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Best Puppeteer 

Michael Montenegro

According to Steve Tillis’s 1992 book, Toward an Aesthetics of the Puppet, the term puppeteer was coined in Chicago around 1917, at the Little Theatre, and modeled on the word for a mule driver: muleteer. Today puppetry plays a big part in the city’s theater scene, facilitating flights of fancy by Redmoon Theater, Blair Thomas & Company, and other groups. The area’s most inventive puppets spring to life in a cluttered workshop behind the Evanston home of Michael Montenegro, a Jeff Award winner who’s designed marionettes, masks, and Rube Goldberg-esque devices for the likes of Mary Zimmerman and Glencoe’s Writers’ Theatre. His eerie, angular amphibians surfaced this spring in Next Theatre’s War With the Newts. And his performances with his own Theatre Zarko have included a fierce struggle with a life-size, pissed-off dummy attached to him like a Siamese twin. A sculptor with an engineer’s talent for making gadgets work, Montenegro manages to convey shifting emotions with his creations, even when their papier-mache faces actually remain unchanged. His puppets are beautiful and sometimes frightening to behold, but they also function as a sort of blank screen, inspiring audience members to project their own emotions onto them.

Critics' Picks

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Best Fashion Watching

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Best New Musical Group

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Best Michael Jackson Cover

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Best Mustache in a Local Band

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Best Lawn Seat at Ravinia

Green Bay & Lake Cook 847-266-5100
The little hill that faces the main entrance to the Ravinia pavilion, Highland Park, Illinois continue

Best Microscene

No Coast Collective continue

Best Free Movie Series

Cinema/Chicago at the Chicago Cultural Center continue

Best Moonlighting Witch

Jackie Hoffman in Whining in the Windy City: Holiday Edition continue

Best Theatrical Hat Trick

Chris Sullivan in The Hairy Ape, The Mystery of Irma Vep, and The Illusion continue

Best New Play

Agon Trilogy continue

Best New Theatrical Form

One Thing, and Everything Else continue

Best Theater History Collection

Chicago Theater Collection at the Harold Washington Library Center continue

Best Puppeteer

Michael Montenegro continue

Best Place to See a Seven-Man Pyramid Cross the High Wire

Hephaestus: A Greek Mythology Circus Tale continue

Best Variety Show

Impress These Apes continue

Best Improv Group

Cook County Social Club continue

Best Stand-up Comedian

A tie between Beth Stelling and Junior Stopka continue

Best Sketch Show

The Best Church of God continue

Best Commentary on Modern Technology by a Choreographer

Julia Rhoads at Lucky Plush Productions continue

Best UnderĀ­appreciated Chicago Novel

Bertram Cope's Year by Henry Blake Fuller continue

Previous Winners

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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