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Circus Fri Jun 05 2015

2nd Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival at Athenaeum Theatre; Prepare to Flip Out


Chicago has a reputation as a strong arts town, and it has been quietly establishing itself as a major destination for circus in recent years. Perhaps the healthiest sign of that is that it is hosting an international event called the Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival for the second year. It will take place June 17-21 at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, and various locations throughout the city. Seventy-six artists will take part in 30 performances in one week, showcasing quaint one-man shows such as Peter Davison's Tossed and Found as well as bold major scale productions like Cirque Mechanics Pedal Punk.

The variety of circus disciplines on display will be impressive, with international players hand-picked to display an array of skills such as juggling, clowning (aka physical theater) and acrobatics, but all within the context of the contemporary circus artistry.

Contemporary circus is defined by Wikipedia as "a genre of performing art developed in the later 20th century in which a story or a theme is conveyed through traditional circus skills." Animals and red-nosed clowns aren't usually present in these shows. There tend to be loose plots and character driven stories that take place on a stage rather than in a ring, but otherwise featuring the same jawdropping physical prowess the circus is famous for. Whatever their methods, there is certain to be something in this festival for everyone including children, circus fans, novice performers, circus artists and the curious theatergoer.

Matt Roben co-founded the wildly successful festival in 2014 and is the executive director. Matt settled down in Chicago 12 years ago largely because of its healthy circus climate. Although he has worked around the world, he says he is most proud of his work here and he is determined to make the festival a world class event. " I have had the good fortune to work with just about every circus company in Chicago," he explains. "I made the choice to stay in the US and sometimes I wonder how much 'better' a career I might have had if I stayed in Montreal or moved to Europe where circus is encouraged and most importantly funded! Realizing that we would forever lose talented Americans if we didn't do something about it, I chose to dive head first into producing a circus festival."

In addition to the 30 shows, there are 20 master classes offering recreational and professionals circus performers the opportunity to train with skill levels that range from beginner to advanced. Most of the master classes are taught by the touring performers who are in town for that short week, and offer a rare opportunity for a regional performer to advance in fields they might not have regular access to, such as knife throwing, German wheel, partner acrobatics or becoming a comedy badass.

As if shows and master classes weren't enough to make a festival complete, there is also a professional discussion series run by Circus Now during the week of the festival that covers all manner of topics for the aspiring and professional performer from circus technique to technical aspects, such as Circus as a Business Model and Audition Prep. It also features several free panel discussions like Circus for Social Change, Town Hall--Pushing the Boundaries of Circus--where all of the performers will gather for a giant panel, and Queer Circus; Staging Non-Conforming Sexual Gender Identities.

The main draw of the festival, however, is the opportunity to see contemporary circus performances from distant corners of the USA and around the world without having to pay for airfare. Some of the highlights this year include Las Vegas' renowned Cirque Mechanics' show Pedal Punk, the hit Gandini juggling show Smashed and the Third Coast Cabaret, hosted by the famed Bindlestiff Family Cirkus. There is even a one-day youth showcase at the festival hosted by AYCO which will feature many of the up-and-coming circus artists in the USA.

Individual show tickets range from $22 to $51 with a Festival Main Stage pass costing $150, and VIP pass for $350 (upwards of 13 shows). Schedule is listed below the promo video.

Performances and Schedule

Press Preview
The Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival will kick off the 2015 season with a press preview of its program. The one-hour performance is a peek into the 2015 line-up. It is open to press, passholders, presenters, and by special invitation to local area non-profit organizations.
Location: Athenaeum Theatre
Performance date: June 17 - 7-8pm

Pedal Punk
Presented by Cirque Mechanics (U.S.)
Location: Athenaeum Theatre
Performance dates:
June 19 - 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.
June 20 - 2:00 - 2:30 p.m.
June 21 - 7:00- 8:30 p.m.

The Submarine Show
Created by Emmy Award Winner, Slater Penney and former Cirque Du Soleil performer, Jaron Hollander (U.S.)
Location: Athenaeum's Black Box Theatre
Performance dates:
June 19 - 5:30 - 6:30 p.m.
June 20 - 4:00 - 5:00 p.m.
June 21 - 5:30 - 6:30 p.m.

Presented by Gandini Juggling (England)
Location: Athenaeum Theatre
Performance dates:
June 17 - 8:00 - 9:00 p.m.
June 18 - 6:00 - 7:00 p.m.
June 20 - 8:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Tossed & Found
Presented by Peter Davison (U.S.)
Location: Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division St.
Performance dates:
June 18 - 6:00 - 7:00 p.m.
June 20 - 4:00 - 5:00 p.m.
June 21 - 3:00 - 4:00 p.m.

Presented by Company McQuiggs (U.S.)
Location: Athenaeum's Black Box Theatre
Performance dates:
June 18 - 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.
June 20 - 1:00 - 2:30 p.m.
June 21 - 3:30 - 5:30 p.m.

Knee Deep
Presented by Casus Circus (Australia)
Location: Athenaeum Theatre
Performance dates:
June 18 - 8:00 - 9:30 p.m.
June 20 - 6:00 - 7:30 p.m.
June 21 - 4:00 - 5:30 p.m.

Presented by Katerina Repponen and Pasi Nousiainen (Finland)
Location: Chopin Theatre
Performance dates:
June 19 - 6:00 - 7:00 p.m.
June 20 - 6:00 - 7:00 p.m.
June 21 - 5:00 - 6:00 p.m.

The Girlie Show Live
Presented by Bearded Lady Productions (U.S.)
Location: Chopin Theatre
Performance dates:
June 18 - 8:00 - 9:30 p.m.
June 19 - 8:00 - 9:30 p.m.
June 20 - 8:00 - 9:30 p.m.

Third Coast Cabaret
Hosted by New York's Bindlestiff Family Cirkus (U.S.)
Location: Athenaeum Theatre
Performance dates:
June 19 - 10:00 - 11:30 p.m.
June 20 - 10:00 - 11:30 p.m.

AYCO Youth Showcase
Presented by American Youth Circus Organization (U.S.)
Location: Athenaeum Theatre
Performance date: June 21 - 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.

Magmanus Show
Presented by Magmanus Company (Sweden)
Location: Wrigley Square, Millennium Park
Performance dates:
June 17 - 12:00-1:00 p.m.
June 18 - 12:00-1:00 p.m.
June 19 - 12:00-1:00 p.m.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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