. Activities and food are included. Make reservations online at www.redmoon.org or by calling (312) 850-8440 Ext. 123.

Skelebration will kick off what Maugeri describes as an “indoor series of spectacle productions” at Redmoon’s new home. Next up will be their annual Winter Pageant, another event that he says “celebrates and interprets holidays in unique ways.”

This year’s Winter Pageant will portray the poem “The Conference of Birds,” telling a story of hope and community, and including traditional dances from India and Southeast Asia, a famous clown performer from Mexico and a surf-rock band, along with Redmoon’s mechanicals and visuals.



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