A puppet show can lift a kid’s spirits in no time. So what do we need in the middle of a cold Chicago winter? An entire puppet festival! The first-ever Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival comes to town January 14-24 and features more than 50 shows for kids and adults. It’s a great chance to see elaborate artistry from across the world — yep, way beyond finger puppet stuff. Here are our picks for what you can’t miss.

Noah_Ginex

photo: Noah Ginex Puppet Company

“Snorf!” by Noah Ginex Puppet Company
Snorf! is an all-ages monthly variety show from the Jeff Award-nominated Noah Ginex Puppet Company. Expect puppets that are full of personality (aka: a cutie-patootie pig, bushy-browed monster, steely-eyed viper), plus sketches, improvised scenes, songs and a special guest.

When: Saturday, January 17, 1 p.m.
Ages: All ages
Tickets: $10-$15
Where: Links Hall, 3111 N. Western Ave., Lakeview
Online: chicagopuppetfest.org

puppets-family-festival

 photo: The Art Institute of Chicago

Family Festival: Puppets! at The Art Institute of Chicago
This is a drop-in gathering where kiddos create a story and act it out with handmade puppets inspired by artwork in the museum’s collection and the special exhibit Temptation: The Demons of James Ensor. Additionally, there is a performance to marvel at. Bullooney Puppetworks’ adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s classic short story Rikki Tikki Tavi is told using hand puppets, rod puppets and masks within a lush landscape of leaves, trees and original music. Performances are at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., but space is limited. Free tickets will be distributed in the Ryan Education Center an hour prior to each performance.

Tip: In addition to Saturday’s Family Festival,  stop by the museum’s Puppets! exhibition anytime during the festival. It’s open daily from 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (Thursday nights until 8 p.m.).

When: Saturday, January 17, 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
Ages: All ages
Tickets: Free
Where: Ryan Education Center, 159 E. Monroe St., The Loop
Online: chicagopuppetfest.org

Chinese-Theater-Works

photo: The Field Museum

Chinese Theatre Works: Rich in Tradition at The Field Museum
This is a show of shadow puppetry which might inspire your thespians-in-training to do their own show at home. New York-based Chinese Theatre Works does magic with the art form that’s been done in street theaters and festivals in China for hundreds of years. You’ll see famous stories, like Monkey King and Journey to the West, along with pieces that draw inspiration from The Field Museum’s own shadow puppet collection.

When: Saturday, January 17, 3 p.m.
Ages: All ages
Tickets: Free with museum admission
Where: The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., Museum Campus
Online: chicagopuppetfest.org

Marc Dunworth

photo: Marc Dunworth

Dave Herzog’s Marionettes/The Dunworth Puppets
The marionettes in this show do tricks you’ve likely never seen — or will never see again. Expect puppets that roller skate, perform on the tight rope and trapeze, and morph into other creatures. It’s all performed in a traditional cabaret style by a noteworthy duo. Dave Herzog has been a puppet artist for more than 40 years and is Great Lakes Regional Director of the Puppeteers of America. Marc Dunworth grew up with a father as a magician and created his own degree in puppetry at Columbia College Chicago.

When: Sunday, January 18, 1 p.m.
Ages: All ages
Tickets: $10-$15
Where: Links Hall, 3111 N. Western Ave., Lakeview
Online: chicagopuppetfest.org

selfish-giant

photo: “The Selfish Giant”

“The Selfish Giant” at Chicago Children’s Theatre
Oscar Wilde’s story is full of imagination — with plenty of intrigue along the way. Here’s the jist: A grumpy giant forbids children from playing in his garden. After the children are locked out, the trees and flowers refuse to grow and the garden plunges into an eternal winter. Then one morning, the children sneak back into the garden, bringing with them the happy rebirth of spring. Featuring original puppets and music, this is a joint effort from Blair Thomas & Co. and Chicago Children’s Theatre. It’s one of the festival’s closing weekend presentations, but kicks off Chicago Children’s Theatre’s full run of the the show (it goes through February 22!).

When: Friday, January 23 (6:30 p.m.) & Saturday, January 24-Sunday, January 25 (11 a.m. & 1 p.m.) Show continues thru Feb. 22; times vary.
Ages: All ages.
Tickets: $38 adults; $28 kids; Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival goers get $5 off with promo code PUPPET
Where: Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St., Gold Coast
Online: chicagopuppetfest.org

JoshuaHolden

photo: The Joshua Show

The Joshua Show 
A simple sock puppet will make you laugh, smile and talk for days. Puppeteer Joshua Holden — described by the Boston Globe as a “modern-day Mr. Rogers, with hipster appeal” — performed on the world tour of Avenue Q and makes it all happen. When Mr. Nichols (the sock puppet) makes an offbeat self discovery, he becomes desperate and lonely, but his soul mate Joshua teaches him to celebrate his differences. Where do the smiles come in? When you witness songs, comedy and tap dancing.

When: Saturday, January 24, 1 p.m.
Ages: All ages
Tickets: $8-$10
Where: Links Hall, 3111 N. Western Ave., Lakeview
Online: chicagopuppetfest.org

Which of these shows has you super excited? Share with us in the Comments!

— Kelly Aiglon