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Puppeteer Blair Thomas Bringing 'The Selfish Giant' to Beverly Arts Center

By Howard Ludwig | October 22, 2015 5:32am
The Selfish Giant
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Blair Thomas & Company

MORGAN PARK — Master puppeteer Blair Thomas will bring “The Selfish Giant” to the Beverly Arts Center at 2 p.m. Nov. 8.

Thomas, who one Tribune critic called Chicago's premier visual-theater artist, comes to the stage at 2407 W. 111th St. in Morgan Park courtesy of the Beverly Area Arts Alliance.

The group behind the Beverly Art Walk is underwriting the 45-minute show at the recommendation of Jean Vanier, a North Beverly puppeteer who performs as Jeannie McQueenie.

"I think people have a misconception about puppets," said Vanier, adding that Thomas' work is unlike anything seen on "Sesame Street" or just about anywhere else.

"This is extraordinary story telling," she said.

Vanier saw Thomas' show in January and was blown away by the performance. This time, Thomas has partnered with singer/songwriter Michael Smith, whose work includes “The Dutchman.” Folk singer Steve Goodman later popularized Smith's 1968 song about unconditional love.

Howard Ludwig discusses the show's story:

“The Selfish Giant” is based on a short story by Oscar Wilde, a famous Irish author known for his plays, novels and commentary. In 1888, he included the story in a collection called "The Happy Prince and Other Tales."

The story involves the title character who decides to ban children from his beautiful garden. After the children are locked out, the trees and flowers refuse to grow and the garden enters into winter. But the children sneak back into the garden, bringing springtime and rebirth with them.

“The Selfish Giant” is told with original puppets and music. The giant is large-scale as befits his image, and the supporting cast includes whimsical marionette children, bees and birds that are full of life.

Thomas has received numerous awards and citations for his work. He is also the co-founder and former artistic director of Redmoon Theater.

Thomas is currently among the faculty of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is the artistic director of the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival.

Tickets to the show cost $22 for adults and $12 for children under 12. Members of the arts center receive $2 discounts on the cost of tickets, which can be bought online.

The performance will be followed by a reception with the puppeteers.

Thomas "is like a big Pied Piper. He's the real deal," Vanier said.

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