Theatre Zarko announced it Kickstarter campaign for their new production ‘He Who’ to be presented as part of Steppenwolf’s GARAGE REP program. Theatre Zarko’s financial goal is raise $11,000 to meet production costs by Jan. 12, 2012. 

Theatre Zarko, under the artistic direction of Jeff-award winning Michael Montenegro, is a surreal puppet theatre company that started in the worst of times and is on its way to the best of times, provided their Kickstarter campaign is successful. Theatre Zarko has been invited to premiere an original work, ‘He Who,’ on the Steppenwolf Garage stage this February. Until backers come through at Kickstarter.com with $11,000 for production costs, dreams of producing a world-class performance worthy of the Steppenwolf stage are much like a puppet waiting for a breath of life. 

After two decades of performances designing puppet figures for Mary Zimmerman and others, Michael Montenegro partnered with composer Jude Mathews and a steady cast of creative hands. Together they took the risk of forming a formal nonprofit arts organization in 2009, at a time when the economy was even less inviting to fledgling arts organizations as it is now. 

Audiences filled the seats in droves, responding to Montenegro’s philosophy: “Our society, local and large, is in desperate need of reminders of what it means to be a dignified human being, and to respect the dignity of others. As our world collapses around us, we need to remind ourselves of what is important. Somehow, even on the small scale of a puppet theater, we have to take our stand and create a healthy response to the chaos and confusion.”

Theatre Zarko’s shows received critical acclaim and sold-out performances. Montenegro was namedBest Puppeteer in 2010 by the Chicago Reader for Theatre Zarko’s Sublime Beauty of Hands and Klown Kantos performed at Evanston’s Noyes Cultural Arts Center.  

In January of 2011, Theatre Zarko applied to Steppenwolf’s Garage Rep to be one of three featured companies, billed by Steppenwolf “as Chicago’s “most innovative, young theatre companies.” To characterize Michael’s work as “young” makes him laugh, but to look at the mix of ensemble members, volunteers, audience members and the generations they span certainly leads one to believe his work is ageless, if not young. 

Theatre Zarko’s invitation to perform on Steppenwolf’s Garage stage promises to bring Montenegro’s surreal puppet theatre to its widest audience ever. He Who by Theatre Zarko is performed as part of GARAGE REP: three productions presented in rotating repertory in the Steppenwolf Garage.

The play is a dark comedy examining the power of invisible forces, one of which is a Big Idea. An Idea is born like a baby, innocent, vulnerable, and even malleable. It is then often nurtured, protected, and bolstered until it takes root and either brings gifts into the world or brings calamity. So this play is about the birth of an invisible something and peopleʼs obsessions with this invisible something. What then you will actually see on stage are four identical women, four aspects of the same distraught mother, caring for a single enormous baby. And the struggle to deny the inevitable consequences ofnurturing a bad idea. 

According to Mr. Montenegro, “Our backers will allow us to bring this project to fruition by giving us the opportunity to build the puppet figures, the set, pay the performers, designers and technicians necessary to create a beautiful and powerfully poetic statement.” 

Theatre Zarko Puppet Symbolist Theatre is a dedicated ensemble of artists led by the innovative vision of Michael Montenegro.  Each show organically develops from an original image, a conceptual movement, a scrap of poetry, spontaneous music.  The artists are called together and the laboratory begins with puppets, masks, and strange machinery.  Soon dynamic theatrical experiments begin, accompanied by live musical improvisation, and gradually solidify into recognizable scenes, stunning spectacle, original compositions, and haunting soundscapes. 

For 25 years, Midwestern audiences have enjoyed Mr. Montenegro’s solo performances, group projects, and puppetry design collaborations including Argonautica with Lookingglass Theatre, directed by Mary Zimmerman, The War With the Newts and The Long Christmas Ride Home with Next Theatre and The Puppetmaster of Lodz with Writer’s Theatre which garnered a Jeff Award for Puppet Design. 

Theatre Zarko’s He Who’s Kickstarter campaign runs through January 12, 2012 at midnight.   

Show runs February 3 – April 8, 2012 
The Steppenwolf Garage
1624 N. Halsted St. Chicago, IL 60614

Tickets go on sale December 9, 2011 

For more information, visit http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1131225429/he-who-a-darkly-comic-and-surreal-puppet-theater-p or email theatrezarko@gmail.com.