Love, tragedy, and a cappella: An Awkward Circus

News
April 21, 2009

A cut-rate magic act, a tragic pantomime horse, acrobats, jugglers, singers in harlequin costumes, a unicyclist, a bearded lady, and a striptease artist held the center ring April 13 under a tent of fabric strips in Willard Straight Hall Memorial Room. 

The event, “Awkward Circus,” was the latest presentation of Awkward, the artistic student lifestyle publication on campus whose projects present an alternative to traditional printed matter.  

Spectacle and showmanship filled three one-hour shows with a procession of acts and thematic content fulfilling the mission of the Awkward organization -- representing aspects of the student experience.  

“Each act has a theme relating more or less to student lifestyle in a poetic way, sometimes more obvious than others,” said Savinien Caracostea (B.Arch. ’09), who leads the Awkward staff and also performed as a sad clown who finds love.  

The jugglers, for example, were seen tossing items in tandem and as a trio, and carrying tables and chairs while performing -- “managing many complex tasks at once, in complete balance,” Caracostea said. Two clowns -- architecture professor John Zissovici and visiting critic Alex Mergold (B.Arch. ‘00) -- later struggle with a tangled rope and demonstrate a form of problem-solving. 

Likewise, a group of six female singers performed a choreographed, a cappella rendition of “Put a Ring on It” just before things started to go (intentionally) wrong.  

After the seemingly normal acts, the proceedings turned strange, with an acrobatic pas de deux ending clumsily, followed by a wordless skit with two costumed “Oddities” and then a pantomime horse that keels over and dies. The striptease was unexpected, but a classic piece of burlesque nonetheless. Recorded music, particularly jazz, complemented different aspects of the show.  

Caracostea’s clown was featured in two pieces with Jae Hee Lee (B.Arch. ’12) in her bird costume, sharing a dance early in the show and then lip-sync-serenading her with a Duke Ellington song.  

The circus was the result of almost a year of planning from concept to performance, Caracostea said.  

Past editions of Awkward have used such themes as tactile sensation and the creation of a composite undergraduate identity via a lost purse. 

In 2008, the organization went beyond producing an artifact and created “Awkward: The Event,” five shows in one night at the Johnson Museum that presented a succession of ideas by integrating music, fashion, food and related text in an accompanying event program.  

This year the program text, a short story by Laura Janka ’09 related to the circus in the abstract. “We wanted to make the publication a whole show, and one story,” Caracostea said. “It wasn't meant to have explicit meanings, but rather be rich enough in its content and touch on enough subjects to evoke different things for everyone who sees it. My interpretation, or the one that the show was conceived through, becomes irrelevant when shown to the public.”  

By Daniel Aloi, Cornell Chronicle