BWW Interviews: A Chat with Joanna Wright on Sky Candy's COSMICOMICS
Sky Candy, east Austin's aerial and circus arts company, is collaborating with acclaimed Austin theatre director, Rudy Ramirez on an aerial theatre production of COSMICOMICS, Italo Calvino's beloved collection of short stories of the same name. Italo Calvino's Cosmicomics, a beautiful and unique achievement in storytelling, tells tall tales about creation-magical, fantastical, adventurous stories-but it bases those stories on the findings of science and does not ask that we give these stories our belief, the way that countless creation myths have done over the centuries. In doing so, these stories insist that science and magic are not mutually exclusive: that the discoveries of science can give us meaning and show us miracles through the bridge of our imagination.
BroadwayWorld-Austin recently spoke with Joanna Wright, one of Sky Candy's core teachers, regarding this exciting production.
Joanna graduated from Swarthmore College in 2008 as a Special Major in Dance and Theatre, which, luckily for her future career, included a good dose of writing about as well as practicing her chosen art forms. She then attended the London International School of Performing Arts, where she got a fantastic practical education in teamwork and communication skills, and graduated in 2010 with a Masters in Lecoq-based Actor Created Theatre in conjunction with Naropa University.
Here's what Ms. Wright had to say about Sky Candy and COSMICOMICS...
BWW: Tell us a little bit about Sky Candy.
JW: Sky Candy was founded in July 2010 by a group of aerialists who wanted to share their love of the circus arts with Austin, TX. We started on a portable outdoor rig with two teachers teaching two classes a week, and we have since grown into Austin's "Best Circus Arts Revivalists," (Austin Chronicle Best of Austin Critics' Pick 2011) offering over 60 classes a week in the aerial and circus arts, as well as open studio, private lessons, workshops, aerial showcases, aerial entertainment for public and private events, and theatrical productions such as COSMICOMICS! We exist to foster a safe and supportive community for learning, performance and collaboration.
BWW: Aerial dance has certainly gained in popularity all over the world in the past few years. Do you have any thoughts as to why the artform is gaining more attention?
JW: Aerial dance has long captivated circus audiences, but it is only within the past few decades that learning the art form has become accessible to the general public. Studios like Sky Candy have sprung up, started by trained circus artists who believe, as we do, that everyone should have the opportunity to experience the benefits of this challenging, beautiful art form. We are proud to witness the personal growth of our students as they gain strength, flexibility, and self confidence, performing feats they never thought they'd be capable of.
BWW: Tell us a bit about your upcoming production, Cosmicomics.
JW: COSMICOMICS is Sky Candy's sixth theatrical production and our first collaboration with an established and award-winning Austin director, the amazing Rudy Ramirez. Adapted from World Fantasy Award winner Italo Calvino's internationally beloved short stories about the origins of the universe, COSMICOMICS draws from the aesthetics of silent film, commedia dell'arte and turn-of-the-century circus arts to tell stories of climbing ladders to the moon, the love-life of the last living dinosaur, and why the ultimate answer to the question "Why are we here?" just might be "pasta." The show features jaw-dropping aerial work, huge wearable dinosaur puppets on stilts, and hilarious clowning, all set to live Italian music.
BWW: Why did the short stories of Italo Calvino speak to the artists at Sky Candy?
JW: We had worked with Rudy Ramirez on the Austin Bike Zoo production Midsummer in Motion in 2012, and at that time we decided that we should collaborate on a project at some point in the future. Rudy Ramirez was very taken with Calvino's short stories, and in 2013 he approached us about co-producing COSMICOMICS as an aerial theatre piece. We felt that these whimsical, poignant, and hilarious stories would lend themselves perfectly to aerial storytelling, so we agreed to collaborate on the show!
BWW: Can you elaborate on how Cosmicomics will blend silent film, commedia dell'arte, and circus aesthetics?
JW: COSMICOMICS is inspired by various aesthetics of the early 20th century- think The Adventures of Baron von Munchausen meets turn of the century circus! The cast is composed of seven aerialist and seven actors, and there is a good deal of clowning, animal/human characters, science (and pseudo-science), and, of course, pasta! The show is very tongue-in-cheek as well as visually interesting- from astrophysics jokes to fart jokes, it has something for all ages to enjoy.
BWW: What has the rehearsal process been like, and are there any challenges towards rehearsing an aerial dance piece?
JW: Since Calvino's COSMICOMICS is a series of short stories, not a play, we have had the privilege and the challenge of adapting the stories for the stage. We started workshopping COSMICOMICS in February of this year, playing with the stories and deciding which ones we wanted to adapt. We have chosen seven stories out of the original twelve, and have devised scripts and choreography to bring them to life through acting and aerials. The cast is composed of seven actors and seven aerialists, and it has been a wonderful process for each group to share their talents with the other and learn new skills.
BWW: Do you have any last thoughts for BroadwayWorld readers?
JW: That should do it!
COSMICOMICS, produced by Sky Candy, plays the Long Center for the Performing Arts at 701 W. Riverside Dr, Austin, TX 78704 now thru June 29th. Performances are Thursday June 26th - Sat June 28th at 8pm with matinee performances on Sat June 28th and Sun June 29th at 2pm. Tickets start at $22. For tickets and information, please visit http://thelongcenter.org/event/cosmicomics/