Lockdown Puppet Theatre Keeps Hope and Entertainment Alive in Lakeview

Matthew Owens performs a puppet show for neighbors from the balcony of his home in Lakeview (Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune)

A quiet Lakeview street has been livened by the recent addition of Lockdown Puppet Theater. Matthew Owens (BFA 1985), who has long been a performer and designer in Chicago's art scene—creating naturalistic toys, or "enrichment devices," for the Brookfield Zoo; painting large murals, including one for the old Children's Memorial Hospital; and making puppets for Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra—created the show to help the neighborhood during the city’s stay-at-home order. From the second-floor balcony of a brick building, Owens features a cast of his 40 puppets to deliver music and comedy to audience members—wearing masks and social distancing—who come to see the free show every Saturday afternoon. “I felt my neighbors were in need of something," Owens explained in a Chicago Tribune article, "So, I made a puppet, just one, and put it in a tree with a spotlight shining on it from my apartment window." Now, it's a full production that provides the highlight of the week for many of his neighbors.