Aug 03–Aug 29

Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Aug 09–Aug 14

San Francisco, CA

Sep 10–Oct 16

Chicago, IL

Oct 29–Oct 30

Costa Mesa, CA

Nov 29–Dec 24
Christmas Carol

Glencoe, IL

0618 Manual Cinema Leonardo Photos Rebecca J Michelson 9802

Leonardo! Program

Leonardo is a terrible monster. He tries so hard to be scary, but he just… isn’t. Then Leonardo finds Sam, the most scaredy-cat kid in the world. Will Leonardo finally get to scare the tuna salad out of someone? Or will it be the start of an unlikely friendship? The plot thickens when this pair meets Kerry and Frankenthaler, an even scaredier-cat and her monster friend. Kerry and Sam need to make a big decision: will they just be scaredy cats or can they become friends?

Leonardo! A Wonderful Show About a Terrible Monster uses hundreds of illustrated paper puppets, book pages, two-dimensional props, furry monster puppets, and songs to bring Mo Willems' books to life. Manual Cinema wanted to re-create the experience of holding one of Mo’s book pages, which are big, bold, colorful, and full of visual rhythm, with a playful use of scale. Like all Manual Cinema productions, you’re invited to watch the big screen like a traditional movie, or to watch the artists below as they create the story in real time. (There is no wrong way to watch the show!)

Performances at Underbelly's Cowbarn, August 3-29 at 1:45pm (no show Aug 15)

Created by Manual Cinema
Inspired by the Books Leonardo, The Terrible Monster & Sam, The Most Scaredy-Cat Kid in the Whole World by Mo Willems
Directed by Sarah Fornace


Lily Emerson (Narrator, Character Voices, Guitar and Vocals)

Sarah Fornace (Sam, Puppeteer) August 19-29

Anney Fresh (Leonardo, Puppeteer)

Julia Miller (Sam, Puppeteer) August 3-18

Shay Turnage (Kerry, Puppeteer)


Created by Manual Cinema

Inspired by the Books Leonardo, The Terrible Monster & Sam, The Most Scaredy-Cat Kid in the Whole World by Mo Willems

Directed by Sarah Fornace

Adaptation by Sarah Fornace and Drew Dir

Music, Lyrics & Sound Design by Ben Kauffman and Kyle Vegter

2D Paper Puppet and Prop Design by Drew Dir

Hand and Rod Puppet Design by Lizi Breit

Costume & Wig Design by Mieka Van der Ploeg

Lighting Design by Trey Brazeal with Nick Chamernik

Dramaturgy by Megan Alrutz

Stage Manager and Board Operator Maydi Díaz

Technical Director Mike Usrey

Commissioned by The Kennedy Center for Performing Arts with additional commissioning support from Utah Presents

Special Thanks to David Kilpatrick, Chicago Childrens Theater and Laura Colby

Images by Manual Cinema, Characters © Mo Willems


LILY EMERSON (Narrator, Musician) is a multi­faceted performer, producer, collaborator, and all-around creative weirdo. Lily is the co-creator of Adventure Sandwich, a Chicago-based group that produces family-friendly video, music, live performances and events. She served as the Artistic Director of Opera-Matic, an interdisciplinary arts organization that produces participatory art experiences in the parks, from 2018-2020. She is also the founder of Lucid Street Theatre, a performance collective that created original works from 2007-2011. Lily has performed throughout the US, Belarus, the Czech Republic, and France, and has been recognized with various awards and residencies, including the Lisa Dershin LinkUP Residency, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum's Artist in Residence, and the Chicago Digital Media Production Fund. More information about Lily can be found at

SARAH FORNACE (Co-Artistic Director, Sam Understudy) is a director, puppeteer, choreographer, and narrative designer based in Chicago. She is a co-Artistic Director of Manual Cinema. Outside of Manual Cinema, Sarah has worked as a performer or choreographer with Redmoon Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre Company, Court Theatre, Steppenwolf Garage, and Blair Thomas and Co. Most recently, Sarah wrote the story mode for the video game Rivals of Aether. In 2017, she directed and edited the first episode of the web series, The Doula is IN. In 2016, she directed and devised an "animotion" production of Shakespeare's Hamlet with Rokoko Studios for HamletScen at Kromborg Castle in Elsinore, Denmark.

