Chicago Week 7: The Engagement Story and Physical Theater

I got engaged last weekend. Say whaaaatttt?! Much like my last post, if you’re only reading for circus shit, skip down to the Circus Talk. Otherwise, buckle up for the engagement story.


Last weekend, Paul and I met in La Crosse, Wisconsin because it's the halfway point between Chicago and Sioux Falls. It was a cold, rainy day, so we did an escape room. Alas, we did not escape, but it was still fun. Then we ate at a hibachi place (my favorite). At one point during dinner, Paul asked if I had brought an umbrella. “I thought we might like to go on a walk later.” (Subtle. Very subtle. :P)

But it was cold, and we ditched that idea so I could do my laundry at the hotel, and we watched an episode of Breaking Bad. After an episode, but before it was time to get my laundry from the dryer, we were just killing time cuddling and talking. I said something along the lines of "I want to be with you forever," at which point Paul asked, “do you mean it?” and then he pulled out the ring. He said a few mushy things (I’ll spare the details) and asked, “will you marry me?” I cried. Oh yeah, and I said yes.

We’ve had quite the year, especially the last several months. I ruptured a huge ovarian cyst the day I was supposed to move to Chicago for circus school (which I’d only had 2 weeks to prep for anyway). Paul recently started new job and locked down several freelance projects. He also inherited my cat and my roommate, Samara. And that’s just since September.

Life has been chaotic, but I couldn’t imagine a better partner through all of it. Paul has been my rock, and I know we will continue kicking ass together. Forever.

Alright. Mushy time is over. Let’s talk Circus.

On Mondays we have our Physical Theater class in the afternoon for 3 hours. Now, what exactly does that entail?

Good question. There's really no short answer. We often have an active part of class including games like foursquare. But since we are circus folk, it tends to get weird.

Our theater coach, Adrian, encourages us to take note of our reactions, both physical and verbal, in the games we play. And since we are circus people, we tend to feel more comfortable with the physical reactions.

So naturally, we spent the last 3 weeks on verbal - monologues to be exact. But not just any monologues. Each of us wrote a story from our past. They are all wildly different, ranging from a 5-year-old taking home 2 kittens to someone finding out their dad had died.

We swapped stories and have been making them our own by making choices about what we, the performers, want from the audience.

For example, the monologue I am working on is about having a crush on a dance teacher, working extra hard to impress him, then failing miserably during the performance. Each section could have a different want. During the first section as I describe the dance and the instructor, I want to be seen as shallow - maybe a little trashy. Then as the character fails, the trashiness and shallowness falls away, and I want the audience to pity me.

I could choose to be shallow the whole time, but that makes for a flat character. The more desires and choices, the more interesting the piece becomes. So those are two big wants, but it can even be done on a smaller scale. It could be the difference between two words, "SO neutral."

Why does this matter?

Transitions make or break an act. But what does that MEAN? Even the smoothest transitions and the best tricks can combine to make a boring act if there are no choices, no desires. You don't have to have a story, you don't have to be a character, but your act should make sense.

So that's what I'm working on, and my brain is reeling from so many ideas. I probably spent more time on silks this week than I have in the previous 6 weeks. It feels good to be back in the air. Here's to hoping for more inspired weeks like this one!