by Jen Novotny
Originally published Feb. 21, 2012 on the Stony Brook Press website.
While watching the free Stand Up 8 show for SBU students on February 13, I realized that I have a new direction in life: I want to be an aerialist.
Ok, that’s a dream that I won’t actually pursue, but for the two hours or so that I sat in the Staller Center watching the former figure skater Kimberly Craig fly through the air swinging from a hoop and Stand Up 8 co-founder Zay Weaver twirl several yards up on a silk rope, I constantly thought, I want to do that.
Before the show even began, the performers stood on stage with no curtain hiding them, to warm up and talk to the audience. Weaver promised a free gift to the first person who could pull up a picture of a “seawolf” on their phone, so she could see what it was. Sam Brown, a clown, meandered through the rows talking and high-fiving.
The show was based heavily on interaction with the audience. Often performers envision a “fourth wall” separating them from the viewers; this troupe did exactly the opposite. Audience response was completely integral to the performance.
Humor mixed with deep feeling as the scenes and performers varied. Brown was chased off the stage by Brett Copes after slapping him in a very Three Stooges-style, which contrasted with another scene with Weaver appearing in a wedding dress and handcuffs to give an impassioned speech about why she is an aerialist before ripping the dress to shreds and demonstrating her aerial prowess.
Singer Sandy Swier seemed a bit incongruous from the rest of the cast, but she did have quite a voice. It was very amusing, and slightly annoying, when Christianne Sainz, a gymnast, took the microphone from her and launched into a Justin Bieber song.
Stage performances generally hide the backstage area to keep the mystery of the show alive. Stand Up 8 doesn’t believe in this concept. There were no curtains, and much of the wings were visible, including the “human sandbag” set up for the aerialists. A stagehand attached to the fly system climbed up and down a truss at the edge of the stage to lift or lower the performers. That unique aspect of the performance impressed me, even more than the awesome contortions and flying itself.
My one complaint about the show is the lack of flow. The acts seemed very disparate and largely unrelated. At times, there seemed to be a theme explaining why the performers do what they do, but several of the acts didn’t carry this through. It could be that the randomness reflected the chaos of a circus in a big top, but I didn’t feel like the disconnect was intentional.
As for my dream of flying through the air without a harness, I feel that’s the kind of thought Stand Up 8 is trying to inspire. The idea that one can be happy doing something out of the ordinary, something exhilarating, even if no one else understands.
Like the proverb from which the troupe gets its name says, “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”