Creating "Webs" has been a process of "spinning" a structure and a space for the examination of sexual violence in its many forms, from the microaggressions to the violent assault. It asks the audience to trust us enough to enter into this conversation with us. It asks even more of the performers – whose hearts and stories are embedded in this show. The women in this cast have been generously willing to deeply dig into painful places and share those with the world.
This show is our stories woven together with the very real limitations of talking about large issues through the lens of our particular stories. One of the opportunities present in this cultural moment of heightened awareness of sexual violence is the chance to take our deep understanding of trauma and pain as survivors and ask where are we perpetuating other violence and how we can be the allies to others that we desire for ourselves. Can we listen deeply, be accountable, change our own behaviors and dismantle harmful systems? Circus is fundamentally an art form where performers defy our expectations of what is possible; circus is the perfect medium to explore a radical, seemly impossible restructuring of what is.
This show is an evolution, shaped by all those who have given to it over the past year and a half. It will continue to evolve. We are right now creating partnerships with communities where we can present this show and with local organizations who are working to end sexual violence.
Many women have contributed their voices and talents to the creation of this show. This is not an exhaustive list: Laura Burgamy, Alicia Dawn, Nettie Lane, Alessandra Ogren, Katlyn Gagnier, Meg Wilson, Katie Rebich, Therese Keegan, Lizard Walker Keegan, Jen Kintner, Tiara Lady Wilson, Laura Stokes, Shannon McKenna, Emily Cullum, Sarah Carmen, Sarah Lister, Crystal-Marie Alberson, Caitlin Kothe.
The recorded text heard in the show are the words and voices of Tiara-Lady Wilson and Tarana Burke. Tiara-Lady is a Knoxville, TN native, circus mom extraordinaire, musician and survivor who generously recorded her experience in support of this show. Tarana Burke is the founder of the MeToo movement, working for more than ten years to build the base that the current #MeToo grew out of.
Lissa McLeod has been teaching and performing circus arts and aerial dance for over ten years throughout the Southeast, nationally and internationally. Lissa toured with the Olive Tree Circus in Palestine and the US in 2008 and founded One World Circus with partner Jake Weinstein in 2010. Lissa has trained at the New England Center for Circus Arts (including a three month artist residency in 2017) and the Circus Arts Institute. Lissa teaches and performs extensively with Dragonfly Aerial and Circus Arts Studio in Knoxville, TN. A survivor and mother to children who are survivors, Lissa has directed the creation and production of “Webs”.
I am a survivor, a mother of children who are survivors, and a circus artist.
For many of us, this past year has been one of heightened awareness to our own experiences of gender-based violence and created opportunities for deeper understandings of the systems supporting the violence. Now, more than ever, we need art, testimonies, protests, performances that allow survivors to tell our stories in ways that change our culture into one that values all lives equally, believers survivors and dismantles oppression.
I decided that I needed to tell my story both for myself, but also to create the space for other women to tell theirs. I invited other circus artist women to join me in creating this project. We started working together in April 2018, gathering artists from Maryland, North Carolina, Missouri, Tennessee and Vermont. We have since collaborated with artists from New Mexico and Pennsylvania, including two residencies at Penasco Theater and the New England Center for Circus Arts.
We have a show that includes feats of daring, honesty, humor, hope and healing.
"Webs" will have you laughing, thinking, and experiencing hope. This circus invites the audience to enjoy feats of honesty and daring -- aerials, acrobatics and spoken word -- while imagining a world without limits. The show explores why sexualized violence is so prevalent, what it means to experience violence, and what healing looks like -- both on an individual level and as a society. While there is discussion of sexual violence, there is no explicit depiction. There are explicit moments of hope and healing. "Webs" creates a space for survivors to continue their healing process, find each other and name what needs to happen to end rape culture and patriarchy.
Circus is the perfect medium for this conversation. Circus is an art form that expands what is possible and finds freedom in mind and body. Circus has also been a medium for my own journey of healing.
Thank you in advance for supporting this project. We are available to talk with any person or group about the project and how people can support it. We are seeking partners in funding and in presenting shows. Please reach out to us by email or Facebook.
Megan Gendell is a Philly-based artist who has performed circus professionally since 2007, including at the Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival, the Golden Karl international circus festival in Riga, Latvia, and the Daidogei World Cup in Japan, all with her trapeze partner, L Feldman. She is a 2012 graduate of NECCA’s Pro-Track Program and currently teaches at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts. In the past year Megan has joined in the creation and performance of four ensemble contemporary circus shows: Alter Circus's Hysterical, The Subject Tonight Is Love with Susan Murphy, Ordinary Creatures with Big Teeth Performance Collective, and Acrobatic Conundrum's Fig Tree Waltzes.
Laura Burgamy grew up climbing trails and chasing fairies in the Appalachian mountains, beginning her dance training formally at the age of 5 at Studio Arts for Dancers in Knoxville, TN. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Performance from the University of Georgia, where she began her aerial dance studies with Core Concert Dance Company under the direction of Bala Sarasvati and fell in love with dancing in the air. After graduating, Laura co-created The Wing Project, an aerial duo that traveled the southeast performing, as well as choreographed and performed with Go! Contemporary Dance Works, Circle Modern Dance, and Dragonfly Aerial Arts. Laura graduated from the Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance Professional Performance Training Program in 2015, continuing on to teach and perform with the professional company, most notably performing at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. After a stop in New Orleans, Laura returned to Knoxville.
Daje Morris Profound Beauty is often found in the tension. Through song and poetry, Daje makes it her mission to seek it out and expose it. As a performer, she pulls cues from favorites, Billie Holiday, Corinne Bailey Rae, serpentwithfeet, and Valerie June, permeating rooms with a vulnerable fusion of poetic folk-rock and soulful ballad. From an early age, Daje's father, an award-winning percussionist and Nashville-based Grammy-nominated producer, exposed her to the nuts and bolts of blues, rock n' roll, and gospel in the backstages of Memphis listening rooms and Beale Street bars. She comes from a long lineage of songwriters, poets, and cultural workers who used their lives to give back artistically. She joyfully carries this lineage with her into every listening room. She has shared stages with the likes of Americana Music Awards nominee, Aaron Lee Tasjan and American Idol semi-finalist and pop artist, David Francisco. She has also performed at critically acclaimed boutique festivals, Rhythm N' Blooms and Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, TN.
Jake Weinstein has been teaching and performing circus arts for more than 20 years. Jake is an experienced aerialist, stilt walker, clown, juggler and unicyclist. He has trained with the New England Center for Circus Arts, the Circus Arts Institute, and Celebration Barn/Eccentric Performing, among others. Jake worked as a clown with the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit, and has taught circus, street theater and performing arts at public schools from New Haven, CT, to Knoxville, TN, as well as the Children's Circus at Middletown, CT, and countless circus workshops in other venues with children and adults.
Kat Itz is an aerialist, courageous dream maker, dabbler in all things circus, lover of plants, and an enthusiastic student of life. She currently teaches and performs with Dragonfly Aerial and Circus Arts Studio in Knoxville, TN, and has taught and performed with Aula Circo Tropical Crew in Palomino, Colombia in 2019.
As an Herbalist, Massage Therapist, and Yoga & Meditation teacher, Kat strives to facilitate shifts towards holistic well-being. Through personal and professional experience, she has seen first hand that our bodies carry the weight of our stories, our joys and our traumas alike. Kat believes in the healing power of expressive movement, the the gravity of the human connection, and the magic of vulnerability.