INTERVIEW: Atlas Circus Company debuts at Dixon Place with ‘The Optimist’

The Optimist will premiere at Dixon Place Friday, Feb. 17. Photo courtesy of Atlas Circus Company.

Be prepared to be amazed, but also be prepared to follow a story.

Atlas Circus Company will make its New York City debut Friday, Feb. 17 when The Optimist premieres at Dixon Place at 161 Chrystie St. The show features challenging circus acts, audience-impressing acrobatics and one of the rarer qualities for a circus show: narrative.

“They can expect to see something very new,” said Henry Evans, creative director and co-writer of The Optimist. “It’s a very untraditional circus. It is a perfect combination of dance, theater and circus art, and it also creates a narrative performance. So they get to actually follow a story that makes sense.”

Evans works with Noah Dach, who serves as director, choreographer and co-writer of The Optimist. Their third collaborator is Tommy McCarthy, co-writer and assistant director. Atlas Circus Company first developed as a workshop at Muhlenberg College, where co-founders Dach and Evans were undergraduate students up until last year. They have now taken that spark and made some fireworks, and their New York City debut is an exciting next step.

“We’re very excited,” Dach said. “We’ve been putting on productions at our college for the past three years, and this is our debut for our established company in New York and all of us kind of coming together in New York for the first time. And we’re really excited to be working with New York City-based circus performers and all of us now that we are established here in the city.”

As Evans put it: “It’s been a long time coming.”

The Optimist tells the story of a man sitting in a bar waiting for the love of his life to return. While enjoying his drink, memories flood his head about the early days of their romance. As he takes a trip down memory lane, audiences will witness high-flying acrobatics, dancing, dart throwing, physical comedy and even some magic.

“I would say that it is very challenging,” Dach said. “It’s a cast of eight people all doing a variety of different circus arts. We have everything from aerial straps to partner acrobatics to solo dance tumbling pieces. … It’s very challenging, and because it combines dance, theater and circus arts together, it’s something that’s very different for most circus performers to be able to accomplish and get their head around. So just with working with the professionals that we are working with, it’s cool to see how they’re challenged by the different kind of work and a different kind of movement that our company really values.”

Evans said The Optimist doesn’t have any words, so the narrative needs to be brought to life through body movement and gesturing. The main character shifts back and forth between a depressed state and elation, essentially following the natural rhythms of love both lost and found.

At Muhlenberg, Evans and Dach staged several productions, including a retelling of Alice in Wonderland and VOD, a piece about a solider returning from World War II. A year ago they founded Atlas Circus Company and also finished out their time at Muhlenberg. They both moved to the big lights of New York City and are hoping for success with their performances at Dixon Place.

“Personally I can’t feel like I’m living my dream yet because I’m sitting in front of my computer all day doing work and stuff, but I just hope that we’re going to even move bigger than this,” Evans said. “A big part of what we want to do is we don’t just want to become a traveling circus company. We want to become something bigger than that. We want to really change the circus industry in America. … The American circus is kind of in a weird spot right now, and we want to do whatever we can to facilitate new types of performance for circus and also education.”

Dach is similarly excited for the future. “I’m very happy,” Dach said. “We’re working our butts off, and this is just the first step of many to come.”

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

The Optimist, produced by Atlas Circus Company, will play the Dixon Place Friday, Feb. 17 and Saturday, Feb. 18 at 10 p.m. The show is co-written by Noah Dach, who also directed and choreographed, and Henry Evans, who also serves as creative director. Click here for more information and tickets. Click here for more information on Atlas Circus Company.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications.

E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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