Frank's Weekend Faves, Oct. 28, 2018

Frank's Weekend Faves, Oct. 28, 2018

I've always enjoyed good puppetry, and have even tried my hand(s) at it theatrically a few times in the past. It takes a special mix of skill, creativity and dexterity to make a a puppet come alive. Just ask Pinocchio — puppet theater has a long, storied history dating back to the Old World. You can see it performed just the way the old Italian masters used to do it this week on the University of Illinois campus.

Mimmo Cuticchio, master puppeteer and one of the last true practitioners of the Sicilian theatrical tradition of Opera dei Pupi, will conduct a free performance of "The Great Duel between Orlando and Rinaldo for the Beautiful Angelica's Sake" at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Foellinger Auditorium, 709 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana.

"The Great Duel" tells the otherworldly, magical war story of Orlando and Rinaldo as they desert the French army in pursuit of the beautiful princess Angelica, battle with outlandish beasts in the forest, challenge each other to a duel and are only saved from destroying each other by the convenient intervention of an enterprising wizard. To me, though, more fascinating than the story itself is how it will be presented.

Sicilian puppetry, I'm told, is different than traditional marionettes in style as well as the visual aspects of the theatrical performance. In Opera dei Pupi, the puppets are larger than their North American counterparts (2 to 3 feet in height, weighing almost 20 pounds) and "act" on stage through the control of master puppeteers, who share the stage with them. Tuesday's performance will feature recorded music from Cuticchio's son, Giacomo, who is learning the family tradition from him and will also be operating the puppets alongside his father.

By the way, Mimmo Cuticchio is not only a storyteller and master puppeteer, he's also an actor and a theater director, having opened the Teatro dei Pupi Santa Rosalia in Palermo in 1973. You might have seen him in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather Part III," and he is one of the main characters in John Turturro's documentary film "Rehearsal for a Sicilian Tragedy."

Tuesday's performance, which is presented in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago and the Italian Program at Illinois, is free and open to the public. It is recommended for ages 4 and up.

The folks who brought you The Vault Art Gallery in downtown Tuscola as well as a string of locally produced Dogtown Artworks books (featuring dogs dressed and acting like humans) are now branching into filmmaking. And if you happen to be in the state capital this weekend, you can catch one of their first productions in the Route 66 Film Festival.

Local filmmakers, photographers and monarch butterfly conservationists Cindy and Kirby Pringle's documentary film, "A Landscape for Life," was accepted in the festival's "Made in Illinois" category and will be shown Saturday, Nov. 3, in the late-morning screenings at the Capital City Bar & Grill, 3145 S. Dirksen Parkway, Springfield. One of only 28 films accepted into the festival, the 30-minute doc shows how planting and creating native tallgrass habitat — especially wildflowers — can boost the population of pollinators (like monarchs) and grassland birds, as well as other species in decline.

"We finished two documentary films in early 2018, 'A Landscape for Life' and 'Touched by a Butterfly.' I did most of the work on 'A Landscape for Life,' while Cindy worked on 'Touched by a Butterfly,' which was a very personal film for her," Kirby Pringle said. "Her film shows butterflies as symbols of hope and joy, and she entered several film festivals and was up for 'best short documentary' at the Bare Bones Film Festival at Muskogee, Okla., earlier this year and was also accepted into the International Christian Film Festival in Florida.

"I decided to only enter one film festival and wanted it to be local just because we don't have a lot of available travel time this year. I'm thrilled to get into the only film festival I entered, and it feels great to be batting a thousand."

Pringle also recently uploaded the film to the couple's Dogtown Artworks YouTube channel.

"We are working on more documentary films, we'll be doing more presentations and travel," he said. "We've already made a difference in monarch butterfly groups and organizations forming in the Midwest. More people are planting native nectar plants. We have a new environmental education website almost finished, and we feel like education is an area where we can have a lasting impact."

Looking for something to tickle your funnybone this Halloween night? Comedy tricks and treats are in store when Craig Ferguson brings his 'The Hobo Fabulous' tour to the Virginia Theatre.

The award-winning comedian, best known as the host of CBS' 'The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,' will demonstrate his brand of stand-up humor at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Virginia Theatre, 203 W. Park Ave. Reserved seating tickets are $39.50 to 49.50, available at the theater's box office, online at or by phone at 217-356-9063.

Word is that Ferguson's show will be all new material, but will also "never be recorded for any form of broadcast or streaming outlet, given Mr. Ferguson's new (ironically) Luddite mistrust of digital technology." More irony: SiriusXM is the official tour sponsor.

Illini alumni and music-lovers in general, don't forget to keep this Saturday night open for a true Orange and Blue musical tradition.

The UI Varsity Men's Glee Club's annual Dad's Day Concert, featuring the Women's Glee Club, is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Foellinger Great Hall.

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