Over the last five years I have been proud to call Circus Center my home. I came to the school after a year of studying physical theatre at Dell’Arte International in Blue Lake, California and I was in the first year of the Professional Acrobatics Program at Circus Center. Upon arrival I expected to learn everything immediately and to become an acrobatic phenomenon inside of a year. As I’m sure you can imagine, I was chagrined to find out that learning acrobatics takes much more time than that! During that first year I would often get extremely frustrated and stand in the corner of the gym or sit in the bleachers bemoaning my very existence. Don’t remind Master Lu Yi about this-he wouldn’t let me live it down for years, but hasn’t brought it up recently and I’d like to keep it that way. Perhaps the reason he hasn’t brought it up is because over the years since my first year at Circus Center I have learned to become more patient, controlled, focused, and dedicated. I have trained Chinese pole with Master Lu Yi for five years now and the school has become a haven where I have developed and refined my work.
When I was invited to be an Artist-in-Residence at Circus Center, I was honored and ecstatic to take the school up on the offer. I had been accepted into the Edmonton and Vancouver Fringe Theatre Festivals a few months before, and I had started the development of a new one-man show that for the first time combined all of my disciplines of training and expertise into one piece. Over the last six years I have trained and studied an obscure form of grotesque satirical physical theatre called bouffon; I have also trained as a clown; and finally, I have trained as an acrobat. Never before now have I taken my favorite aspects of each of these disciplines and put them together. The result is The Greatest Monkey Show On Earth, the first production of my new performance company called Antic in a Drain.
The show combines the provocative humor of bouffon, the vulnerability of clown, audience interaction, and spectacular feats of acrobatics to explore the themes of captivity versus freedom. The primary questions that the show sets out out explore are: What does captivity and objectification of animals do, not only to animals but to us as humans? And what are the repercussions and consequences of keeping (any) being captive? I recently did the first half of the show at the Fools Fury Factory Festival where this was said:
“The athleticism displayed in The Greatest Monkey Show on Earth is only matched by its insightful social commentary. Ross Travis uses human and animal relations to explore issues of imprisonment, agency, and coercion. The audience will laugh and scream with a smile, but as the lights go down they are left with haunting personal questions.”
– Dillon Slagle, LMDA
Building this show is easily one of the most ambitious and overwhelming things I have ever done in my life. It has consumed me. I am working mostly by myself with lots of outside eyes, helping hands, and support along the way. From building the costume to marketing the show to writing the script and shopping for props, while in between finding moments to intensely research everything simian, this project is daunting but ultimately extremely fulfilling. It has been a true joy to have the support of Circus Center in making this dream a reality.
I hope you’ll come and join me on August 2nd and 3rd at 8:00pm when I perform The Greatest Monkey Show On Earth at Circus Center. After that I will be leaving to perform the show in Canada at the Edmonton Fringe Festival (August 14th-24th) and the Vancouver Fringe Festival (September 4th – 14th.)
In the meantime, I am also happy to be performing my Chinese pole act with Circus Bella in parks all across the Bay this summer. This is an act I developed at Circus Center this year and its been an incredible experience seeing the act grow and ripen under the rigor of performing in the open elements. I hope you’ll come see some circus in the park! Here’s the schedule.
Ross Travis, Artist in Residence, San Francisco Circus Center