The Circus Contraption gang consists of occasional guest artists, plus the following regular members:
And hats off to some of our esteemed alumni:
Click the performer's name or scroll down to browse through the faces of Circus Contraption.
Joseph Vito Albanese / Dexter Mantooth
bassist, leather craftsman, quipster
Joe Albanese writes:
Learning of "my accidental birth" was something short of encouraging -- but better, I suppose, than an accidental death (or any other kind). Being the band's bassist I just hope my methods of rhythm prove to be more effective than my parents'. Residual baby boomer dregs and the youngest of five, I was a greyish-brown sheep among slightly off-whites.
Teetering on the edge of conformity, I had a propensity towards the eccentric. Wrestling with this duality kept me moderately responsible but testing some rather dark, murky waters. Not exactly a square peg in a round hole, but maybe an 11 mm parallelogram in a 9/16" trapezoid shaped hole.
I was 13 years old when my dear, sweet, grey-haired mother bought me my first bass guitar in '73. I've been playing in bands since the mid '70's. All original music, mostly odd-timed instrumentals that, typically, only freaky geeks were attracted too. ('s o.k., I like freak jobs.) Bands like: the Loinlappers, the Brainz, Exterminators, the Inflatables, Mighty Sphincter, Skeletones, the Godwads, Victory Acres and Dutchboy Fingers (a 4/5th's dyke band).
My other main interest for the last 20 years is leather craft. I very much enjoy trussing up cuties in tight, full-body, formfitted corsetry encasement. A gratifying and uplifting endeavor.
I joined the circus on my birthday in 1999. Probably the greatest b.d. present in all my 40 trips around the sun.
Evelyn Bittner / Acrophelia
acrobat, costumer, stilt walker, aardvark, giant worm, cataleptic
Evelyn Bittner got her first taste of the joys and trials of the performing arts as a first-grader at Sunnyview Elementary School in Clinton Township, Michigan, and hasn't looked back since. At various times a puppeteer, actor in musical theater and student films, singer in a short-lived rock band, calligrapher and all-around craftsmaker, Evelyn has always made a place for art in her life.
After volunteering to be a stagehand for Circus Contraption during Fringe Fest '99, the lure of the circus proved irresistable. She began training in acrobatics and aerial work in early 1999 and forms one-half of an acrobalancing team with husband Jason Williams, performing under the name Acrophelia. Evelyn makes her living as a veterinarian and feline behavior consultant.
Sari Breznau / Pinky d'Ambrosia
vocalist, trumpet strumpet, dancer, Opera Diva, costumer
The siren song of Sari Breznau makes men swoon. And she makes a mean fruit smoothie, to boot.
After 11 years in New York City, Erin Brindley returned to her hometown of Seattle to join the Circus. In New York she received her BFA in drama from NYU, founded and continues to act as Artistic Director for Ripple Productions, acted as Managing Director of Storahtelling, and directed numerous acclaimed theatrical productions off-off Broadway in NY, many of them original ensemble created work. People who know her laugh when they hear she is playing the straight man to this merry band of misfits.
David Crellin / Armitage Shanks
co-founder, ringmaster, vocalist, percussionist, songwriter, maskmaker, fire-eater
David Crellin is co-founder of Circus Contraption and as his circus alter-ego/nom de guerre, Armitage Shanks, performs in the roles of ringmaster, vocalist and writer.
He travels both nationally and internationally as a Compere/Singer. Recent projects include The London Burlesque Festival, Amsterdam's Paleis van de Weemoed & The Supper Club and in the States at The New York Burlesque Festival, Le Scandal and The Slipper Room. His work was recently featured in the December 2008 issue of French Playboy.
He co-authors & directs works for The Squirm Burpee Circus, Viva Oz Vegas and The Can Can Cabaret. He also teaches art and video through Arts Corps, a non-profit organization that provides quality arts learning opportunities to all young people, regardless of resources or income.
Find out more about Armitage Shanks at www.myspace.com/armitagephineasshanks.
Max Davis / Fresco Rose
acrobat, aerialist, mover and shaker
Max is a wonder to behold.
Colin Ernst / Ernesto Cellini
juggler, trombonist, welder, contraption engineer, composer, cone man, master whistler
Hailing from New York by way of Prague, juggler Colin Ernst plays a monk when he's not a Kohlrabi or a caveman. His solo show, "The Adventures of the Merry Monk and Frog Prince Freddy," debuted at the 1999 Seattle Fringe Festival. He fabricates metal sculpture for a living.
