Circus artists defy gravity


Photo courtesy of Cole Simon

Actors Gymnasium performers in a pivotal scene.

Sofie Kennedy and Nora Miller

The cast of the tenth annual Actors Gymnasium winter show, All The Time In The World, exemplifies the graceful combination between theater and circus.

“All winter circus [shows] are sci-fi. It’s the creativity which I really like and how you can infer your own perspective on the story,” sophomore Grace Sherman explains.

It seems as though you are watching the run of the mill coming of age story. The first scene describes the backstory of a young girl, and her connection with her imaginary friend to cope with the fact that her parents are insanely busy, not paying her any attention. Suddenly, as the family shares a meal, both parents step atop the table and begin a duo trapeze act. A scene like this one is why the Actors Gymnasium is so unique.

The cast is made up of 21 teens from the North Shore along with four professionals that work at Actor’s Gym. Sylvia Hernandez-Distasi is the owner and director of Actors Gym, she and director Kerry Caitlin cast the teachers which are professional circus artists from Lookingglass Theatre and other theatres throughout Chicago. Together, the directors determine the storyline.

“This show was actually based off of one of the first show’s done at Actors Gym, performed 15 years ago. It was directed by the same director, Kerry Catlin,” senior Maddy Aaronson says. “This show has very similar concepts and circus acts to the original show, but it was modeled to the article Bumping Into Mr. Ravioli by Adam Gopnik.”

The program started rehearsing in early January for their 22 total performances. The script for the show was completed by the first rehearsal, so the program worked on fitting the circus acts into the script. The adults worked on scenes while the Teen Ensamble worked on their acts which include counter weight rope, juggling, unicycling, sliding table and some acrobatic acts. Later into the process, the scenes and acts were put together.

“For the winter show, rehearsals are four times a week and then tech, which is when everyone gets super close, is a week where we’re there for five hours a day. We spend a lot of time together, but we also get close because we have the same common goal which sparks a connection,” Sherman says.

Due to the extended amount of time the cast spends together during practices, a strong bond has formed despite the age gap between professionals and teens.

I’ve known most of the adults for quite a bit of time, but I’ve known David Catlin especially long. He’s been my teacher since I was 10. He literally watched me grow up, and it’s crazy to me that now I’m performing side by side with him,” Aaronson says. “I have always looked up to him, and it’s such an incredible experience to be included in the same cast as him, Lindsey, Kathleen and Megan, [the professionals].”

When viewing the show, it is easy to realize how trusting performers are of each other and their own skills. Amidst the bright colored pantaloons and circus attire, the teen ensemble performed acts where they all unicycled dressed as Albert Einstein, others where freshman Matis Kruse and Sadie Sims juggled in the air, harnessed by their fellow ensemble members.

“We all know each other like the back of our hands; it has to be like that because we do some dangerous stuff, so it’s necessary that we trust each other,” says Aaronson.

The performance grounded itself in how it was able to transfer the serious topic of growing up, and losing time and passion for something you once loved into a childish and witty experience. The showed was whimsical, yet displayed impeccable technique from each performer.

All The Time In The World performs from Feb 16 to March 24 at the Noyes Cultural Center on Fridays at 7:30, Saturdays at 4:30 and 7:30, and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets can be bought at for $30. Use Promo code HIGHSCHOOL to get tickets $10 off.