For immediate release

World Premiere of No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks

Chicago Theater Company Manual Cinema Stages Unique Retelling of Brooks’s Life and Work
September 26, 2017

CHICAGO – The Poetry Foundation has commissioned the theater production company Manual Cinema to visually represent the life and work of one of Chicago’s most beloved literary figures, poet Gwendolyn Brooks, in what would have been her hundredth year. Manual Cinema combines handmade shadow puppetry and innovative sound and music to create immersive visual stories. See a companion video to No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks here.

On September 8, Chicago magazine’s 2017 Fall Cultural Preview titled their article about the writers and musicians involved in the making of this production “Dream Team of Chicago’s Black Creatives Pay Homage to Gwendolyn Brooks.”

The script was co-written by Chicago poets Eve L. Ewing and Nate Marshall and music was commissioned from Jamila Woods and Ayanna Woods, who were granted permission from the Brooks estate for the first time to write a song using Brooks’s famous poem “We Real Cool.” “Whether you’re a diehard Brooks fan or someone who is new to her work, we want everyone to walk away with a new favorite poem,” says co-author and poet Eve Ewing. “Her work continues to be relevant, and will always be relevant, because it will always be important for regular people to tell stories about where they’re from.”

“For a new generation of Gwendolyn Brooks readers, Manual Cinema’s innovative approach celebrates her iconic legacy,” said Henry Bienen, president of the Poetry Foundation. “We are proud to honor her centennial year with this special tribute and gift to Chicago.”

“It is an honor to take Eve Ewing’s and Nate Marshall’s nuanced, detailed vision of Brooks’s life and realize it in paper and acetate,” said Manual Cinema Director Sarah Fornace. “I cannot wait to get in the room with our incredible team of actors and put together the poetry, puppetry, and music of this epic live cinematic show!”

No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks will be performed for the first time before an exclusive audience of Chicago Public School students at Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy on November 9 and 10. Members of the media are invited to the Brooks Academy performance on Friday, November 10, at 1:00 PM.

The world premiere public performances will be on Friday and Saturday, November 17 and 18, at 6:30pm, and Sunday, November 19, at 2pm, at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 South State Street.

About Gwendolyn Brooks
Brooks was thirteen when her first published poem, “Eventide,” appeared in American Childhood; by the time she was seventeen she was publishing poems frequently in the Chicago Defender. Her first collection of poems, A Street in Bronzeville, was published in 1945. Her Pulitzer Prize–winning book of poetry, Annie Allen, followed in 1949. In 1959, her acclaimed poem “We Real Cool” was first published by Poetry magazine, a program of the Poetry Foundation. The magazine went on to become one of the most ardent supporters of her work.

About the Poetry Foundation
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs. For more information, please visit

Follow the Poetry Foundation and Poetry on Facebook at or on Twitter @PoetryFound.

POETRY FOUNDATION | 61 West Superior Street | Chicago, IL 60654 | 312.787.7070

About Manual Cinema
A performance collective, design studio, and film/video production company founded in 2010 by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, Ben Kauffman, Julia Miller, and Kyle Vegter. Manual Cinema combines handmade shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques, and innovative sound and music to create immersive visual stories for stage and screen. Using vintage overhead projectors, multiple screens, puppets, actors, live feed cameras, multi-channel sound design, and a live music ensemble, Manual Cinema transforms the experience of attending the cinema and imbues it with liveness, ingenuity, and theatricality.

Media contacts:
Polly Faust, [email protected], 312.799.8065
Amy Christenson, [email protected], 312.209.9531

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