Kevin Hinshaw / Chameleo
clarinetist, music director, pianist, composer, webmaster, director of small packages
Kevin Hinshaw began playing clarinet in sixth grade to escape the tortures of speech class. Over 25 years and one PhD dissertation later, he is still playing. He has performed with several bands and orchestras, and is a co-founder of the gypsy brass band Orkestar Zirkonium. He joined Circus Contraption in 2000.
Kevin is also a self-taught pianist and composer who has written works ranging in scope from solo piano to concert band. Got a circus song stuck in your head? It's probably his fault. (Or Shmootzi's.)
Jenny Iacobucci / Nova Jo Yaco
hat trickster, dancer, stilt walker, puppeteer, aardvark, giant beetle, costumer, ravioli artist
Nova Jo Yaco (a.k.a. Penny Pockets, a.k.a. Beetle Girl, a.k.a. Hey You!) Born in a small crevice to a very large creepy crawly. Nova Jo enjoys tasty tidbits of the Italian persuasion and is easily won over by talking frogs. She'll gladly show you what's in her pocket.
Drew Keriakedes / Shmootzi the Clod
sousaphonist, ukelelist, accordionist, banjo man, vocalist, songwriter, tutu wearer
Shmootzi the Clod is very pleased to meet you. How pleased? Visit his own web page to find out: www.myspace.com/shmootzitheclod.
Whitney Lawless/Delphinia Spit
clown, acrobat, costumer, exuberant
Whitney acquired a fancy for brazen vulnerability in utero, whilst gurgling french with one foot behind her head. These days she sews wonder into daily life as she accompanies herself irreverently in various pursuits of balance. She also reads while walking, teaches yoga and melts chocolate with her bare hands.
Matt Manges / Bunny LaMonte
drummer, aerialist, acrobat, carpenter, songwriter, stuntman extraordinaire
Not satisfied to sit at the drum kit all night long, Matt Manges is now Circus Contraption's resident stuntman extraordinaire. Hoo! Hah!
Kari Podgorski / Sally Pepper
aerialist, dancer, acrobat, costumer, stilt walker
Sally Pepper has been playing with Circus Contraption since 2001, displaying a dizzying array of skills ranging from hula hooping, tap dancing, stilting, tumbling, group acrobatics, and roller skating, to singing and bottle-tootin', to floating through the skies on her cloud swing! She also sews up a pretty mean costume.
Terry Podgorski / The Carnie
production manager, set designer, master carpenter, Monday Man
Terry Podgorski has the inauspicious misfortune of being Circus Contraption's only non-performing member. He thus gets to do double the work for half the glory. So if you happen to see him, thank him twice.
Though just a baby, Orycteropus Afer is a cornerstone member of the circus. Born into the family Orycteropodidae in her native Africa, she was orphaned at birth -- the sole survivor of the order Tubulidentata -- and adopted by the Circus Contraption family in 1998. Ory keeps us up at night, refusing her soymilk bottle and crying for insect flesh.
Lara Paxton / Darty Kangoo
co-founder, artistic director, aerialist, dancer, costumer, acrobat, insect tamer, aardvark, stilt walker, fortune teller
Lara Paxton, aka Darty Kangoo is one co-founder of Circus Contraption, which was born of a desire to collaborate with her partner, Armitage Shanks, and to explore the wrinkles and folds of circus, performance art, maskwork, dance, visual art, psychedelia, and surrealism. She is involved in many areas of Circus Contraption's creation, including maskmaking, costuming, propmaking, and choreography.
Her dream is to see Circus Contraption perform under their own small "big top," and to continue exploring and expressing the continuum of living experience, states of consciousness, and the strange beauty of the manifestworld. She appreciates the unexpected, the dark, the disturbing, and the non sequitur. She rejects the question, "Why?" as applied to art.
Hugh Sutton / Salamity Clam
Status: Top Secret.
Location: Top Secret.
Skills: Top Secret.
Jeff Walker / Buster Speck
The circus is counting its blessings to be graced by the talents of Jeff Walker. On sabbatical after 13 years with the Budapest All-Trombone Orchestra, he is enjoying the relative quiet of Seattle.
Annastasia Workman / Esmeralda Diamond
accordion player, piano player, barrel racing champion
Torn between the wild west and the cosmopolitan city life, Annastasia lives in a state of acute imbalance and unpredictability, making her a natural fit for the Circus Contraption. Having bullied her way into the band using menacing body language and outright threats, she now has an outlet for both of her personalities by way of the accordion, piano, glockenspiel, and especially, the flute.
