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ETHEL – Circus:Wandering City has been commissioned by The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.

ETHEL is pleased to present Circus:Wandering City, an evening-length multimedia performance that explores the phenomenon of circus through the eyes and insights of people who created its special thrills and illusions – conjuring its mystery and magic through a multi-arts experience. Commissioned by the John and Mable Ringling Museum (The Ringling) in Sarasota, Florida, the work combines projections of stunning images, films and interviews from the Museum’s singular archives, the words of circus performers past and present, and original music composed and performed live by ETHEL. While the quartet and their collaborators have been developing Circus since 2015, the project gains urgency with the recent announcement of the end of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, whose final performances will take place in May of 2017, just before Wandering City makes its world premiere at the Ringling Museum in January 2018.

Under the direction Grant McDonald (The Official Prince Tribute, Esperanza Spalding’s Emily’s D+ Evolution World Tour, Stars On Ice US & Canada Tours), Wandering City juxtaposes music, words and images to convey the spirit of the individuals who brought excitement and mystery to one of America’s most iconographic popular culture experiences. Circus performers engaged in death-defying activity; conjured fascinating and logic-defying feats; and, by taking on myriad controversial shapes from Albino pygmies to Arab sheiks, epitomized their era’s view of otherness —all for the entertainment of audiences.  Most often first- or second-generation immigrants, circus people typically lived in their own separate communities because integrating into mainstream society was nearly impossible. At the same time, everyday audiences wanted to be inspired, scintillated and awestruck—from a distance—projecting their own dreams and desires onto the performers for a night, before relegating the circus artists back to their marginalized existence.

The genesis of Wandering City lies in the collaborating artists’ exposure to the vast resources of The Ringling, which they have plumbed to develop the production. The input of contemporary circus artists has added dimension to the project’s fabric. The human involvement in circus iconography, which suggest the stuff of dreams—to fly, to move mountains, to dance on air, to tame nature and to defy death—moved the artists to tell these stories in a way that will celebrate the anticipation, sweat, fortitude, joy and transcendence that characterizes the lives behind the Big Top.

Composed and performed by the members of ETHEL, Circus:Wandering City features direction by Grant McDonald, projection design by John Narun, scenic design by Jason Ardizzone-West, costume design by Beth Goldenberg, lighting design by Oona Curley, sound design by Stowe Nelson.  Produced by Jenney Shamash, Executive Producer Karen Jenkins.

About the John and Mable Ringling Museum
The Ringling is a center for art, history and learning situated on 66 acres on Sarasota Bay. It is built on the legacy of circus entrepreneur, collector of art and financier John Ringling and his wife Mable.

The Ringling inspires visitors with an acclaimed collection of Old Master paintings, explores with them the diverse cultures and art of Asia, delights them with the story of the American circus, and transports them to the Roaring Twenties during a tour of the magnificent Ca’ d’Zan mansion.

The Ringling is also committed to exhibiting the work of an emerging community of living artists that moves beyond traditional practice and features dynamic and engaging contemporary visual and performing arts, including a diverse roster of theater, music and dance.

The Ringling is the State Art Museum of Florida. Affiliated with Florida State University, it is one of the largest university art centers in the nation. More information can be found at www.ringling.org.


Grant McDonald (Director) has collaborated as Director or Projection Designer on dozens of concerts, theatre productions, installations and live events across the US and internationally. Current and recent projects include Stars on Ice (US & Canada Tours), The Official Prince Tribute (Xcel Energy Center), Esperanza Spalding’s Emily’s D+ Evolution (World Tour), Black Mountain Songs (The Barbican/BAM) and Dolce & Gabbana’s Tirelli Tribute (NYC). McDonald has served as projection consultant on hundreds of productions across the globe, most recently Mariah Carey’s Number One to Infinity (Caesar’s Palace residency), De Materie (Park Avenue Armory) and Alt-J’s This is All Yours (World Tour). More on his collaborations can be found at www.GrantMcDonald.com.

