Germantown circus troupe looks to push boundaries of faith in upcoming performance
Almanac, a Germantown-based circus troupe, has been practicing since October for their performance later this month titled "Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes."
The group of five is taking an interpretation of faith into a performance that joins theater, dance and acrobatics in a non-linear story about a group of four performers. In the show, they redefine time, create friendships and turn their relationship into a whimsical and almost confusing story.
"We're trying to make a piece that is episodic," Ben Grinberg, an Almanac acrobat said. "There is a narrative, but not just one narrative. And it's not linear."
The group has performed silent shows in the past to push their audience into interpreting their story, but their upcoming show involves scripted parts that paint more colorful scenes.
The performers teamed up with Josh McIlvain, a Philadelphia-based writer, in January to help curate the unusual story of the acrobats' performance about devoting their lives to circus while interpreting what they describe as "sublime human idiocy."
McIlvain also curates the increasingly popular pop-up performance series in Northwest Philadelphia called "Nice and Fresh."
The show will be held at Fleisher Art Memorial at 7th and Catherine streets from June 25 to 28. The group said they were enamored with the space and especially inspired by the idea of performing in a church.
"We were looking into performing this piece in a church because it's all about faith," Grinberg said.
The performers acknowledge that they are not particularly religious, but hope their show can inspire people on a deep, personal level, the way some people are inspired by their faiths.
"For us to be able to ask our questions in a sincere, searching way and leave space for everyone to come comfortably into it will be our major task — without being overly sacrilegious or purposefully shocking," Nick Gillette, one of Almanac's performers, said.
The group said that by colliding three realms of performance in their show, they are creating an opportunity for the audience to interpret their show from multiple angles.
"People see it in a way they are brought to it," Gillette said. "In a way we can intentionally try to craft one thing but a dance crowd will see it as dance, a theater group will see it as theater and a circus crowd will come in and look at it as circus and acrobatics"
The show's name, "Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes," comes from the group's determination to define faith for themselves and the audience.
"Leaps of faith has everything to do with us becoming an ensemble that will throw each other in the air and catch each other," Grinberg said. "It's a big commitment of trust."
While the church itself is a well-reserved and conventional space for artists to perform, the group wants to maintain their contemporary theme and push boundaries — both for themselves and the audience.
"We don't want it to stay safe," Grinberg said. "Something we have been exploring for years is how can we make circus not just this 'thing!' that [seems] so easy."
Many circus performances highlight impressive and surreal moves while acrobats maintain a wide smile. While performers swing effortlessly into the air, the reality of blisters and sore muscles are lost in translation. Almanac's performers said they hope to use Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes to hint at their own experience as acrobats, reminding the audience of the months of practice and the steady strength they must maintain for a safe show.
Information on tickets and the group's previous performances can be seen at their site, www.thealmanac.us
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