THE ESCAPE ACT
A Holocaust Memoir
A touring one-woman show based on the life of Irene Danner. A Jewish acrobat, Irene witnessed the rise of the Nazi Party as a teenager and survived the Holocaust hiding at a German circus.
In this feat of dynamic physical storytelling, using puppetry, aerial acrobatics & rare archival footage, Stav Meishar, a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, charts Irene's life from youth to epic escape, and the budding of a new circus family.
Blending past and present through the intertwining voices of storyteller and heroine; this stirring work is a powerful reminder of the positive impact courageous acts can have for generations to come.
Barbette at the Circus
Supported by The BindleStiff Family Circus 1st of May Award, and The NoFit State Circus Transitions Micro Fund.
A performance that's part historical research, part exploration of gender roles then and now. This is the true story of Barbette*, the first gender-bending trapeze artist.
This show will be devised by Stav Meishar and a small team of LGBT+ performers. We will weave our real life experiences with Barbette's story, in a mix of theatre, circus, video projections and live art. The result will be a one-person show, written as a road map of sorts: Barbette's life told in vignettes, with space in between for any performer to inject their own creative responses to Barbette's experiences, as reflected through their own lives.
From Stav Meishar: "The longer I research Barbette's story the more interested I am in exploring how his life relates to issues genderqueer and nonbinary people face today. I found myself most curious by the fact that he always rejected labels like drag queen, cross-dresser and transgender, and am wondering what made him reject these labels. I'm intrigued by what performing gender meant then and means now, in life as well as in circus where bodies are so narrowly scrutinized."
How we approach this work:
*Barbette (December 19, 1898 – August 5, 1973) , born Vander Clyde Broadway, was an American female impersonator, high-wire performer, and trapeze artist from Texas. Barbette performed his acts in full drag, maintaining the illusion of femininity until the very end when he would pull off his wig and strike exaggerated masculine poses.
In the early 1920s he traveled to Europe and appeared in such venues as the Casino de Paris, the Moulin Rouge, the Médrano Circus and the Folies Bergère. It was there that he reached the peak of his fame and became an inspiration to a number of artists, including Jean Cocteau and Man Ray.
"Barbette," wrote Cocteau, “transforms effortlessly back and forth between man and woman. His female glamour and elegance are like a cloud of dust thrown into the eyes of the audience, blinding it to the masculinity of the movements he needs to perform his acrobatics.”
The Barbette Series
A photo collage series. Stav's body parts (as photographed by Asaf Sagi) and historical images of Barbette (mostly photographed by Man Ray and Madame d'Ora). Inspired by Surrealism, Pedro Almodovar and Maya Angelou. Made for Practice as Research in my MA.