High-flying aerial acts. Breathtaking acrobatics. Gorgeous, ethereal music. Mesmerizing dance. A woman walking on glass bottles.
And a whole lot of outrageous stuff with chairs.
That’s “Levity,” a weirdly wondrous, tough-to-explain live touring show from LadyBeast Productions, of New Orleans. The company was formed five years ago, with the intention of putting a contemporary, highly theatrical spin on classic, one-of-a-kind, “old world” circus acts.
Like walking on bottles.
On Monday, July 23, LadyBeast Productions, in collaboration with San Francisco-based Paradox Media, will bring “Levity” to Petaluma’s Phoenix Theater. Performed to a live soundtrack of layered vocals composed and performed by Bemya Nymph, “Levity,” as described by Arianna Pelullo – the company’s Creative Director and the “LadyBeast” for which it is named – is a surreal exploration of what the human mind sometimes does, and where it goes, during the simple act of sitting down in a chair. Or to quote from the company’s website, it’s a “circus-inspired journey to the interior worlds of human existence.”
“This show is basically asking, ‘What happens in our minds when we are performing a very pedestrian act, like sitting down in a chair?’” explains Pelullo, calling in from Olympia, Washington. “In a sense, ‘Levity’ takes an ordinary object, in this case a chair, and shows how it can actually become a very extraordinary thing.”
Also on the line is Devyn Madsen, of San Francisco. A team member of Paradox Media, Madsen is the show’s co-producer and tour manager, and the one who selected the Phoenix Theater for LadyBeast’s Sonoma County debut.
“I went to a lot of shows at the Phoenix when I was younger,” she says. “It has a punk-rock energy that’s perfect for this show – and it’s kind of fun to finally get to be on the flipside at the Phoenix.”
As part of Paradox, Madsen helps produce the infamous Edwardian Ball, an off-the-wall annual event in San Francisco and Los Angeles, inspired by the gruesome artistry and gothic stylings of Edward Gorey. Two years ago, the team took the Edwardian Ball to New Orleans, where Pelullo was invited to participate.
“After that, we’ve just continued to work together,” says Madsen.
“Levity,” Pelullo goes on to explain, brings a total of five performers to the stage, including Nymh, acrobat-dancer-contortionist Sweet Tooth Simone, aerialist Sarah Stardust, and dancer-drag artist Franky Tanga.
“Franky’s own amazing interpretations of movement and emotion, in telling a story, are absolutely magical,” says Pelullo. “All of these artists go beyond the step of just doing beautiful tricks. ‘Levity’ requires them to convey real emotion through their movement, and they do. It’s amazing what happens when artists of such skill and beauty come together to create something this astonishing.”
As for Pelullo, in addition to aerial work, one of the specialties she’ll bring to “Levity” is the old circus art known as “bottle walking,” carefully stepping from one upright glass bottle to another, blending dance-like choreography with breathless daring-do. It’s an art-form that died away in the 1920s, and has been resurrected by Pelullo, who had to learn through sheer trial and error.
“I fell a lot, at first,” she laughs.
Another of Pelullo’s rare circus skills is the art of escape, though she won’t be demonstrating it during her Petaluma appearance. She’s saving that for a major performance later this year.
“I’ll be at Burning Man,” she says, “doing one of Houdini’s top ten escapes – the upside down straight-jacket escape, while hanging from a hot air balloon.”
Asked if she’s done this, Pelullo says, “Well, I’ve done it hanging from a crane. But I’ve never done it hanging from a balloon. I’ve pretty excited.”
First, of course, there’s “Levity,” which both Madsen and Pelullo say will be as dazzling and inspiring as it is difficult to describe.
“For me, doing these kinds of events,” says Madsen, “is a way of creating community through art. That’s been the driving passion behind the production work I do, and a big part of why I’m so excited to be working with LadyBeast on shows like ‘Levity.’”
Pelullo agrees, adding that in addition to creating community, “Levity” is designed to bring its audiences into a place where actual emotional transformation can occur.
“The point of the show,” she says, “is that, yes, we may have these thoughts in our mind that are dark or scary. But we also have the ability to lift up and away from all of that, to float out of our seat, and daydream our way into magical and powerful and lovely thoughts.”
[Click ‘HERE‘ to read this story in its original form in the Petaluma Argus-Courier]
WANT TO GO?
‘Levity’ will be performed on Monday, July 23, at 8 p.m., at the Phoenix Theater, in Petaluma. ThePhoenixTheater.com.