Your Name/Company: Benjamin Sota/ Zany Umbrella Circus
Fringe Show you were in: Ridente.
Year of Show: 2011.
Your role: Artistic Director, Producer, and Ensemble Actor.
Please tell us a bit about your background and/or company you performed with at the Fringe?
I am an assistant professor of physical theatre, movement, and circus arts at Coastal Carolina University. I have an MFA in physical theatre from the Accademia dell’Arte school in Arezzo, Italy and a MFA in directing from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. Also, I am the founding artistic director of Zany Umbrella Circus, a physical theatre company founded in 2002 that has toured both nationally and internationally.
What inspires you on a personal as well as on an artistic level?
E.E Cummings wrote “Damn everything but the circus! …damn everything that is grim, dull, motionless, unrisking, inward turning, damn everything that won’t get into the circle, that won’t enjoy. That won’t throw it’s heart into the tension, surprise, fear and delight of the circus, the round world, the full existence…”
For me, theatre shows that change, exists in courage and creativity away from the mundane. I was introduced to physical theatre and social circus by Patch Adams and Wavy Gravy, with whom I have had the chance to collaborate with, including fellow performance artists nationally and internationally from Afghanistan, Germany, Italy, Jordan, and Ethiopia. For the last eleven years I have used the circus metaphorically and non-metaphorically to question societal tendencies. I stride to build positive relationships both nationally and internationally by using applied theatre and circus simultaneously. In the theatre we must collaborate and I believe the same is true for life.
Has the show you were in been taken to another Fringe or to another performing arts festival?
Ridente was subsequently performed in Italy and in New York City thanks to support from City Parks Foundation. The performance connected clowning with Sufi poetry and I know that the performance will revive and redevise itself many more times down the road of life.
Where are you now with your performance career?
I’m now wearing lots of different hats. I feel extremely fortunate to be the director of a physical theatre program, a professor, a producer, and a touring artist. I am incredibly excited about what’s on the horizon and am looking forward to a very cool summer touring schedule.
What project(s) are you developing right now?
I just finished directing Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses at Coastal Carolina University. The play brings Ovid’s tales to stunning visual life. Set in and around a 13,000 gallon pool of water onstage, Metamorphoses juxtaposes the ancient and the contemporary in both language and image to reflect the variety and persistence of narrative in the face of inevitable change. I also just co-founded a new company called Albatross Movement with Jil Stifel. Our first piece My DNA explores the hybridity of circus, contemporary dance, and physical theatre.
When and where can we see you perform?
I currently have an installation at the Mattress Factory Museum of Installation Art that will be on display until June 1st, 2015 in Pittsburgh, PA. The museum is a national treasure and the show is amazing.
Albatross Movement will debut the inaugural performance of My DNA on Feburary 12th, 2015 which was selected to be part of the New Hazlett Theatre’s CSA (Community Suported Art) series in Pittsburgh, PA.
What survival tips can you give to emerging as well as seasoned artists working in Hawai’i?
Love the aphorism “a rising tide lifts all boats”. Hold it close on O’ahu because everyone is very connected and the ’aina is extremely powerful.
What resources can you recommend to look into for funding or to support each others work?
This is a very difficult question. O’ahu is amazingly beautiful but in all honesty I wasn’t able to support myself and live as an artist. On O’ahu funding is difficult but with that parameter there is direction and centering. I found myself making work that was pared down, true, and stands on its feet with little production. I also found myself being incredibly resourceful, bartering and trading work so that projects can happen.
How can people contact you for professional work or to collaborate with you on creating an amazing show?
Please feel free to write to email@example.com and I’ll gladly write back.
Finally, if you were given a magic bag what three items would you like to pull out to create your ideal show with? How would you use those items? And what name will you give your show?
I’d like for my circus tent www.zanytent.com to magically appear from a bag, be self assembled complete with seating, stage, and tech! I’d use the venue for physical theatre and in honor of Mary Poppins I am going to call it Carpet Bag Productions and we could all sip tea on the ceiling of the tent!