By C.A. KELLER
For Mathias Lovemotor, creating a circus is a way of following what he calls his "highest expression." The brains - or, more appropriately, the heart - behind Circus Panacea, Lovemotor is in the beginning stages of creating the show for the Williamsport area, with a tentative event date set for October.
The date still is tentative because Lovemotor, a Pajama Factory resident who teaches improv and performance classes, wants to take time to write the show, train the people who will be in it, and create a work of art that captures the true spirit of performance and connection between performer and audience.
Circus Panacea, a European-style circus, will be the result of a considerable level of devotion from both Lovemotor and the so-far small group that has formed to bring his vision to life. To lay the circus' foundation, Lovemotor is teaching hand-to-hand balancing, acrobatic yoga and improv to a small group that's becoming the Circus Panacea family. The kind of dedication and vision Lovemotor has in mind takes time to realize and requires a sense of trust and shared history among the performers.
That element is key for creating true performance art.
"What I need to focus on, and what Circus Panacea is focusing on, is building a family. It's something I've been talking a lot about to everyone who's in Circus Panacea," Lovemotor said. "It's my belief that when you go to see a show, the reason that that show appeals to you is because you relate to the content, and then also [to] entertain. 'Enter' seems to have some sort of meaning for me. I believe that there should be some aspect of taking you out of where you're from and taking you somewhere new."
Entering into another world - being engaged, having that transported sense of being somewhere entirely new - is not a sensation easily faked. For an artistic endeavor to truly entertain requires striking a delicate balance that conveys a sense of connection.
That's why Circus Panacea isn't starting traditionally, with a script.
"I need us all to be creating from the same place," Lovemotor said. "I have an idea that the story will create itself. All of the stories we can tell are already told. In all of the ways, all of the characters are already written, it's more of a feeling-out of what story needs to be told right now and how that story wants to come out."
Previously involved with Billtown Burlesque, the theatrically trained Lovemotor decided he wanted to jump feet-first into all aspects of circus production, a form of entertainment that's long held interest for him.
"I decided I wanted to break off from [the Burlesque] and take on writing an entire show," he said. "I want to produce the whole show, write the whole show, have the meaning be in the show, write the story, train all the people that are in it - it's my baby."
The former San Francisco game programmer had abandoned a lucrative position to begin working toward a career in circus performance. Before arriving in Williamsport via Fairfield, Iowa, Lovemotor lived in San Francisco, where he performed with the Teatro ZinZanni. Lovemotor also taught in the Bay Area's AcroSports circus and gymnastics program, while training himself in the organization's related City Circus program.
Then fate intervened, in the form of not one, but two broken ankles.
"I felt like it was the universe telling me to sit down - literally - there was some kind of lesson there that I wasn't picking up," Lovemotor said. "So I had to sit down. I had to sit down - I didn't have an option. I needed to sit down and think about it. And while I was thinking about it, I realized that I didn't want to do anything that wasn't my highest expression anymore.
"I kept doing all these things that were not my highest expression and they were making me sad, they were making me angry, they were making me depressed," he said. "I was having a hard time maintaining a homeostasis, internally. And I decided that I needed to find my highest expression. I still don't really know what that is. But I know that I'm right where I should be right now. And right now my highest expression seems to be putting on Circus Panacea."
The words "expression" and "connection" come up often when talking to Lovemotor, and it's because those words seem to convey the essence of what "circus" is - if "circus" can be so easily defined.
According to Lovemotor, creating a true sense of circus requires engaging with surrealism, where one creates a message that can be felt, if not quite articulated - at least not literally.
"When you create a sort of surrealistic environment and you observe that environment, you realize that you're connecting and relating to a world or a circumstance or a character that has no common - there's no observable normalcy," Lovemotor said.
"It's a feeling you're relating. It's a response. You're looking at archetypes, basically. You've stripped away all of what makes us 'us' on a personal level, and you're looking at what makes us 'us' on an animal or archetypical level."
Lovemotor cited "A Clockwork Orange" author Anthony Burgess, with his oft-invented vocabulary, as an example of this.
"He's playing this experiment, like how far can I push communication where we're still able to understand each other without actually using the customary thing called language," he said. "And I think that's a really cool thing to push in circus - well, any kind of entertainment.
"I want to make people think about things or give them an opportunity to think about things and relate to characters that are entertaining but will also convey a message that they don't necessarily have to think about it because it's going to be developed from this more archetypical place."
Archetype tends to resonate, broadly and resoundingly, because of the ability it has to generate emotion. Thus its circus appeal, for both, lose their resonance in the wake of too much analytical thought.
As Lovemotor said, of a circus audience, "if they're thinking about it, they're still thinking. When you go see a show, it should be something you feel.
"There should be things to think about, while you're feeling things, but if you're not feeling anything, [then] you're just observing.
"The loss of fluidity, the loss of being able to be in the moment is the problem," he added. "So what I want, more than anything, when someone comes to see a Circus Panacea show, is that maybe they don't understand what they're seeing, but they'll feel it. If every person onstage is in their moment and we're all acting intentionally with this desire to be in the moment, they can't not feel it. It's therapeutically going to clean their system without them even being aware of it. That's the kind of effect I want my shows to have. And in order to create that kind of effect, I need to give myself the freedom, personally, to tap into that and make sure that everyone involve is tapped into that as well."
The circus may well be coming to town then, but only when it's ready, for the benefit of all.
For more information on Circus Panacea, visit www.circuspanacea.com.