NECCA grads get creative with new high-flying show

BRATTLEBORO — Watch the next generation of circus stars perform Impetus, which the New England Center for Circus Arts (NECCA) describes as “a high flying, awe inspiring theatrical circus production.”

NECCA's graduating class of ProTrack students will take the virtual stage, presenting a show that, according to a news release, “captures the ways in which humans connect to influence, inspire, and irritate one another through space and time.”

Impetus is the final Circus Capstone Project for professionally ready students attending the school's three-year training program. Devised by NECCA's 2021 graduates and directed by Colleen Harris, this contemporary circus production addresses human connection.

“There are multiple running motifs throughout the show: the ripple effect of influence, technology as an aid and obstruction in communication, how memories affect behavior, and the power of shared experience to build friendship,” Harris said.

Harris brings extensive directorial experience in theater, along with a connection to contemporary circus. Her background includes a master's degree in acting from the American Conservatory Theater, a bachelor's degree in theater performances, and an associate degree in English literature from University of Evansville.

She is an adjunct professor teaching history and practice of theater and fundamentals of acting, the visiting director at the University of Maryland and SP Escola de Teatro in São Paulo, and dramaturg and director for multiple shows, cabarets, and festivals.

NECCA's professional training program provides a unique opportunity for students to hone their circus arts skills in a supportive environment and custom-built, state of the art facility. Students spend three years learning the techniques and art of circus acts, as well as dance, theater, and acrobatics, as well as skills essential for a career in circus arts like costume building, website design, and music editing.

“But this is the first time they put all their training together as an ensemble to create a full-length show,” said NECCA Co-founder Serenity Smith Forchion. “That process is very important for their training as we hope they launch into the world prepared to be circus artists as well as circus creators.”

Ren Carter-Tucker, Lily Hochstetter, Owen Leonard, Locksley MacLean, Julian McTaggart, and Kalista Russell present the culmination of their NECCA training as the ensemble of Impetus. They will perform a wide array of circus acts, including aerials, clowning, tightwire, juggling, and tumbling.

Harris says the school has tried to keep the film true to how one would experience the show in person, despite challenges presented by Covid.

“When we began work on the show, the cast wasn't yet in a [Covid] pod together, so they had to stay several feet apart,” says Harris. “This was challenging in rehearsal, but it influenced one of the motifs of the show - that people can influence and affect one another over long distances.”

Adjustments were made to continue training despite the pandemic, and students persevered while training in masks and spread apart from one another until the protocols shifted shortly before show creation began.

“Though it is not a show about the pandemic, I think its optimistic outlook on moving from isolation to connection will be especially relevant in the present moment,” says Harris. “The students at NECCA are incredibly talented and hardworking, and they've shown admirable fortitude in finding ways to train and perform in the past year.”

“They're also hilarious and kind human beings!” she says.

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