To create the movement you’ll see in this underwater adventure, Choreographer Adam Cates enlisted the help of 2 Ring Circus, a theatrical circus group out of New York City, to add aerial and groundwork circus acts. Our Dramaturg Robert Neblett interviewed aerial director Joshua Dean, who, alongside Ben Franklin and Lani Corson, will be a part of the ensemble in the show.
Find out what he had to say about how they got involved in the show, what magical elements you’ll see and more:
Q: Tell us a little about 2 Ring Circus.
A: 2 Ring Circus is a company of four friends who came together to create their own brand of circus. We all came from musical theater or dance backgrounds before becoming circus artists. Now, we try to combine the theatricality of those genres with the excitement of the circus to create a one-of-a-kind experience.
Q: How did you first become involved with this type of movement/aerial work?
A: I was asked by director Donna Drake to choreograph and perform aerial fabric in a show that she was directing. I began taking classes at once and it all grew from there. I spent several years working to become a professional aerialist and then began to teach. As a teacher, I began to train my friends and future company members.
Q: If a student were interested in “learning to fly,” what would you suggest they need to do to prepare and train for a career in this unique field?
A: Train, train, train. This is field that takes a lot of discipline. It is very dangerous and without that discipline, you could get injured by an accident or fall. I do believe that anyone can do this. It just takes the drive and patience. It will take a while to build the strength and any type of conditioning can help.
Q: Is this the first time you have ever worked with the Arkansas Rep? Have you worked with any of the other members of The Little Mermaid’s artistic team?
A: This is my first time working at The Rep. Ben, Lani and I are all very excited to create the circus elements for the show. Ben has worked with our amazing director, Melissa, before. Ben and myself have done several shows with Adam, our choreographer.
Q: What attracts you to a project like The Little Mermaid?
A: As a company, we love to combine theatre with circus. Two of our original production show creations have a very theatrical feel. We like the challenge of making circus elements integral to the plot and finding apparatus and movement that can help forward the story without distracting unnecessarily.
Q: How is this kind of specific movement/aerial work integral to a musical like The Little Mermaid?
A: This show has the potential for lots of magic and spectacle. We are using circus elements to make the life under the sea even more exciting. This includes the various sea creatures floating around under the ocean and the drowning prince being rescued to a mermaid floating on an anchor. These are just a few examples of how you will see circus integrated in the show.
Q: The Little Mermaid is not technically a Christmas story. How do you think this piece, with its memorable music and the special performance aspects you will be contributing, will contribute to the holiday spirit in Little Rock this year?
A: The holiday season is about the joy and wonder of it all and I believe The Little Mermaid checks those boxes perfectly.
Q: What is your favorite moment in the show a) from a choreographic standpoint and b) from an emotional perspective?
A: My favorite moment to create in the show will be the transformation. It is the moment when Ariel first gets her legs. It is going to be quite tricky to get it all right, but that is what will make it worth it. In that instance, it will take every department: costumes, direction, choreography, lights, tech crew pulling lines, etc. Trying to make everything work as we have conceived it is the fun moment for me. It will take a lot of tries, but I am certain it will be worth it.
Q: What do you hope audiences will take with them from this production?
A: The joy of theatre. It is my passion and I am so blessed to be part of it. I hope we can inspire people not only to want to do this, but to want to come back and see another show. Without an audience, we do not have an art.
Q: What is the first instance of theatrical magic you remember? How has that moment shaped you as an artist?
A: The first time I saw a scrim, my mind was blown. I remember seeing a tour of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories brought to the stage on a school trip. When I was looking at a painted drop of a house and then saw an actor appear through it clear as day, I could not believe my eyes. I did not understand it, but I wanted to know more.
For more information about 2 Ring Circus, visit their official website here.
Hurry! Get your tickets to The Little Mermaid online or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405.