ANNEY FRESH (Leonardo) is a creator and performer of puppets and costumes. Anney won 5 Daytime Emmy awards for building puppets for Sesame Street and has worked with the Jim Henson Co. for over 20 years. Other credits: Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, The Book of Pooh, Bear in the Big Blue House, Blue’s Room, Johnny and the Sprites, Chappelle’s Show, The Lion King, Little Shop of Horrors, Avenue Q, Crank Yankers, The Muppets, Puppet Up!, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, The Happytime Murders, Orange Is The New Black, The Tick, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Love to Keith and Monty!

SHARAINA LATRICE TURNAGE (Kerry) is from the sensational Southside of Chicago. Recent credits include: Mementos Mori, The End of TV, and No Blue Memories (Manual Cinema), The Silence in Harrow House (Rough House Theater) The American Revolution (Theater Unspeakable), and Los Milagros (Free Street Theater). Sharaina has researched and performed theater historical done by slaves called “Du” theater in Suriname, South America and was amongst one of the first actors to perform “Du” theater in the United States. Sharaina received her B.A. at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville where past credits include: Mayme (Intimate Apparel), LaWanda/Topsy Washington/Normal Jean (The Colored Museum), and Bernice (Servy N Bernice 4ever). Sharaina thanks her family and close friends for the constant support. "The greatest pleasure in life is DOING what people say you CANNOT do."

JULIA MILLER (Co-Artistic Director, Sam) is a director, puppeteer, and puppet designer. With Manual Cinema she has directed Mementos Mori and The End of TV as well as created original roles in Frankenstein (The Creature/Elizabeth), Ada/Ava (Ada), Lula del Ray (Lula's Mother), The Magic City (Helen), and Hansel und Gretel (Hansel). In Chicago, she has worked as a performer and puppeteer with Redmoon Theatre and Blair Thomas and Co. She spent several years training in devised theatre, clown and mask with Double Edge Theatre, Carlos García Estevez and at the Accademia dell'Arte in Arezzo, Italy.


MAYDI DÍAZ (Stage Manager, Video Mixing & Live Sound Effects) is a Chicago based stage manager. Since completing a BA in Arts Management from Columbia College Chicago and a MA in Theatre Production from the National University of Ireland Galway, Maydi has worked on multiple areas of technical theater. Her stage management credits include Caucasian Chalk Circle (Mick Lally Theatre), Back In The Day (UrbanTheater Company), The Delicate Tears of the Waning Moon and La Peor de Todas (Water People Theater), Kiev (Aguijón Theater Co), and various shows with PlayMaker's Laboratory. When she's not at the theater, you can find Maydi folk dancing or doing calligraphy.

MIKE USREY (Technical Director) “That may be the most important thing to understand about humans. It is the unknown that defines our existence. We are constantly searching, not just for answers to our questions, but for new questions. We are explorers. We explore our lives day by day, and we explore the galaxy trying to expand the boundaries of our knowledge. And that is why I am here: not to conquer you with weapons or ideas, but to coexist and learn.” – Benjamin Lafayette Sisko


Mo Willems is an author, illustrator, animator, playwright, and the inaugural Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence, where he collaborates in creating fun new stuff involving classical music, opera, comedy concerts, dance, painting, and digital works with the National Symphony Orchestra, Ben Folds, Yo-Yo Ma, and others.

Willems is best known for his #1 New York Times bestselling picture books, which have been awarded three Caldecott Honors (Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Knuffle Bunny, Knuffle Bunny Too), two Theodor Geisel Medals, and five Geisel Honors (The Elephant & Piggie series).

Mo’s art has been exhibited around the world, including major solo retrospectives at the High Museum (Atlanta) and the New-York Historical Society (NYC). Over the last decade, Willems has become the most produced playwright of Theater for Young Audiences in America, having written or co-written four musicals based on his books.

He began his career as a writer and animator on PBS’ Sesame Street, where he garnered six Emmy Awards (writing). Other television work includes two series on Cartoon Network: Sheep in the Big City (creator + head writer) and Codename: Kids Next Door (head writer). Mo is creating new TV projects for HBOMax, where his live action comedy special Don’t Let the Pigeon Do Storytime! currently streams.

His papers reside at Yale University’s Beinecke Library.

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