Around The Town

PhysFest NYC! 

A Festival of Physical Theater – January 5-14-23

By: Alix Cohen

December 22, 2023: What IS Physical Theater? Its most obvious definition includes mime/pantomime, dance, circus/clowning, commedia del arte…Diverse, but though not centralized, all are involved with mind/body connection.

A Festival of Physical Theater – January 5-14-23

By: Alix Cohen

December 22, 2023: What IS Physical Theater? Its most obvious definition includes mime/pantomime, dance, circus/clowning, commedia del arte…Diverse, but though not centralized, all are involved with mind/body connection.

Pantomime is almost ALWAYS a narrative story – concrete. I will tell a story about fishing (a fisherman, a pole, bait- the act of catching a fish)Mime is using to body to explore shape and space –  abstract. ( I use my body to evoke the water, fish, struggle…..) Master Mime Bill Bowers

The first annual PhysFest, astonishingly crowdfunded, hopes to encourage cross pollination, offer workshops for representative skills, and entertain. Behind this year’s events are: Bill Bowers, Physical Movement Teacher and Professional Mime; Becky Baumwoll, Artistic Director of Broken Box Mime Theater (contemporary physical story telling classes and performance); and Julia Proctor, Director of Clown Gym (classes and performance). A terrific roster features: Workshops/Classes- two hours @ $30; Shows – 75 minutes $20; and Panels – 75 minutes – FREE! Programs welcome professionals, amateurs and curious lay people.

A Clown is a performer who treads the balance between the heart and the head in the simple pursuit of survival. A Clown is us x 100. A Clown is laughter. Master Clown Joel Jeske

Examples of workshops include: House Like a Nubian: dance with a focus on freestyling, and Introduction to Popping: Hip Hop; Corporeal Mime – dividing the body up into parts, or isolations, develop greater expressiveness. A way of investigating the body in space, with considerations of gravity, resistance, and counterbalance – the teaching of Etienne Decroux; Larval Masks: Based on masks from carnivals in Switzerland, larval masks have simplified expression, suggesting humans in the “process of becoming, (aka Larvae state) – Jacques le Coq’s take; Wonder and Specificity of Movement: “We’ll…see ideas to “their ends” and catch a glimpse of what lies just beyond! Wow!!”; Theatrical Clown, an Intergenerational Approach. Try something you never would have in more formal circumstances. Become aware. MOVE!

Dance is the movement of the body in a rhythmic way for the purpose of expressing an idea or emotion, releasing energy, or simply taking delight in the movement itself. Encyclopedia Britannica  Get up off of that thing. Dance and you’ll feel better. James Brown

Examples of Panels include: Self-Producing, Mime Since Marceau, Access and Inclusion in Physical Theater, Audience Relationship, ECO Performance (using sustainable scenery, props, etc.) Where else can you get free information/experienced advice of this kind?

A Sampling of the many shows: The Crone Chronicles: Soviet Jewish Grandma Clown Baba Yana and her ragtag team of storybook performers; Cranky Sub Aquatic Adventures: a physical comedy/puppet show inspired by classic underwater documentaries; Dot-A Silent Comedy: intended to ignite laughter reflecting on love, sex, marriage, friendship, loneliness, singleness, motherhood… A Day in the Life of The Clown: And Plastic: addresses themes of self expression, escapism, materialism, and the human condition; Clown Flex: A joyful, messy clown variety show…

Contemporary circus: is an exciting, independent art form defined by its willingness to blur genre boundaries that redefines traditional circus…testing artistic and physical boundaries…elements of acrobatics merge effortlessly with theatre, music, dance, new media and the visual arts. …no longer solely a matter of performing, but are also a means of artistic expression for the performers. Chameleon

I ask one of the Producers, Mark Lonergan (Director of Parallel Exit – once a physical movement theater company, now primarily circus) about some of the festival’s mission statement. Inclusivity, for example, says for “all individuals interested in physical theater, irrespective of background or ability.” 

Three surprising examples come to light. Dancer Bill Shannon is in a wheel chair yet dances utilizing strong arms and his crutches. (What is What.) Omnium Circus he tells me, features an aerialist without legs. Cirque du Soleil spotlights a deaf clown named Maxime that Lonergan praises as brilliant. Physical Theater is a performance sector with more open arms than many. (YouTube video.)

Community Engagement: The PhysFest web site intends to remain after January 14 offering a central hub for communication that may turn into an organized consortium, eventually with a bricks and mortar home. Mind/Body Connection: includes holistic well being and self care. Collaboration, Artistic Excellence, Safe Space, Empowerment, Cultural Awareness, Ethical Engagement.

PhysFest takes place at the Stella Adler Center for the Arts, 65 Broadway. Performance rooms are small, creating intimacy, limiting audience. Tickets are on sale now.

Bill Bowers PhysFest Performance StellAAAAA!!!! January 7 and 
the panel Mime Since Marceau January 12, 2024

Broken Box Mime Theater PhysFest performances January 10 and 11, 2024 BKBX Mime

Clown Gym PhysFest Performances Once Upon a Clown and Clown FestJanuary 8 and 9, 2024

Parallel Exitwill present the intimate and immersive Sunset Circus at the Upper West Side JCC Center- twice each day on January 28 and February 11, 2024 Click for tickets.