As part of the Ringling's New Stages series, the Wise Fool theater artists troupe from New Mexico is heading to the museum's courtyard Feb. 17 and 18 to perform its show, SEESAW. The performances feature stilt walkers and acrobats centered around a metal sculpture and are planned to inspire wonder and awe in the vein of the classic Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus--with an additional layer of meaning, since SEESAW is about the joys and trials of immigrating to the United States.
“SEESAW takes place on what [Wise Fool] calls a large kinetic sculpture,” Ringling project coordinator Sonja Shea says. “It moves and shifts, and that is meant to represent the changing environment and the hurdles that you have to get through as someone who is coming to this country.”
Wise Fool interviewed multiple families and people who immigrated to the United States before creating this project. The immigration stories are what SEESAW is based on.
“Wise Fool gets its name from the idea of the medieval fool,” Shea says. “The medieval fools could talk to the king about subjects that other people couldn’t talk to him about, but they would do it through comedy.”
Similarly, Wise Fool covers sensitive topics in their performances, but they make the ideas accessible through levity, comedy, whimsy and acrobatics.
“All of their performances are a platform to discuss important and relevant or even taboo topics,” Shea says.
Wise Fool often performs at colleges, festivals and parks instead of traditional theaters. The communal atmosphere is important to them.
“It is supposed to be like a community, festival type vibe,” Shea says. “Ringling Underground-style.”
Tickets cost $30 for side stage seating, $20 for lawn seating and $10 for students. The show will be performed at 7:30 p.m. and again at 9 p.m. in the courtyard. One ticket allows you to view both showings. Food, such as ice cream and cookies, and drink will be available for purchase. There will also be audience engagement activities. Journals where attendees can share their families' or their own immigration stories will be all around the event, and the audience will also have the chance to use iPads to answer sample questions from the United States citizenship test.
“It gives people the ability to tell their own stories as well,” Shea says. “I want the audience to have a voice. I want them to be a part of the performance rather than just spectators.”
SEESAW is a casual event. There is no requirement to dress up and it is open to people of all ages.
“[Wise Fool] is trying to get rid of the stigma of what theater is,” Shea says. The Ringling hopes that this will open theater up to those who may not have considered attending a show before.
To purchase tickets, call (941) 360-7399 or go to ringling.org.