Preview: REFLEX Unravels 4,000 Years of Juggling 

The world premiere of REFLEX, a solo juggling show by renowned performer Jay Gilligan, (produced by Hideaway Circus) recently had its world premiere in Brooklyn’s Mitu580, an art and performance space built in an old glass recycling factory. But Hideaway’s prolific creative coproducers Josh Aviner and Lyndsay Magid were not content to restrict the show to one neighborhood for a variety of reasons. “We decided to do the dual in-person and digital streaming versions because we believe that there’s a sizable audience who can’t attend in person either because of proximity to New York City or concern for in-person gatherings. Offering a live stream of REFLEX makes it much more accessible to the public and also available at a lower price. I think a lot of people will feel inspired after watching Jay’s performance and we did not want to limit that to only 60 seats per performance at Mitu580.”

Livestreaming shows can be difficult, requiring more tech and tech coordination in the presence of a live audience, but if “Saturday Night Live” could do it for 47 years, then surely the methods exist to which the theater and circus world can adapt. Fortunately for circus and juggling fans in Chicago and beyond, Hideaway is making that leap for the final week (February 14-20) of REFLEX’s four-week run.

Jay Gilligan. Image courtesy Hideaway Circus.

Jay Gilligan’s ambitious theme is to cover the 4,000 years of juggling that led to this moment in time, and there is likely no other person on the planet more equipped to unravel that history for us than Gilligan himself.

An Ohio native with several world records in juggling, Gilligan is a juggler’s juggler known for his innovation and deep exploration of the art form. Not content to simply be a virtuoso in his field, he is also a beloved teacher and mentor to many of today’s most gifted jugglers. He has performed in 38 different countries and worked with all of the best-known circus companies such as Spiegelworld, The Gandini Juggling, Cie Jérôme Thomas, Les 7 doigts de la main, Cirkus Cirkör, and Cirque du Soleil. He currently runs his own contemporary circus company in Stockholm, called Kapsel. For a taste of Gilligan’s scientific approach to exploring juggling, you can listen to his co-collaborated podcast Object Episodes, which focus on juggling as an art form.

His solo creation REFLEX is set to become his magnum opus, based on a series of stories about gravity, combining complex juggling sequences and his own unique inventions, props, and robots. With this show, Gilligan also has the full creative force of the juggling world behind him with a dream team of collaborators starting with writer and co-collaborator Captain Frodo Santini (check out his podcast The Way of the Showman if you want to get excited about the performing life again). He also has music by another versatile artist (juggler, photographer and musician) Book Kennison. In fact, one look at the show’s contributor list and you would see many of the world’s most innovative jugglers and friends who have consulted Gilligan in some way with the making of the show, which means in the juggling world that this show is a much-anticipated event. 

Renowned juggler Jay Gilligan at work. Image courtesy Hideaway Circus.

Speaking about Gilligan’s upcoming solo show on Broadway World, Aviner and Magid said, “We can’t wait to bring one of the greatest living jugglers to New York City. So few performers, especially in contemporary juggling, are able to combine virtuosic physical skills with masterful storytelling and humor, and that’s really what sets Jay apart from so many of his contemporaries. U.S. audiences have rarely had the opportunity to experience his incredible talents, because he’s spent much of his career abroad, and will be surprised and delighted by how compelling Jay’s artistry is.”

The timeless craft of object manipulation combined with a theatrical setting and Gilligan’s groundbreaking work will mesmerize the most pandemic-numbed among us. So come see what contemporary juggling is all about–either live in the Brooklyn audience or from the comfort of your own home.

The 65-minute show runs from until February 19. Live in-person tickets cost $40 and livestreaming tickets cost $20 (February 14-20 only) #REFLEXSHOW and #STORIESABOUTGRAVITY. The venue is handicap accessible.

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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 Theater 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.

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