Courtesy of Darin Basile
The circus is slated to leave the big tent and come to Columbus this weekend as part of Cirque Mechanics’ “Birdhouse Factory.”
“At the heart of what we do is the circus stuff, in a smaller, more intimate setting,” said Chris Lashua, director of the performance.
“Birdhouse Factory” tells the story of a struggling gadget-making factory and is scheduled to be performed 3 p.m. Saturday at the Ohio Theatre.
“The workers are inspired by an accident that happens when a bird flies through the factory, and they re-imagine the factory, take control of it and make it into a factory that makes birdhouses,” Lashua said. “It’s really the story of how the factory changes from a stark, ‘Modern Times’ Charlie Chaplin-esque factory to a more whimsical, Rube-Goldberg-like factory.”
The transition and playfulness are reflected in the show’s staging and music, but especially in one singular prop: a wheeled contraption that Lashua calls “the trolley.”
“That contraption became the heart of ‘Birdhouse Factory,'” Lashua said.
The trolley is a pair of rings about 6 feet in diameter held apart by pipe segments, mounted on two unicycles and two smaller wheels.
Performers ride the trolley across the stage, using it in a number of acts.
“We started exploring other circus acts, how we could get that in there,” Lashua said.
At one point in the show, a contortionist balances atop the trolley while two performers pedal it across the stage.
Mechanical props, such as the trolleys, help the Cirque Mechanics troupe unite the factory setting of “Birdhouse Factory” with the performers’ motions.
“It was the marriage of the circus with the mechanical world, and then the telling of the story of the factory that makes it a complete piece set that deserves to be on a theater stage,” Lashua said.
The acrobatics of “Birdhouse Factory” seem to intrigue some Ohio State students.
“It sounds like it’s got impressive acrobatic stuff. It’s got a cool story with it too (because) they can incorporate acrobatics in the story,” said Luke Agricola, a second-year in engineering physics who walks the slackline as a hobby. Students often balance on slacklines tied between trees on the Oval.
Due to modern circumstances Cirque Mechanics works hard to keep its show on the road and in theaters, Lashua said.
“It’s tougher to be an arts company now than it has ever been,” Lashua said. “People are much more careful about how they spend their dollars. And therefore we have to be really careful about how we spend ours so we can afford to be on the road.”
Jordan Russell, a third-year in sport and leisure studies, said he wouldn’t spend his money to see the show.
“I’m not really into show theater and stuff,” Russell said. “Acrobatics – it’s not really something I’d really want to go sit down and watch.”
However, Lashua said the economic pinch has made “Birdhouse Factory” a leaner, more-perfected production.
“It’s more important than ever before to make sure you do really good work because we’re competing with so many other plays for people’s money,” Lashua said. “It’s more important than ever to make sure we do the show we came to do.”
Tickets range from $20 to $35 on Ticketmaster or through the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts.