Thursday, November 26, 2009

Montessori Circus Show comes to town

By Meredith Deliso

Forget parading elephants and cheesy emcees.

The Montessori Circus Show is a Brooklyn-style stage spectacular, an avant-garde piece featuring aerialists, hula hooping, puppetry, wood chopping, baking, and some clowning thrown in for good measure.

Conceived by trapeze duo Lollo Birgitta, the show was commissioned by The Bushwick Starr following the two’s sold-out show last spring during the theater’s Bushwhack Series, an experimental performing arts festival. The production is the second piece to be produced by the two-year-old theater, following their run of “Rocky Philly” this past summer, and will be the first full-length show for Lollo Romanski and Cecilia Grimm, who comprise Lollo Birgitta.

Though there are decidedly diverse elements included in the night, “I didn’t want it to be a variety show,” says Grimm, who, in addition to Romanksi, will be joined by acrobats Jocelyn Davis and Ana Carolina on stage. “We wanted to create small stories within a bigger story.”

Specifically, the show will feature circus acts and vignettes inspired by classic 19th century American carnivals as it plays upon aspects of the Montessori method, specifically the idea that physical activity should be used in a child’s absorbing abstract concepts and learning practical skills. Fittingly, the show answers the question “What do I want to be when I grow up?” as it weaves its various acts together, performed on the stage and in the air at the Bushwick space, which, with its 15-foot ceilings, is a natural for aerial stunts.

“Our space is a good-sized theater, but you feel really close up to the action,” says Sue Kessler, managing director and curator of The Bushwick Starr. “It’s so exciting to see aerial work and these kinds of things in an intimate space like ours. You’re just so used to watching trapeze from very far way in more of an arena setting.”

When Kessler and partner Noel Joseph Allain got the Starr Street space in 2002 to use for their theater company, they never envisioned performances would take place above the stage. But since opening as the Bushwick Starr in 2007 after the theater company fizzled, they’ve hosted Lollo Brigitto, as well as Agee’s Ruby Streak Studio and the San Francisco-based company Bow and Sparrow, among others.

“(Aerial work’s) always been really received well, especially by the Bushwick community,” says Kessler. “I think it’s great that a lot of theaters are embracing this art form. We’re very happy to be a part of it.”

In addition to trapeze work, the Montessori Circus Show will also feature stilt walking, juggling, live baking (to include more of the senses), and finger puppetry, which will involve animal shapes projected onto a large screen. So, in a way, there will be elephants.

The Montessori Circus Show runs at the Bushwick Starr (207 Starr St.) December 3-5 and December 10-12. All shows are at 8 p.m., with tickets $10. Advance purchase is recommended.


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