John Narun (Projection Design) has theatre credits that include Born For This at the Arena Stage, The Secret Life of Edward Gorey at the Sheen Center, The Tallest Tree in the Forest and The Laramie Project at BAM, What I Did Last Summer at The Signature Theatre (NYC), Blueprints for Freedom at Kansas City Rep, The Darrell Hammond Project at The La Jolla Playhouse, Mughal-e-Azam at the NCPA in Mumbai, India, and The Radio City Christmas and Spring Spectaculars. His visuals have also shared the concert stage with Madonna, Ricky Martin, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez, Celine Dion, Britney Spears, and The Spice Girls. John’s work has appeared on television on “The Oprah Show”, and on ABC, CBS, NBC, HBO, Fox, Discovery, E!, HGTV, and TV Guide. His projection design work has earned him a Henry Hewes Design Award nomination, 2 Craig Noel Award nominations, and an NYIT Award nomination. His broadcast work earned him an Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Title Design in 2002. (www.johnnarun.com)

Jason Ardizzone-West (Set Design) is a set designer based in New York. Recent designs include HungryWhat Did You Expect?, & Women of a Certain Age (The Public Theater, with Susan Hilferty), 36th Marathon of One Act Plays (The Ensemble Studio Theater), Caroline, Or Change (Tantrum Theater), Bullets Over Broadway (National Tour, NETworks Presentations), Love’s Labour’s Lost / A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Juilliard), & Adele, Live in NYC (NBC, with Es Devlin). As an associate set designer, Jason has worked with Es Devlin: Beyoncé (Formation World Tour, MIA/GC Festivals, VMA 2016), American Psycho (Broadway), Jan Versweyveld: The Crucible (Broadway), Santo Loquasto: Bullets Over Broadway (Broadway), Mimi Lien: Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812, and Christine Jones: Harry Potter & The Cursed Child (Broadway). Jason received a Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University, College of Architecture, Art & Planning, a Masters of Fine Arts from New York University, Department of Design for Stage & Film, and is a member of USA 829. Visit ardizzonewest.com for recent work and more information.

Beth Goldenberg (Costume Design) designs costumes for opera, theatre, dance and other live performance. Her designs include Stabat Mater, choreographed by Jessica Lang, the little match girl passion, directed by Francesca Zambello, and Macbeth directed by Anne Bogart and co-designed with James Schuette at Glimmerglass Opera. She has also designed productions with Second Stage Theatre, The New Group, Juilliard, Red Bull Theater, Ma-Yi Theatre, Lesser America, The Flea, La Jolla Playhouse, Hartford Stage, Dallas Theatre Center, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Asolo Repertory Theatre and Barrington Stage Co, among others. She holds an MFA from NYU/Tisch. www.bethgoldenbergdesign.com

Stowe Nelson (Sound Design) New York: Animal (Atlantic); The Skin of Our Teeth (Theatre for a New Audience); The Wolves (Playwrights Realm); Small Mouth Sounds (Lortel Nom, Ars Nova); Miles for Mary, The Essential Straight & Narrow, Samuel & Alasdair (Drama Desk Nom, The Mad Ones); Indian Summer (Playwrights Horizons); The Painted Rocks at Revolver CreekThe Wayside Motor Inn (Signature). Regional Theatre: What Would Crazy Horse Do? (KC Rep); Cry It Out, I Now Pronounce (Actors Theatre of Louisville); The Book of Will (Denver Center); Measure for MeasureMacbethAn Illiad (Hudson Valley Shakespeare).  More info: www.wingspace.com/stowe

Oona Curley (lighting design) is a lighting and scenic designer from New York City specializing in new and devised work. She recently designed the Obie Award Winning production of Underground Railroad Game at ArsNova and for an international tour. Her work has been seen in New York (ArsNova, The Cherry Lane, Joe’s Pub, JACK, La MaMa, The New Ohio, Theater for the New City, NYU/Tisch, Columbia Stages, M34 Productions), Philadelphia (The Arden Theatre, Opera Philadelphia, FringeArts, The Kimmel Center, The Bearded Ladies Cabaret, Inis Nua Theatre Co., Theater Horizon, Team Sunshine Performance Co., Shakespeare in Clark Park, anonymous bodies, Carbon Dance Theatre), and regionally (Sharon Playhouse, Brown/Trinity Rep, Gamm Theater, Chester Theatre). Oona earned her MFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she received the J.S. Seidman Award for Design Excellence, the Dean’s Fellowship, and was NYU’s nominee for a Princess Grace Award. She holds a BA from Brown University, where her designs earned the Zonta Award for Theatre Arts and the Weston Award for Theatre Design. Oona is an associate artist with the Bearded Ladies Cabaret in Philadelphia. www.oonacurley.com.

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

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