Almanac Presents Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes
“We want audiences to be engaged in every moment, but we also want them to feel like anything can happen at any moment.”
Philadelphia’s Almanac Dance Circus Theatre brings Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes to the ecclesiastical confines of the Sanctuary Space at Fleisher Art Memorial, June 24–28. This is the company’s second full-length undertaking, after last year’s Communitas. Almanac is the resident company at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts and are artists-in-residence and Mascher Space Cooperative. Early stages of the show began with a residency in Montreal with Cirque du Soleil’s Jerome Le Baut and Cirque Eloize’s Robert Bourgeoisie.
Mixing acrobatics, theater, circus, dance, and music, Leaps and Faith and Other Mistakes tells the story of four hobbyists who form an isolationist seafarer cult. Through powerful levels of trust, exceptional acrobatics, and the help of their trusty sofa, the four individuals journey to a greater world. The show is created by performers Nicole Burgio, Nick Gillette, Ben Grinberg, and Adam Kerbel, along with writer Josh McIlvain of SmokeyScout Productions and music by Patrick Lamborn, who also performs live. We gathered a few of the Almanac gang—Ben Grinberg, Nick Gillette, Adam Kerbel—to talk to them about their upcoming show!
Ben Grinberg: It’s about what happens when we trust ourselves, and those around us, too much. It uses partner acrobatics, which demands levels of physical trust that would be insane to normal people—even sometimes those in committed relationships—as a lens for this. What is the difference between that kind of conviction and the convictions of a religious zealot? A cult-leader?
Nick Gillette: It’s about four people taking the hard road towards something bigger than themselves. Each one of them has an individual reason to leave everything behind for a new world.
Ben Grinberg: Oh yeah, the play is about the four of us forming an isolationist seafarer cult, leaving the world behind, taking new names, and freeing ourselves.
FringeArts: With a little less than 4 weeks to go, what are you working on to get the show ready?
Nick Gillette: We’ve created a ton of material and now have the task of sorting it into a cohesive whole. Much of the next few weeks will be spent ordering scenes and acrobatic phrases and seeing how it feels as a whole piece. With so many facets and modes of performance, we want to really craft a satisfying ride through the different styles.
Ben Grinberg: For this piece, we want audiences to be engaged in every moment, but we also want them to feel like anything can happen at any moment. To do that requires a lot of sculpting.
FringeArts: What are the origins of Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes?
Adam Kerbel: It began first with a desire to acquire a new level of proficiency with cirque style hand-to-hand (partner acrobatics), and Ben had the seed of an idea that had to do with aggression and devotion. Our first reference was the music of Nine Inch Nails.
Ben Grinberg: For me, the origins of this show are the four of us as human beings. To decide to devote 20-30 hours a week, mostly unpaid, to making a show and learning acrobatics you can only do with the other three people who you train with is a huge leap of faith. This is our sophomore year as a company. I’ve heard it on good authority that the second year is the worst one. This year has started to feel like a headache of balancing priorities and a straightjacket of scheduling. The show is not about schedules that don’t line up, but of course this is a kind of a show about “the darker undersides of our convictions.” There’s something beautiful and universal about that struggling.
FringeArts: The show features four performers: can you describe what you think each performer brings? I’m thinking along the lines of the Beatles.
Ben Grinberg: I’m Paul and so is Cole, Adam is John and Nick is Ringo. We have no George. Wait. Maybe Patrick is George.
Nick Gillette: When Adam performs it’s impossible to not watch him. Nicole’s mastery of acrobatics keeps us raising the bar on the technical difficulty. Ben’s the visionary. I’m just a wayward clown who fell in with the right crowd.
Adam Kerbel: I hate hero archetypes because they’re inaccurate. What brought the Beatles into the room together was probably a ceaseless investigative quality – everything about sound and rhythm for them, I think, was material for play. In a similar way, we four each hold particular interests in motion and emotion which propel us through the world in individual ways.
Ben Grinberg: In the beginning of the day, we stretch. We do crunches and leg lifts and handstands. We do a lot of handstands. Then time starts to accelerate. We get lost in creative improvisation just as easily as we get lost in the technical work of drilling a trick over and over.
Nick Gillette: We have a unique challenge. So much of our training for devising interesting, live theater starts with playful, spirited improvisation, and so much of our training for acrobatics requires rigorous consistency of form. Ultimately, I think we want to have those two poles touch at the center, where even the most demanding acrobatic sequences can feel inhabited and live.
FringeArts: Where is performance?
Ben Grinberg: It’s in the sanctuary space at Fleisher Art Memorial, which is a beautiful old church space with a 39.5′ ceiling and some priceless statues of kind of weird gremlin-saints. We’re seating everyone in a very very deep three quarter thrust, so we can take advantage of the depth of the space. There’s a couch at one end. Performing on a couch in a church feels incongruous in the right way for this piece.
Thanks, Almanac! Looking forward to the show!
Leaps of Faith and Other Mistakes
By Almanac Dance Circus Theatre (www.thealmanac.us)
Wednesday, June 24, 8pm: open dress rehearsal
Thursday, June 25, 8pm: opening night with post-show reception
Friday, June 26, 8pm
Saturday, June 27, 2pm and 8pm
Sunday, June 28, 2pm and 5pm
Fleisher Art Memorial
719 Catharine Street (South Philly)
$25 General Admission
Photos: Jenna Spitz