Daily Stream: Cirque d'Art Theatre on Liza Johnson's In the Air

Jennifer Lange, Film/Video Studio curator

May 05, 2020

Teenage circus performers in training in a scene from Liza Johnson's 2009 short film In The Air

In November 2009, a group of teens and young adults visited the Wex from Portsmouth, Ohio. Performers in training, they were accompanied by Pegi Wilkes and Trisha Schmidt, codirectors of Cirque d’Art Theatre, a performing arts group with an ahead-of-its-time mission of inclusivity that offers classes in dance, acrobatics and circus aerials (trapeze, roman rings, etc.)

The group came to see themselves on screen in filmmaker (and Portsmouth native) Liza Johnson’s In the Air, which was on view in The Box that month. We hosted the group in the Film/Video Studio (then called the Art & Tech department), which had supported production of In the Air, and talked about the film, Cirque d’Art, Portsmouth, and what it was like to be part of the project. Their visit was documented in this podcast, which was produced by the Film/Video Studio.

It was one of my favorite moments at the Wex—a moment when a project truly comes full circle. Revisiting In the Air also feels especially timely given continued socioeconomic challenges in Portsmouth and the political importance of those challenges in the upcoming election. Despite these factors—or because of them—Cirque d’Art Theatre remains, 11 years later, active as ever and continues to empower people of all ages, types, and abilities to find resilience in the air.

In the Air is available to stream here May 1–31, 2020.

Special thanks to Pegi Wilkes, Trisha Schmidt, Lee Brown, Daphany Bauer, Hayden Schmidt, Autumn Thompson, and everyone from Cirque d’Art Theater who participated in the podcast. Also, thanks to Jean Pitman in our Education Department and Paul Hill in the Film/Video Studio.

For Johnson's perspective on making In the Air, here's a 2009 essay from the filmmaker.

In the Air images courtesy of the filmmaker

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