Cirk la Putyka is a circus of ‘high art and pop culture’
A mixture of seemingly disparate elements comes together to form a fascinating whole in “Slapstick Sonata,” a contemporary circus performance by the Czech Republic’s Cirk la Putyka.
The unique combination of acrobatics, physical comedy, puppetry, silent-film esthetics and classical music will take the stage for one performance Nov. 15 at the Hillman Center for the Performing Arts at Shady Side Academy in Fox Chapel. This is the show’s first U.S. tour.
“It’s a great combination of high art and pop culture with a Czech flavor,” says Hillman Center executive director Sarah Rubin. “It’s slapstick humor up against classical music.”
When Rubin saw the circus for the first time in Scotland, she noticed that audiences were awed by the physical ability of the performers.
“The athleticism is what really strikes people,” she says. “These are Olympic-quality feats that they pull off. They do things that no person should be able to pull off, and they do it again and again.”
Tour manager Niina Ilola of Finland says that audiences should appreciate the multifaceted aspect of the show. “There is a lot of humor,” she says. “There are really great acrobatic numbers. It’s really exciting for the audience to see all these things happening.”
Circus members come from a variety of backgrounds, including acting, athletics and music. Performer Anna Schmidtmajerova was an actress before becoming a founding member of Cirk la Putyka with a friend in 2009. “They didn’t have any of this kind of theater in the Czech Republic,” she says. “It was an adventure for us.”
In “Slapstick Sonata,” Schmidtmajerova does aerial work, teeterboard jumping, acting and singing. She finds the greatest satisfaction in the bond the artists form with the audience. “I like when we have a connection between the audience and the performers onstage, and the energy there. Each time it’s different.”
As a champion trampoline and sports-aerobics athlete, performer Daniel Komarov was accustomed to intense physical training before he joined the circus. He became involved in Cirk la Putyka when he was asked to be an understudy for a friend.
“From the first time, I was absolutely in love with it,” he says. “When I saw it for the first time, it was like a miracle.”
Komarov loves the freedom of performing in the circus.
“In the circus, you have no borders,” he says. “You can do whatever you want.”
Because of that freedom, Komarov was able to incorporate a ballet-like segment of his aerobics routine into his circus performance. He also does a teeterboard act with Schmidtmajerova and two men.
“The circus is like another family,” Komarov says. “We (have been) together almost every day for five years. It’s crazy, but it’s really nice.”
The Hillman Center will be open one hour before the performance for cultural-enrichment activities. Patrons can sample pierogies, have their faces painted and participate in Eastern European crafts including making cornhusk dolls, beaded bracelets and glass mosaics.
The performance is sponsored by the Hillman Foundation.
Cynthia Bombach Helzel is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.