Review: Physical Fest Serves Outdoor Family Fun: Circus, Clown And Dance In City Park


Jean Claudio (El Clown) connecting with his audience at the Physical Fest. Photo provided by Beto Defreitas.

The Physical Fest has been wooing Chicago for eight years now, introducing a wonderful international physique works of theater and circus, but this year Physical Fest has had to adapt to pandemic restrictions like everyone else in the performing arts world. Their solution was nice: an outdoor family event in a new neighborhood that would reach a new audience and increase the visibility of the festival. Did I mention free?

To that end, the Physical Fest was held this weekend at Nichols Park in the Hyde Park neighborhood to the delight of the show-hungry crowds. The outdoor event was complete with a small stage, great sound system, and the region’s talent in physical theater and dance. To top it off, there was a final circus performance by 3 AM Theater in Philadelphia.

The organizers of the Physical Fest (and the powerful couple) Marc Frost and Alice Da Cunha have done a lot since the beginning of their festival, from the local organization to sustainable growth, from local partnerships, to the very popular Scratch night for local artists. Another thing they’ve done well is to ensure that Physical Fest maintains a diverse and multicultural presence in the entertainment world by carefully cultivating shows and narratives featuring a variety of generations, voices, legacies. cultural, gender, national and ethnic. This year was no exception and the result was a unifying mix of celebration that could make a person proud to be a Chicagoan even as a crowded music festival (another Chicago tradition) featuring trains crowded and drunk young people staggering around the Noon Loop only made the opposite a few miles away.

Physical Fest also hosted a digital component of the events to align with their tradition of offering workshops and talkbacks. July 30 they discussed audio playback Pangea by Limbik, and on August 31, the roundtable will take place on the State of the Performing Arts.

Live and in person

It all started with Ancestral procession by Jerrell L. Henderson (director, puppeteer) – a sort of community marionette and jam parade to honor one’s ancestors. There was a short speech featuring community and connection (audience participation encouraged) which ended with song and dance.

Two short clown performances, Nanatzin to the trees and Cihuateteo and water were interpreted by Laura Crotte (Mexico / Chicago) (actor, clown, singer, director, storyteller, educator) who immersed himself in culture, the second play by accessing Aztec mythology. A granny ghostly nature deity floated around a huge old tree, connecting us to nature and music while muttering to herself and her audience in multiple languages. Crotte’s character emanated from the dignity and authority of a deity and a wise old grandmother combined and was fascinating.

Another roaming performance piece called Espabila was presented by Jean Claudio, alias The clown (Puerto Rico / Chicago). Espabila, or “wake up / perk up” in English, brought the irrepressible energy of Jean Claudio to the audience and also delivered a bit of comic daring. Like any clown worthy of the name, Jean Claudio’s character has the means to pierce people’s armor and sink them into their spongy hearts. With a simple series of antics around conversations about tin cans, Jean Claudio brought out the cutest, funniest and sometimes gnarliest aspects of humanity, mostly through the mouths of the impatient children who stumbled upon them. on top of each other to interact with it. But, Jean Claudio wasn’t just playing for kids, and his number had a rhythm that came out of the clown stereotype – including an improvised floor acrobatic dance number where his character changed to that of a poignant artist, adding a dimension to our understanding of what a clown can do for humanity. If waking us up was his goal, he set the bar for the rest of the party.

Then it was The Era Footwork Team with She chooses the speed—A feminist dance performance by a team of five talented dancers who not only impressed with their footwork, but also made their work engaging and accessible by hosting a fun pre-show workshop for all audiences on this dance style unique Chicago. There was rap, there was ‘erk n jerk’ and there was a whole crowd of people hopping in sync with the emcee. Then they played their own piece, She chooses the speed, to an admiring audience who now had an idea of ​​just how much work it would take to master even one of their signature moves. A 2015 documentary describes the origins of the dance style and its connection to the energy of Chicago.

Conscious manipulations

To complete the day of fun and interactivity, the 3 a.m. Theater the team took to the stage with their new show Conscious manipulations playing on a hard-packed lawn. This show, produced by Philadelphia circus creators Kyle Driggs, Andrea Murillo, Luna Deasy and Kira DiPietroantonio, was a small departure from their previous feature film Physical Fest in 2019 titled Eventide. Their sleek performance style stuck, featuring high skill levels in juggling, dancing, aerial and contortion, but layered, to the delight of onlookers, was a big pile of comedic timing and playful antics juxtaposed with their sleek acts. .

3 AM Theater presents its Mindful Manipulations show at Physical Fest. Photos provided by Beto Defreitas.

In Conscious manipulations, 3 AM has retained a veneer of contemporary art while digging into the heart of classical circus – and it’s a juggling trick that many circus companies before them have tried and bombed. Still, they do, floating sophisticated juggling and graceful hair hanging one minute into romance and lip-syncing contortion challenges the next. They did this using traditional circus props as well as more innovative props, like record players and treadmills. And with these everyday objects and some spontaneously jumping off the stage to interact with the audience, we were immersed in the action by the crash of the fourth wall. 3 AM’s blend of mastery, poise, and comedy was irresistible for an hour-long family show on a sunny day in Chicago. I look forward to seeing the future work of this young, versatile company.

If you are interested in supporting Physical Fest and the work they do to build contemporary performing arts in Chicago, they are accepting donations through their Fractured Atlas Page.



Corina C. Butler

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