I’m sitting on a bench at the end of a padded gymnasium floor while actors deliver their lines between 20-foot aerial silks — black, red and orange — hanging from the ceiling.
This is the first full rehearsal of “A Tale of Love and Tarot,” which is being performed at Suspend, an aerial arts facility in Butchertown.
The story is built around a young fool — not unlike the Fool from the Tarot deck — and the historical figure of Arthur Edward Waite, a renowned Tarot scholar who created The Rider-Waite deck, still the most used set of cards over a hundred years after it’s release. Waite attempts to teach the Fool about the Tarot, and some hard lessons about love. But instead Waite must learn a lesson of his own.
Anne Miller is the co-owner of Suspend.
“Eli came up with a wonderful idea for a show and it was something that we knew that we really wanted to be involved in,” Miller says. “His idea was sort of melding cirque arts with theater, and creating an original storyline for that.”
The Eli she’s talking about is Eli Keel, a local playwright (and, full disclosure, occasional contributor for WFPL News). They began rehearsals for “A Tale of Love and Tarot” — which they classify as circus theater — in August.
It premieres November 11.
“Love and Tarot” is a nine-person production — most of whom are skilled dancers and aerial artists. When not delivering lines, they scale, drop and suspend themselves from the silks and gym equipment hanging overhead.
Sterling Pratt, who plays Waite, is one of the only members who keeps his feet firmly on the ground, away from the silks.
“I’m pretty sure that I’m sufficiently inflexible, that it’s actually a liability if I even touch them,” Pratt jokes.
He says that being part of a new company, like what Suspend is doing, is sort of like being the new kid in school. It’s a little nerve-wracking, but it’s also a chance for reinvention.
“That’s really the benefit that I hope this show will bring to the larger theater community is the hope that they’ll see something new, they’ll see something unusual,” Pratt says. “And for their ‘first day of school,’ it’s not the usual song and dance routine, if you will.”
On the subject of dance, Miller says that aesthetically, the troupe veers more modern dance than traditional circus.
“We take more of an aerial model where we are using the premises of modern dance and applying them to the vertical space as well as the horizontal space on the ground,” she says. “So, it still has some of the thrill that one might see when they go to a more traditional human circus, but it also really incorporates space in a unique way.”
It’s a little less Barnum and Bailey — a little more Cirque du Soleil meets the modern dance troupe Pilobolus. And it’s definitely not the same old song and dance.
More information about “A Tale of Love and Tarot” can be found here.