On Stage

Back to the Beginning

Matters of life and death

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WHAT: Death is the Beginning
WHEN: 8pm June 24-25 and 3pm Sun., June 26
WHERE: Cirque Lab, 2107 Iron St.
COST: $5-$10 suggested donation; but nobody will be turned away for lack of funds
INFO: http://www.bellinghamcircusguild.com

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

“Ariel is my real name,” says Ms. Schmidtke, one half of the duo who’ll utilize aerial arts, puppetry, dance and theater during June 24-26 performances of “Death is the Beginning” at the Bellingham Circus Guild’s Cirque Lab. “Most of the time when people ask me that, I think it’s pretty funny.”

Coincidental identifier aside, Schmidtke, 23, says taking up with the circus has been one of the greatest life-changing events of her life thus far. Without it, she and performance partner Isabelle DeLise would never have gained the confidence—or numerous talents—to tackle one of the universe’s greatest mysteries.

“The show is very conceptual,” Schmidtke says when asked to explain what this weekend’s performances are all about. “And the space between life and death is very personal. Basically, we’re two characters that meet and form a companionship—and then we die.”

Schmidtke and DeLise first became interested in exploring the intense topic about six months ago, after a short piece they put together for one of the Guild’s monthly “Vaudevillingham” performances— “Dead and Lovely”—got them thinking they could base an entire show around the nebulous state found between life and death.

Although Schmidtke’s a former gymnast who took to the aerial arts like a monkey takes to a tree, she says neither she nor DeLise had much background in the acting arena. That’s why, after they’d spent some time fleshing out the show, they invited actors from the iDiOM Theater to come in and give them some feedback focusing specifically on character development.

“We had a brief dress rehearsal, and they gave us all sorts of comments about how we could work more of it into our story,” Schmidtke says. “It’s not a five-minute act, and we had to have these characters change and evolve throughout the show.”

Schmidtke says if she and DeLise—who met as neighbors and have been working together on and off for nearly two years—can make people think about some of the objectives they’re putting onstage, they’ll have done what they set out to do.

“We want to create a world people can become involved,” Schmidtke says. “We want them to feel invested in these characters. We want audiences to be suspended from their own reality, but come back with ideas to think on and ruminate on.”

That’s a pretty heady goal, but one Schmidtke feels she and DeLise have worked hard to accomplish. Being part of the circus, she says, has made her not only get in the best shape of her life, but also work harder than ever to create new goals for herself.

And now that she’s picked up a few new skills to share, would she be able to give up one for the other?

“I couldn’t choose,” Schmidtke says. “And the thing I love about being in the circus is that I don’t have to.” 

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