Sky Candy takes flight in re­opened State­side at the Para­mount The­atre

Re­cently re-imag­ined venue set to host one of the long­est runs by a lo­cally pro­duced the­ater group on its stage, be­gin­ning this week­end.

Austin American-Statesman - - AUSTIN360 DAILY - By Luke Quin­ton Spe­cial to the Amer­i­canS­tates­man Where: Cost: In­for­ma­tion:

Two fully grown men hang from the ceil­ing, up­side down, point­ing their legs and tor­sos to the rafters, their bod­ies curled around two huge red cur­tains, no wires re­quired.

This week­end they’ll be hang­ing up­side down on stage at State­side at the Para­mount The­atre, as two of the leads in an am­bi­tious new un­der­tak­ing by the Austin ae­rial dance com­pany Sky Candy. But at the moment, they’re in the midst of re­hearsal, and the color is drain­ing from their legs while they wait for a mu­sic cue to be sorted out.

This show, “Land With­out Evil,” is a big step for­ward for Sky Candy. Six times the bud­get of their first pro­duc­tion, with a cast of 30, a crew of 20, as well as 50 col­lab­o­ra­tors, the show also con­tains video “map­ping,” Amer­i­can Sign Lan­guage and live vo­cals by Austin act Sorne.

Not to men­tion that there are air­borne dancers.

It’s some­thing of a first for the re­cently re-imag­ined State­side, too. With the venue coming back on­line in the past few years af­ter a 2006 flood, Sky Candy’s show is one of the long­est runs by a lo­cally pro­duced the­ater group.

In re­hearsal, it’s ob­vi­ous that the show’s co-direc­tors, Chelsea Lau­man and Agent Red (Sarah John­ston), have their hands full.

8 p.m. Satur­day, 3 and 8 p.m. Sun­day, plus ad­di­tional per­for­mances through Dec. 16.

State­side at the Para­mount The­atre, 719 N. Congress Ave.

$20.

474-1221, www. austinthe­atre.org.

This is an eclec­tic room, with slim, pow­er­ful bod­ies that would make the most se­ri­ous yo­gis take no­tice. There are a lot of feath­ers in hair. Baggy pants and very short shorts. An­i­mal and in­sect tat­toos con­front each other on arms and legs. Among the twentyand thir­tysome­things, there are cir­cus per­form­ers, award-win­ning pole dancers, a fourth grade boy, and, John­ston tells me, “a chan­nel, who speaks in tongues.”

“Mar­malade!” John­ston calls out softly, us­ing her code­word to bring or­der to Sky Candy’s bustling East Austin stu­dio.

Her first or­der of busi­ness, as all 30 cast mem­bers con­vene in a wide cir­cle on the ground, is a “pos­i­tiv­ity-only rule.”

“Neg­a­tiv­ity is con­ta­gious,” she tells the dancers. It’s 10 days till cur­tain, and the at­mos­phere is charged with ex­cite­ment, but also a tinge of ten­sion.

The meet­ing cov­ers a lot of ground: men­tal pre­pared­ness, phys­i­cal safety, whether they can fill the seats of the twoweekend run at the State­side The­ater. Be­fore they break, John­ston and a helper an­nounce a health con­scious treat. “It’s al­mond milk with maca and car­da­mon,” they’re told. “Maca is a root.”

“Some peo­ple say it’s an aphro­disiac,” John­ston says mis­chie­vously. The cast laughs, the ten­sion sub­sided.

John­ston knows some- thing about big ae­rial pro­duc­tions like this one. “It’s like be­ing chased by a tiger — you can’t turn around and look, be­cause it will eat you!”

In a sense, that tiger caught up with John­ston a few years ago dur­ing an ae­rial dance per­for­mance in San Fran­cisco, where, as she puts it, “I fell in front of 6,000 peo­ple and broke both my arms.”

That bru­tal event meant her stage ca­reer was in­def­i­nitely on hold. But it’s also what drove her to what she calls South Amer­i­can spir­i­tual prac­tices, and to the novel, “Land With­out Evil,” which fol­lows the strug­gle be­tween the in­dige­nous spir­i­tu­al­ity of the Guarani peo­ple and the words of the new mis­sion­ar­ies.

John­ston and Lau­den were in­spired to adapt the novel for the mul­ti­me­dia stage show.

The story, the direc­tors say, has been slightly al­tered, cut to fit into 75 min­utes, and it no longer rep­re­sents the Guarani. It tells what John­ston calls a “pan-cul­tural” story. Its ar­che­typal hero and his peo­ple no longer come from a spe­cific place. The show has ac­quired cul­tural jew­elry and ar­ti­facts ac­cord­ingly, from all over the world: Ghana, Afghanistan and Panama, just to name a few.

The video map­ping, by Austin’s Joao Beira (whose stage name is Data­grama; ev­ery­one here seems to have a nick­name), plays a ma­jor role. The stage will be backed by an ex­pan­sive “map­ping sur­face,” 26 feet across. When the vi­su­als are not ac­tu­ally cre­at­ing the back­ground like, say, a tem­ple, the vi­su­als move al­most con­stantly, some even re­spond­ing to the dancers’ move­ments.

As the re­hearsal con­tin­ues, we get a hint of the pos­si­bil­i­ties that a nar­ra­tive-driven play and ae­rial dancers can pro­vide. Nathan Brum­baugh (who goes by “Nay Nay”), plays the lead, the son of the shaman. When his char­ac­ter is charged with climb­ing a tree to re­trieve a bird’s feather, he pulls up smoothly onto a hoop that is oc­cu­pied by Lau­man, the “bird.”

And the pair pro­ceeds to tum­ble around each other, con­tort­ing over each other, danc­ing in mid-air. A few kinks present them­selves, but al­ready it’s beau­ti­ful — the body elec­tric, and air­borne. Brum­baugh plucks the feather and re­turns grace­fully to the ground.

RODOLFO GON­ZA­LEZ / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

TOP: Cos­tumes are prepped and fit­ted at Sky Candy. LEFT: Chelsea Lau­man, codi­rec­tor and per­former and Nathan Brum­baugh, be­low, re­hearse a scene from “Land With­out Evil” at Sky Candy stu­dio.

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