Actors Gymnasium Graduates a New Class of Performers with Passages

Actors Gymnasium ensemble: Brittany Price Anderson, Nicole Thompson, Sarah Moslen, Kathleen Hoil, Myriam Bloom, Athena Giles, David Milo and Jean Carlos Claudio. All photos by Zach McLain.

Every year, Actors Gymnasium has some well-anticipated shows and this year’s Professional Circus Training Program Showcase entitled Passages was no exception. After a year of long hours and hard work in the studio working with the area’s best instructors and directing talent, these adult students emerged ready for the next step in their circus art careers.

Passages, directed and produced by Molly Brennan, Sylvia Hernandez-Di Stasi and Amanda Crockett, opened with a group of eight excited travelers preparing for a journey with their bags in tow and quickly evolved in to the ordeals and adventures that every journey entails. It began with some high energy techno klezmer music and a group dance and clown act.

Brittany Price Anderson performs Shower Time on silks.

Brittany Price Anderson performed two comedic gems for the show—one, the Last Love Bird in the City as a tightwire pigeon and one, Shower Time, a hilarious peek into the experiences of a tired person returning from a day of work who just needs to chill out and take a shower– on the silks. Comedic silk acts are rare and a much appreciated and refreshing alternative to the dramatic flair usually showcased by such an intense apparatus. Brittany rocked it with her shower sequence comedy.

Woven throughout the show was the presence of one lovable clown named Jean Carlos Claudio who tied it all together, as clowns often do, by being both a mop-up man and a sweet and simple distraction from all of the serious business going on around him. As each persona gained something from the trip they lost something as well, in this case, the loss was symbolically a piece of their costume as they progressed through their solo acts, which Jean reluctantly retrieved for them and placed back in their cases. In Jean’s solo act Entre Flores y un Diabolo, he seamlessly wove clowning into a stellar diabolo act, both managing to fall in love with an audience member and being able to keep a giant spinning yoyo (the underappreciated diabolo) aloft and masterfully maneuvered.

Athena Giles performed Helios on lyra, re-enacting the myth with her graceful rotations around the apparatus, and then bringing it to a more raucous level in Procrastination Princess, while she juggled and maneuvered her hoops.

Jean Carlos Claudio as the clown.

This Isn’t, This Isn’t was a more abstract piece by Myriam Bloom, a beautifully choreographed tumbling/dance exploration of vulnerability and trying on various roles in life, cleverly displayed by moments of awkward underwear poses and trying on different outfits. It tied in perfectly with her major act My Strongest Suit, in which Myriam discovered that her skin was enough to define her as she tossed in a graceful, whirling, high energy act on trapeze.

Sarah Moslen performed in Love is Blind. In this intense act, she navigated the trapeze literally blindfolded and fluidly. Later, Sarah switched gears with her comedic juggling act Fanny Pack, pulling off some high energy and perky modern juggling moves that included body rolls and incorporating some dance moves.

In Date Night, Kathleen Hoil was entertaining as a creepy, burlesque dancing contortionist clown. In her second act Do Corredor, her tone changed and she morphed into a graceful, fluid lyra artist whose energy and poise was captivating.

In Fragments, David Milo performed an angsty and powerful act on straps to edgy music. In Black  Sunday, Nicole Thompson brought some Stevie Nicks and gothic energy to her contortion act, shedding red ribbons as she tumbled and bent her way like a spectre through this moving act.

The final bow for the class of 2017.

The show ended with the signature Actors Gymnasium triumphant ensemble dance called Passages that brought the cast of characters together again before sending them off to a graduation cocktail hour after the show to celebrate the accomplishments of the cast.

Passages  had three shows only, but these talented emerging performers will be undoubtedly be appearing around Chicago and vicinity in the near future. Visit Actors Gymnasium for more information on their programs, which range from introductory courses for children and adults to the professional training program.

Kim Campbell
Kim Campbell

Kim Campbell (they/them) is a freelance editor, podcaster and creative writer who has spent a career focusing on the arts, particularly literature, theater and circus. Former editor of CircusTalk News, they have written about theater and circus for Third Coast Review since its very beginning. Kim is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and the International Network of Circus Arts Magazines. In 2019, they were on the jury of FIRCO in Madrid (Circus Festival Iberoamericano) and in 2021 they were on the voting committee for the International Circus Awards. See their tweets at @kimzyn or follow them on Instagram.