Christina Gelsone, creator and performer of Air Play, took some time out of her busy schedule (via email, from hot, wet, monsoon season in Singapore!) to answer a few questions about this circus-meets-science performance that is heading to The Purchase PAC on February 28.
Q: What inspired you to make Air Play?
A: In 2010, we saw Daniel Wurtzel’s air sculptures in a video, and we were entranced. Our job, as modern clowns, is to make the ordinary life extraordinary, and Daniel was doing exactly that – with air! We dove into a huge experiment with him: could we make a show with both his sculptures and our comedy? Fortunately, the answer is yes, and Air Play is breathtakingly beautiful and also gut-bustingly funny. Long fabrics soar over your head, umbrellas fly to the ceiling, balloons swallow people, a massive swirling silk fills the entire stage, and more. Daniel’s work has been used on Broadway, in Cirque du Soleil, and is installed in many art museums around the world. But for Air Play, he created new sculptures with us, so you will be seeing art works that are displayed only in this show.
Q: What do you enjoy most about performing work for young audiences?
A: As a company, we don’t make work for only young audiences – we make work for all audiences. Which means, we love when everyone is there, the grandparents, the hip college students, the very small children, because they all laugh at different things. Air Play was made for the entire family- kids laugh at the clowns in the giant balloons, teens love figuring out how the umbrellas fly so high, and even the most stressed-out adults laugh, relax and feel like a kid again. Also, Air Play is incredibly inclusive for so many different kinds of people: we’ve had deaf, special needs, Alzheimer’s patients, and autistic audiences. Air Play is truly for everyone, anywhere in the world.
Q: The props in your show are mesmerizing! How did you make some of them?
A: Thank you! I personally made most of them, and no one has ever asked about it before! I learned a bit of sewing from working pick-up jobs at the costume shop in Julliard, and also worked on cell-phone towers for two years as a steeplejack, so I have a pretty broad skill set. Plus, anything I can’t make, Seth knows how to do, so we’re a good team. Still, sewing Daniel Wurtzel’s special fabrics for Air Play was tricky – they are extraordinarily long, and sewing such lengths with such delicate fabric was nerve-wracking…especially since I had bought them and knew how expensive they were. I was fear-sweating a lot the first time I did it.
Q: What is your favorite prop to use during the performance?
A: The neutrally buoyant 3 foot balloon. It looks like red moon slowly moving across the sky. Every time I perform with it, I have no idea what will happen in the audience, and every time has unique reactions, laughs, and surprises. We’ve performed Air Play over 250 times, and just last week in China I made a completely new game with an audience member right in the middle of the act.
Q: During a show, did anything in the air ever fall?
A: When we perform at high altitudes (like in the mountains of Mexico or China) the air is much thinner, and so the props definitely fly differently, and fall at much faster speeds. Strangely, though, our biggest mishap is when objects don’t come down! When we had our very first audience, we didn’t realize how much body heat changes the props and air, and my big red balloon floated up to the ceiling and didn’t want to come down… Seth ran up to the top of the theater seats and blew it back down to me.
See Air Play at The Performing Arts Center, Purchase College on Friday, February 28, at 7pm. Tickets are still available by calling 914-251-6200 or clicking here.