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Our 9-month professional circus training program is for artists taking their circus training and performance to the next level. The program values collaboration, improvisation, and creativity. As a marketable performer, its important to have a well rounded skill set to meet the needs of the contemporary arts field whether pursuing professional performance opportunities or entrance into a multi-year circus program. Our graduates create visceral works that push the envelope of physicality.

“I came to AG with a very specific goal: acquire and maintain a skill set that would put me on the radar for Lookingglass Theatre. As an actor with movement experience, I wanted to “up” my skill set. Pretty much everything I did was equally positive and fright-inducing, and it is this balance of fright and flight that is so important for professional growth.” – Cassi S.

The Actors Gymnasium Summer Circus Intensive is an innovative six-week intensive workshop dedicated to physical performance and act creation. The program offers performers the chance to choreograph their own work. In this way, the Summer Circus Intensive fosters the creative and artistic development of the performers in addition to the development of technical skills. Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi, Dean Evans and area master teachers provide instruction in a variety of circus and performing art disciplines.

The curriculum provides 27 hours per week of intense high-caliber training in Circus Arts, Physical Theatre, and Dance.

  • Aerial Arts skills (static/dance trapeze, silks, lyra, straps, Spanish web/corde lisse, Chinese pole and more)
  • Ground skills (hand balancing, tumbling, juggling, partner acro, contortion, tightwire, stilt walking, globe)
  • Physical theatre (ensemble building, physical improvisation, devising, flocking, clown work)
  • Dance (ballet, contemporary-based technique, low flying, improvisation, choreography)
  • Fundamentals (stretching and conditioning, pilates, injury prevention, special topics such as Circus History, Rigging, and Career Management)

Tuition includes all of the above + weekly private lessons and 2-3 hours of open gym access and practice time daily. A major and a minor specialty are declared after winter break, and students showcase their work in a promoted capstone performance in June.

Our outstanding faculty are drawn from many of Chicago’s best companies including the Tony-award winning Lookingglass Theatre ensemble and the ground-breaking dance-theatre company, Lucky Plush Productions and include luminaries such as Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi , Amanda Crockett and Molly Brennan.

“The Actors Gymnasium is one of the best things that I have ever done in my life! I was part of the Professional Program last year and I can honestly say that the Actors Gym is the reason I am working professionally now.” – Curt S

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What happens during the 9 months?

Training starts off with a “boot camp.” Students undergo intense training for their first four weeks of the program that focuses on increasing strength, flexibility, and technique. Boot Camp also provides an intensive introduction into Physical Theatre/Ensemble, Dance, Tumbling, and Juggling, and gives students the tools to craft their own workout regiment to serve them as they dive into the final 8-months of training and act development.

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After the boot camp, a typical week will include private lessons as well as special topic lectures and workshops.  Topics have included: Acroyoga, Pilates, Zumba, Martial Arts, Circus History, Rigging, Hat Juggling, Musicality, Managing Yourself, On Camera Violence, Injury Prevention, Swing Dancing, Knot Tying, Object Manipulation, Cyr Wheel, Hoops, Marketing and Finding Gigs.

After winter break, each student declares a major and minor specialty. Students will train primarily in those two specialties, continuing on with general classes in dance, physical theatre and contortion, through the midterm in April when exclusive training in the major and minor increases to prepare for the showcase performance in May/June.

Program Fees

The full cost of the 9-month program is $9500. Scholarships are available.

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“I felt drawn toward the ideas of collaboration and doing more than tricks, but using my skills to tell a story. . . It brings me together with a group of other people who want to train and grow in their chosen disciplines. Being around others inspires me to train harder and more seriously.” – Joe Y.

The Actors Gymnasium has been a pioneer in Chicago’s circus-theatre movement since 1995. We have been celebrated for our longstanding collaboration with Lookingglass Theatre, and have won awards for artistic excellence from 3Arts, the Illinois Theatre Association, The City of Evanston and the Joseph Jefferson Committee. Multidisciplinary training is a hallmark of The Actors Gym, and applications are encouraged from those who have additional skills in music, acting, design, original work and more.

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