Circus of the arts

"This summer, director Steven Fogell decided to introduce something different to the high school students at Bainbridge Performing Arts.What he created was an entirely original production called Circus Dell 'Arte, based on the commedia dell'arte that mixes elements of music, dance, puppetry and movement into a physical dialogue.Everything is done through visual image and sound, said Fogell. Its more of a theatrical event than a play.Two showings of the performance will take place on Aug. 4 at 4:30 and 7 p.m. at the BPA Playhouse. Fogell conceptualized Circus Dell 'Arte six months ago, hoping to challenge students to new elements of the theater. The piece was specifically developed for high school production classes, which feature 17 students ages 14-18.The program is a highly intensive production in which students learn, rehearse and perform in just one week, spending more than six hours each day in the theater. In addition to practicing their individual roles, students also take part in set painting, costume design and lighting and sound selection.The production has taken shape under the direction of Fogell and instructors Karin Junkin-Smith and Joanne Keegan, and is the first of its kind at BPA. We are trying to create a base of high school students who enjoy this type of theater, and then take it to other communities, Fogell said. It's a kind of piece that everyone can appreciate, and that is what makes it so exciting.Fogell describes Circus as a journey through imaginary worlds, in which the two lead characters experience the life of people they encounter on their travels. The vocabulary in the production is uniquely composed of sound and movements. In fact, there are only three spoken words in the entire piece. What makes Circus unique is how it incorporates more than just the acting skills of students. Rather, the goal of the program is to benefit kids who are interested in gymnastics, athletics and dance, even if they are not specifically drawn to acting, said Mykel Pennington, a spokesperson for the event. The true challenge for the actors is to create the physical language of the characters they portray. One of the most rewarding things about working with acting students is to help them build confidence and learn about themselves, Fogell said.Fogell has been involved in theater since he was in high school, and has worked in Seattle, Santa Fe, N.M., and California, until he settled at BPA four years ago as a costume designer. He has founded the company Oh Dear, Not Shakespeare, and recently became the director of education at BPA, where he has turned his focus toward the development of theater education programs. Besides Circus, Fogell just finished directing the play Metropolis on Friday. It was the little brother of the intensive theater program, offered for students ages 8-13.I think the strongest feeling of achievement comes, not from the audiences' response to our production, but from the feeling that the actors really understand what they are doing and why they are doing it, Fogell said. As a teacher, that is the only thing you can truly hope for.Circus is taking place at a time when BPA is at its peak in education programs, boasting its highest-ever enrollment. The company also provides a bigger selection of teachers and offers more student activities than ever before.BPA plans to continue offering intensive production courses this fall and winter, as well as a variety of classes and plays.Seating for Circus is general admission, and tickets are available for $5 at the BPA box office, or by phone at 842-8578."

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