AVONDALE — Many children dream of finding fairies in gardens and forests. Circus performers Molly Plunk and Laura Torres are making that magic happen.
The duo are bringing their Enchanted Tightrope program to six parks throughout the city at multiple events until Aug. 30.
With two shows at each park, Plunk and Torres, dressed as fairies, delight audiences by walking and dancing across wire 6 feet in the air.
Plunk, a tightwire artist and clown based in Chicago, decided to apply for the Park District program because she wanted to “try to give people something beautiful to look at and have something that people can observe while enjoying nature.”
When offered the opportunity to participate by her long-time coach, Torres was thrilled.
“I’d been training on my own during the pandemic, but I wasn’t sure if and when I’d get a chance to perform, so this is a real treat,” she said. “Local performing arts are a fragile ecosystem hit hard by the pandemic, so I’m grateful for the outdoor events we can still see and do.”
Plunk chose the theme of fairies for the shows because she loves the idea of a magical creature connected with nature.
“They’re incredibly linked to our planet Earth, and so I think when we encourage that kind of connection with fairies, we are ultimately deepening our bond to our planet,” she said.
Torres and Plunk step dance, sit,and stand on their toes on the wire to the refrains of Irish and Spanish-language music. The performance is non-linear, so observers do not have to worry about keeping track of a plot.
“Enchanted Tightrope is an invitation to come and play in the parks and observe some fairies walking on a tightrope,” Plunk said. “It doesn’t ask a lot of the audience. It kind of just invites you to be present and to imagine and to play.”
Torres hopes people who watch can relax and learn and “be inspired by the paradoxically calm and suspenseful beauty that is tightwire. Wirewalking is a fairly niche circus art, and this event is special in that its entire focus is only wirewalking.”
With the debut of Enchanted Tightrope at Avondale Park on Aug. 17, kids already got the concept. Plunk said many children showed up in their fairy costumes, calling it “a kind of live-action roleplaying event for fairies.” The performers also took time to take socially distanced photos with the children.
Plunk has been clowning since the late 2000s and learning tightwire since the early 2010s. She has performed throughout the city, including The Actor’s Gymnasium, Misfit Circus, The Neo-futurists and Redmoon Theater, as well as working with circuses outside of Chicago, including the eighth-generation Traveling Zoppé Circus and Bindlestiff Family Cirkus from New York.
Torres is a community organizer and multi-disciplinary artist who has been teaching beginning tightwire artists.
The six parks where they’ll perform were chosen because they had a pre-existing gymnastics or dance program or they are parks known for their nature, like North Park and Garfield Park. All performances are done outside in wider spaces to keep a safe environment.
Bringing tightwire to the parks is no easy feat, though. Tightwire normally requires a great deal of effort to get it set up, requiring pounding stakes into the ground to give the tightwire structure support.
But Plunk has a freestanding wire that does not need stakes to and only needs 30 minutes to set up. This allows Enchanted Tightrope to go more places more easily without the setup and teardown other rigs might require.
Wirewalking is not for the faint of heart.
“It’s challenging to be outside in the sun, and even a stiff breeze can make you feel off balance on the wire, but the audience has been great,” Torres said. “They are so generous and seem happy to just vibe with a couple of wirewalking fairies.”
Plunk hopes adults and children will enjoy Enchanted Tightrope and know tightrope is possible.
“You don’t know what’s possible until you witness it,” she said. “It’s a place where art meets athletics. And I want kids and adults to see that and know that that’s an option for them, as well.”
The Enchanted Tightrope lineup:
- Monday: Morgan Park Sports Center, 11505 S. Western Ave.
- Wednesday: Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave.
- Friday: North Park Village Nature Center, 5801 N. Pulaski Road
- Aug. 30: McKinley Park, 2210 W. Pershing Road
The Garfield Park Conservatory performance requires pre-registration for the gardens.
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