If you want to learn how to hang upside down suspended by silk, juggle multiple items at once or maybe just to try something fun and exciting then look no further than Theatre Arcturus.
Huntsville’s newest training facility for circus arts is located at the Beyond Obstacles gym at 741 Muskoka Road 3. They’ve teamed up with the gym’s owner Cassandra Glass to be able to offer a space for classes, rehearsals, and training in aerial silks, aerial hoop, juggling, stilt walking, roaming entertainment, and even aerial champagne-pouring, which apparently, has been a big hit at weddings.
Since opening its doors to the community just over a month ago, Theatre Arcturus owners Lindsay Bellaire, ArtisticDirector, and Phillip Psutka, Executive Director, are thrilled by the local response they’ve already received.
“So far it’s been great and we’re really happy,” said Psutka. “Right now we’re starting out classes with a mixed apparatus for people who haven’t tried silks or hoops before and they have the opportunity to try both out.”
Both Bellaire and Psutka have backgrounds in theatre and circus arts and were a highlight performance at this year’s Nuit Blanche North with their flagship show, Weird. The show has toured to theatres and schools across the province. Described as a “multidisciplinary show that blends original text and storytelling with circus arts, stage combat, and original music,” it won Best of Fest and was shortlisted for Critics’ Pick at the Ottawa Fringe Festival 2015.
Bellaire hails from Windsor and Psutka is originally from the Kitchener/Waterloo area. The two met while enrolled in the acting program at the University of Windsor. Bellaire also trained in aerial arts at the Toronto School of Circus Arts, where she went on to become a coach. She has toured Ontario as a roaming entertainer/stilt walker for festivals and events and received the opportunity to lead workshops in Victoria, BC last year. Psutka has extensive training in stage combat and has worked with kids and young adults as an actor, teacher, and fight choreographer. He has toured across Ontario as a stilt-walker, juggler and busker, and has performed with Humber River Shakespeare, the Toronto Fringe, Toronto Buskerfest and the television series Lost Girl.
Since we’ve moved here it’s been us jumping into as many things as we can. We’ve felt very welcomed in the community.
Phillip Psutka, executive director of Theatre Arcturus
It was a strategic move for them to relocate from Toronto to Huntsville. Psutka indicated that it was tough in the city where there’s a lot of competition in theatre and circus arts and it can be “difficult to be heard.” However, with Bellaire having spent a lot of time in Algonquin Park during the summer months and Psutka passing through Muskoka on his way to shows, the two were already familiar with the area. But this past summer, certain networking opportunities arose while performing at Nuit Blanche North and they were able to connect with the right people.
“We talked with a number of people in the community and found out that there was interest here in the kinds of things we do,” said Psutka. “It was as well-calculated a leap of faith as we could have done. Since we’ve moved here it’s been us jumping into as many things as we can. We’ve felt very welcomed in the community.”
Psutka explained that the theatre has three prongs to it: full main stage shows where there’s always a script and storyline, classes, which are offered now at the training facility, and performing at events, parties and festivals.
“With the circus arts, it always looks so flashy and challenging and sort of unattainable in terms what people can do,” he said. “Just trying it once, even for people who aren’t interested and don’t feel they want to become professional circus performers, can sometimes be amazed at how far they can get.”
Last Thursday, Theatre Arcturus offered a student performance of Weird at the Algonquin Theatre. Although local public school students could not attend due to the Work-to-Rule action that is still going on, students from Tawingo College, Muskoka Montessori School as well as several children who are homeschooled and parents and members of the general public, received the opportunity to see what Theatre Arcturus is all about. After the show, those who attended were able to talk to the cast about the work they do and how the show is put together.
And to be able to do aerial silks, or walk on stilts, or even become a master juggler, doesn’t mean you have to start at a young age. Although Bellaire started dance when she was five, she didn’t start getting into aerial arts until she was in her early 20s. She simply went full-tilt and “trained like mad.”
As for Psutka, he’s currently enjoying his new character role as the Not-So-Little-Tramp, emulating Charlie Chaplin while he walks on stilts nine feet above the ground.
“Come out and try it,” Psutka said of what Theatre Arcturus offers. “You’ll be surprised. It’s a fun and interesting way to explore physical fitness.”
For more information on workshops and classes that are offered visit www.theatrearcturus.ca.
Photos: Dawn Huddlestone