Oh, you thought just because there’s not much international travel right now that Reykjavík Fringe Festival would be cancelled? WRONG! It’s back and wackier than ever, with a week-long showcase featuring the best of local performers along with a selection of special live-streamed acts from abroad.
At the Grapevine, we are unapologetic Fringe-addicts, so we’re happy to now present a series of interviews with some of our favourite performers of this year. Today, we’re sitting down with Lauren Charnow, an aerial silk and hammock artist, who, along with Alice Demurtas, will serve up an ethereal aerial-extravaganza entitled “Rebirth”. The show will be at Tjarnarbíó on July 8th at 17:30 and July 10th at 21:00. Tickets are 500 ISK and can be bought here. And don’t worry: It’s child friendly.
Thanks for sitting down with us, Lauren. So first off—let’s talk “Rebirth”! Can you tell me about the show? Where did the spark of the idea come from? What can audiences expect there?
The show was sparked by the current global situation we are experiencing. I am from the US and recently got married to my Icelandic husband in January. When the pandemic took off, I was in the US and he was in Iceland. The separation was difficult on top of the uncertainty of what was happening with the virus, and the loss of work. I was lucky enough to be able to come to Iceland to be reunited with him.
Being in Iceland is such a blessing right now because this country has taken control of the situation and supported its citizens much better than many other countries. I was having strong feelings through this experience and know many other people were suffering as well. I wanted to create a piece to explore what our options could be in this new world that will be created after we get the pandemic under control. For me coming to Iceland was a rebirth. From being in the US on complete lockdown to then coming to Iceland where things are operating in a fairly normal way felt like a dream. I met with Alice Dermurtas, my aerial silks partner, and we started working on a small piece to express these ideas. Answering questions such as how has this isolation changed us? Can we use this time to better ourselves? Can we leave what we don’t need behind and focus on what is truly important?
We used the seasons as the framework for our show because we felt those who are stuck in isolation might be watching the seasons in a very different way this year. The cyclical nature of the seasons is a natural rebirth and this became the foundation for our show. It is a short piece made of 4 acts. Each act represents a different season and explores how we can find what is important, let go of what is not and come together.
Our piece is a dream. A hope for how we can make the most of an extremely challenging time.
We have had many artists contribute to our project and our show includes music pieces created by Atli Örvarsson and Bjarni Freyr Pètursson (YAMBI) as well as video by Angie Diamantopoulou. Atli Örvarsson just released his new album ‘You Are Here’ on the 3rd of July. You can also check out YAMBI’s new album ‘Litir & Form’. Both albums are available on Spotify. It has been been an amazing experience getting to work with music from local artists. Both songs breathe life into our performance. You can hear Atli Örvarsson’s song “Vor” in our opening Spring piece and YAMBI’s custom song for our Winter Finale. Angie’s videos connect the show and further tie in the seasons. Her beautiful videography will display footage from Iceland and abroad. Supporting other artists in collaboration is a great way to share more art with the community and Alice and I are excited to continue various collaborations in the future.
How did you get into aerial silks/hammocks? What is it about the art form that grabbed you?
My parents had a theatre company when I was born so I have been on stage since I was three months old. Born to perform. In high school, I auditioned for clown role in Cirque Du Soleil on a whim. Needless to say, I did not get the part as I was 17 and did not have any circus skills but the audition inspired me. The company had us go through a series of clowning exercises together for an hour. It was such a different experience than the two minutes you often get in a theatre audition. I knew I wanted to be in that room again. I felt so much more supported and a part of something even though it was terrifying. I knew I needed to learn circus skills.
When I went to college in New York, I decided it was time to pick a circus art. I originally went for silks because I wanted to fly plus it seemed more accessible than flying trapeze (no literal letting go of apparatus). I took my first class and was immediately hooked. Doing silks is incredibly difficult. My instructor would ask me to do something and my body physically felt like it could not do it. The moments of success felt like huge accomplishments. I left feeling exhausted and wanting more. I stuck with it, my body got stronger, and all of a sudden I was doing things that used to seem impossible. It changed my life. In this art form, the hard work pays off. It is beautiful and challenging not just physically but mentally. Learning how to tie knots around your body sometimes moving the silks and sometimes moving your body is a puzzle that never gets boring.
Now aerials are my life. I am currently teaching in Iceland at Erial Pole. Sharing the feeling of being able to do incredible things with others is what I do every day I teach. Teaching silks to me is about more than just doing cool tricks. It is about sharing the notion that when you believe in yourself you can do incredible things that you didn’t know where possible.
Your FB event says the show is about the changing times. Obviously, we’re in quite a turbulent period right now. Do you have any advice for those that are having trouble embracing the new world around us? Has art helped you find yourself in the whirlwind of 2020?
I think that this time is an opportunity to make changes within ourselves. The isolation has been difficult but it is also a time to be alone with yourself and decide who you truly want to be. I think the protests that have been sparked by the pandemic are really asking us to do that as well.
This is a difficult time and we need to look at ourselves and ask what kind of person am I? Are you the person who helps your neighbour? The person who cares for your community? We need each other and we need to take care of each other no matter what someone’s race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or otherwise.
My art has been a way for me to stay sane during this difficult time. It has given me a way to explore my feelings. The highly physical nature of aerial training is also a stress reliever for me. Training for the show every day has given me a routine and something to work for.
Last up: What are some Fringe shows you’re particularly excited about? Any expert picks?
There are so many different kinds of performances that are happening, which is one of the best parts about Fringe. I am really interested in seeing “THEM” as the exploration of masculinity and femininity really interests me. “Grýla – Not For Children” sounds like it will be a fun piece. I am always a fan of Icelandic folklore. I also want to see Americanized (the good & the bad) and have some laughs. Of course, I am looking forward to the Drag-Súgur: Rvk Fringe show. Many of my friends will be participating and they always have an amazing show. And I can’t wait to see “Forbidden Fruit” as well. I just think it is awesome that in one festival you can see circus, drag, burlesque, comedy and more!
Read more Reykjavík Fringe coverage here.
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