It’s Not Me, It’s You is a contemporary circus show that tells the story of Milton’s Paradise Lost with a focus on the relationships and emotional fall out. When Lucifer rebels against the structure of Heaven, they are cast out, leaving the other angels confused and worried. One is tempted away by Lucifer, choosing a new path of independence, while the others cling to the familiar and reject the fallen ones. Original musical compositions, narration, and a wide variety of circus acts take the audience through the emotional turmoil of Lucifer’s fall from grace. The artists perform in the air on sling and lyra, and on the ground with partnered acrobatics, juggling, and tumbling.
Editor’s Note: Picture this Post (PTP) recently spoke with Yes Ma’am Circus’ Amancay Kugler (AK) about the premiere of It’s Not me, It’s You.
(PTP) Who is Yes Ma’Am? When did Yes Ma’Am start and how?
(AK) Back in January 2017 I started playing around with my friend Maggie on a loose re-interpretation of Milton's Paradise Lost. The first 6 months were spent lightly outlining an idea for a 20 minute duo show and devising a duo sling act. In October 2017 Maggie and I performed our duet, and everything started moving very quickly. We were able to secure our first venue and had a date set for May. This was when it really hit home that we had a company going with our first show fast approaching. In January 2018 we officially became Yes Ma'am Circus, LLC. The name is a small joke on the initials of the 4 founding females: Maggie, Amancay, Athena, Myriam. Our 5th company member is my husband, Matthew, so the name trend continues.
What is the circus/performing background for each of the performers?
I started as a recreational student in Philadelphia, then graduated from the Aloft Circus Arts Full Time Training Program in 2015. She performs on lyra, sling, and partner acrobatics. Before joining circus she trained in modern and belly dance, acted on stage, and sang in a classical choir.
Maggie began circus at Hampshire college, then graduated from Aloft in the same class as Amancay. Maggie performs on Chinese pole, partner acrobatics, and juggling. Early in life Maggie was a competition Irish dancer!
Athena began circus at Hampshire with Maggie. She graduated from the Actor's Gymnasium Professional Training Program in 2016, and performs on lyra, hula hoops, and partner acrobatics.
Myriam has trained circus all over the US, including at NECCA in Vermont and the SF Circus Center in California. She graduated with Athena's class at the Actor's Gymnasium, and performs tumbling and single-point trapeze.
Matthew trains partner acrobatics and juggling at Aloft Circus Arts. He's just starting to train on aerial cradle too!
For readers who aren’t aware of what contemporary circus means- how would you explain your work?
Contemporary circus is a departure from the traditional 3-ring circus with popcorn and elephants that many people remember from their youth (or from the circus movie: The Greatest Showman). In a contemporary circus performance, the emphasis is on human abilities and the human body, so no elephants or tigers. In our group, we use circus as a way to tell stories and to illuminate the characters and their relationships to each other. In our show you can expect to see great circus tricks, but also emotional moments between performers, complex relationships, and narrative elements that tie the story together. There will be distinct acts on circus apparatuses, woven together by a combination of pantomime, spoken narration, singing, and physical theater.
Can you tell the readers what the work is about?
About 4 years ago I had a vision for a piece involving dance and aerial silks and chains that would be based on themes of betrayal and redemption. It was an unusually religious idea for me, but it stuck in my head for a while, even though I couldn't do anything with it. Slowly I began to think of it as my Paradise Lost idea, and I shared it with Maggie. They were very into the idea of playing with religious imagery and drawing from a variety of quasi-religious themes to create a show focusing on the middle men of the War in Heaven: angels caught on opposing sides who bore each other no real animosity but felt trapped by their choices.
What types of apparatuses are being used in this production?
Several circus disciplines are used in It's Not Me.... Partnered acrobatics and stage combat play a large role, as they are used to show the angelic interactions and the battles. We also have a Lyra (Aerial Hoop), that represents the Gates of Heaven from which Lucifer is thrown. Aerial Sling (or Hammock, or Tissue Loop) is used for both duo and solo acts for the angels, and Spanish Web is used by the fallen angels. On the ground, our Archangel Michael does tumbling, and the demon Azazel dances while contact juggling/ ball balancing. And throughout the show, we have a healthy dose of clown, mime, and physical theater.
We also have two elements not often seen in circus shows. Our narrator is not an MC, but rather an integral part of the storytelling. He interacts with the cast and audience, while blending original text from Paradise Lost with wry observations, humorous anecdotes, and descriptive elements. And we have acapella singing while performing acrobatics. The music was composed for this production, based on text from the Bible and other sources.
What sets your company apart from other circus companies?
Currently in Chicago there are several amazing circus companies that are led by women, but this isn't the case across the country, or in the rest of the world. It is still rare to have a circus company directed by women, both administratively and artistically, and with mostly female performers. Several company members also openly identify somewhere on the queer-spectrum. While this isn't necessarily rare in the arts, it allows us to challenge the standard approach to character relationships. In our show, It's Not Me, It's You, there is a deliberate lack of hetero-normative relationships or traditional gender roles. We eschew the conventional performance role of "pretty girl on silks" in favor of deep emotion and power, and portray deep relationships without romantic tension.
August 9, 10 and 11 8:00 PM
August 11-12 2:30 PM
2936 N. Southport Ave.
$26 general admission (discounts for students, seniors, active military, & groups available)
For tickets visit the online Yes Ma'am Circus Tickets web page.
Photos courtesy of Yes Ma’am Circus.