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Manual Cinema’s ‘My Soul’s Shadow’ a thrilling, surreal journey

A scene from a rehearsal of “My Soul’s Shadow,” a performance by Manual Cinema that blends music, shadow puppetry and the poems of Federico Garcia Lorca.
A scene from a rehearsal of “My Soul’s Shadow,” a performance by Manual Cinema that blends music, shadow puppetry and the poems of Federico Garcia Lorca. O Miami/Manual Cinema

It could have been a dark and stormy night — but it wasn’t. Instead, the clouds scattered, a sliver of moon rose in the sky and O, Miami organizers sluiced water out of the way in plenty of time for Manual Cinema’s opening night performance of “My Soul’s Shadow.”

The Chicago-based company interpreted Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca’s works with hundreds of exquisite shadow puppets, actors and six old-fashioned projectors, displayed on the doors of a Little River warehouse dock, with Nu Deco Ensemble performing the show’s original score. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the 20th century poet and playwright’s work, it was a mesmerizing journey through a fertile imagination, poetic in its own unique way.

As the rain ended, O, Miami poetry festival founder P. Scott Cunningham — who had singled out this event before the start of O, Miami as one of the festival’s highlights — breathed a big sigh of relief. “It didn’t look good for awhile there,” he admitted.

The musical ensemble was moved from the courtyard to a covered space next to the performers, and a tent was erected over some of the seats, just in case. But the skies cleared, and the audience began to gather in the courtyard, enjoying free beer and sangria courtesy of Hot Satellite (which also provided tacos after the show).

After the performance — which earned an enthusiastic standing ovation — audience members were invited back to see the nuts and bolts of how the show is performed —with six skillful artists manipulating the projectors in a chaotic sort of ballet. Some of the more intricate puppets require three people to move fluidly, which means the performers sometimes have to run from projector to projector.

“It’s like they’re dancing,” said director Sarah Fornace said. “If they run into each other, they’re late for their cues.”

“My Soul’s Shadow” — commissioned last year for the festival, which continues through Thursday — continues Friday and Saturday nights.

If you go

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: 7357 NW Miami Court, Miami; free parking on site in a lot or on the street

Cost: $30

Info: omiami.org

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