Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

Circa artistic director discusses the Australian company’s Humans

Yaron Lifschitz has directed more than sixty productions for theatre, opera, and large-scale events. But the Australian creative force is perhaps best-known for his work with the circus arts. Here, the Circa artistic director discusses his contemporary circus ensemble’s production of Humans, which will be onstage January 21 at Eisenhower Auditorium.

Question: What is Humans about?

Answer: Humans is a show about what makes us human—our struggles and our successes.

In Humans, I have asked our ensemble of artists what does it mean to be human? How can you express the very essence of this experience with your body, with the group, and with the audience? Where are your limits, what extraordinary things can you achieve, and how can you find grace in your inevitable defeat?

We humans are a fairly weak, unimpressive species. Anything we can achieve physically can be easily surpassed by a well-trained monkey. An injured pigeon can fly higher and longer than the best acrobat in the world. A snake can bend infinitely more than the most flexible of contortionists. But it is precisely because we are human that our physical achievements acquire dignity, meaning, and poetry. It is in connection to our vulnerability that our strength finds its true articulation. In our limitations are our possibilities.

Q: Is Humans more a performance of brilliant acrobats or art?

A: I don’t think it is either/or. They are brilliant acrobats. It is art for art, but it is also a report on how a group working together can express profound emotions with deep humanity. I want people to come for the acrobatics, stay for the connection and ideas, and leave with strong feelings

Q: What is the “style” of your company?

A: I think we are our own style. It is for others to describe what that is and how it relates to others. We are 100 percent circus. Everything we do is from and of the circus. We just think about it in fresh ways.

Q: How do the costumes the acrobats perform in connect to the show?

A: They work in simple flexible costumes that are carefully constructed and designed to bring out their humanity and help express both their capacity and their vulnerability while allowing for them to do the exceptional physical work they do.

Q: You are also producing operas? What have music dramas to do with your work with Circa?

A: We work with music in all our shows. It creates an emotional and rhythmic score for the performance. In Humans, the music is based in various forms of groove. It is eclectic but absolutely of a whole together.