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Circus? Theatre? Circus Theatre?

Two weeks ago a friend and I got the chance to go to Chicago for a week. The plan was to see theatre and experience different parts of the city to see if we may want to move there post-grad. Unfourtunatly, there was not a lot of theatre going on that week. Every company we looked at was either opening a show the next week or had just closed one.



Lucky for us though, we did get to see an amazing Circus Cabaret called El Circo Cheapo Cabaret. It was a part of the First Contemporary Circus Festival (cool trailer here). in the show there were a number of bare bones acts: hand balancing, Chinese pole, and a few styles of Aerial performance. These acts had much more storytelling and attention to theatrical devises than I had previously seen with circus. It was not about the razzmatazz of Big Top and more about connecting to the performer on a human level. Interesting and unexpected from a circus show.

We also saw The Little Prince at Lookingglass Theatre was done in collaboration with the Actor’s Gymnasium, and incorporated some circus elements. The piece would develop and then circus-acts would follow a bit of action. It was a nice addition for a show geared towards children, but there was a disconnect between the “play” aspects and the physical ones. It made me curious about the immersion of the two.

It reminded me of what I know of Musical Theatre’s development. Songs used to be a result of action and the farther you move toward contemporary musicals the more the song because a vessel for plot action. I wonder if theatre is doing a similar progression with physical and circus arts within a play, while Contemporary Circus is training the artists and audiences to receive this style of collaboration. As a theatre artist, who also does Aerial Dance work, I am excited by the possibilities for the two to be united.



One comment on “Circus? Theatre? Circus Theatre?

  1. Firstly, I’m honored that you would publish online that I’m your friend.
    Secondly, I think this is a really astute observation. I think it’s important to emphasize that the merge between theatre and circus is specifically with contemporary circus. The evolution of circus itself is one that’s changed dramatically in the past decades, and contemporary circuses such as Les 7 doigts de la main (http://7doigts.com/en) and cirque eloize (http://www.cirque-eloize.com/en/home) and schools like FLIC (http://www.flicscuolacirco.it/en/) and SPIN (http://www.spincircusacademy.com/) Are only 1, maybe 2 decades young. Contemporary circus is definitely taking a more story-focused, less bedazzling / look-at-the-freaks kind of show. It lends itself much more to a theatrical merge.

    Someone once asked me what the difference was of seeing a Cirque Du Solei show and a smaller contemporary show. I answered the former makes me think these are shockingly in-human abilities, and the latter makes me think this is the most human thing I can see. Theatre addressed our own humanity. I think as the years pass we will see theatre and contemporary circus merge with an ease that will result in shows that speculate on what it is to be human without the distracting spectacle of capital-C-Circus

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