Jason Williams / Dr. Loligo Calamari
acrobat, rigger, contraption engineer, stilt walker, giant housefly, person of interest, Odditorium proprietor
The police dropped off Jason Williams at his parents' house at the tender age of two. The events between that night and his arrival at Michigan State University are a blur. At MSU, he spent most of his time making amateur films and collecting insects. Finally sent packing with an interdisciplinary degree in Technical Theatre, Entomology, and English, he made his way to San Francisco. There he experimented in several behavioral extremes, alienated everyone he had ever known, and took up Scuba diving, Capoeira, and Skydiving. After a brief stint as a commercial diver on oilrigs in the Gulf of Mexico, he realized what he really wanted to be was a sensitive artist. Instead he joined Circus Contraption.
Our distinguished alumni
Greg Adair / Harold Smaude
terminal accordionist, chronic banjoleptic, painter and illustrator, man of misfortune
If you were 12 feet tall--and didn't sink in the muddy bottom--you could walk anywhere, like Harold Smaude. The word "walk" is used advisedly, for no matter what tales Sinbad the Sailor may have told about being borne off by a huge flying bird, Harold Smaude definitely could not have been guilty; he is as earthbound as the dodo--and he is not a bird...
"Is there any excitement left to give a man who free-falls from ten thousand feet?" asks Hamilton Milton, a world-renowned ornithologist and authority on Harold Smaude. "He wears danger like an accessory, challenges the wind, and goes where few men have gone."
About seven miles south of Acapulco (by rented car, jeep, or taxi), sleeps the picturesque little coastal village of Puerto Marques. Park anywhere and ask anyone where you can find Harold Smaude. Harold speaks English.
And for a few pesos, Harold will take you rowing through the jungle waterways of Puerto Marques.
In the subtle light of early morning or late afternoon, (preferrably), it's a boat ride (complete with the exotic sounds of the tropics) you'll never forget.
"I call them as I see them," says Harold Smaude astutely of his policy directive, "There are no sacred cows."
"I think flowers are one of the nicest parts of our way of life in Puerto Marques. There are so many of them all around us that we can use them extravagantly. We wear them in our hair, we fill our houses with them, we bestow them on friends at every coming and going and special occasion. Flowers are really the symbol of Puerto Marques."
Of course, the timber interests also heard of the Flowers of Puerto Marques and soon began to move in...
"What a place to hunt for a stray cow!" exclaimed Harold Smaude to the intruders. Although this comment hardly expressed the proper appreciation for his predicament, it sufficiently warded off the attackers, and Puerto Marques remains to this day a stunning spectacle when the sun shines, an enchanted land on a clear, calm, silent night, a haven for magnificent stalks of yellow or purple flowers on Sundays, and a year-round vacation spot for thousands of lovely girls in search of unlimited quantities of orange juice, and world-class tennis players.
clown from Oblivia
Our beloved Pavel now wanders the streets of Berlin, dreaming of a juggling ant circus. Luckily, he keeps in touch via his Clowning Around Berlin website.
juggler, reverend, dada-ist
The Reverend James Jay presides over weddings in addition to playing the part of a Kohlrabi Brother/Cousin. With greater gravity, he preaches the words of William Blake in his solo show, The Animated Blake. For more information, see www.JamesJay.com.
Melissa Kerber trained and performed with Robert Davidson, starting in 1993. She has been dancing professionally in Seattle since 1992 with local choreographers A.C. Peterson, Crispin Spaeth and Ronly Blau. She teaches trapeze at the University of Washington and has a private practice in massage and pilates.
(The Twins) Spencer and Gary Luke
Spencer the Raustabout is good for haulin' heavy objects, makin' coffee, and beatin' away the local rubes if they are itchin' for a fight. He also plays the six notes that he knows on the tuba well enough ... as long as the band stays in a minor key. Don't turn your back, 'though! He has been known to attempt juggling now and then (especially if those mutant Kohlrabi Brothers are around and they get to drinkin'). Our apologies to the Kenosha Elks Club and the Wisconsin State Patrol for that unsightly "Tripe Incident." We can't get mad at them though ... They're circus folk. What do you expect?
Spencer can also be seen in our human oddities show (One Thin Dime!). Don't tell people what you MIGHT have seen. Bring your girlfriend ... she might just hold your hand.) Spencer appears as the one and only "OLDEST MALE MAJORETTE." John Phillips Sousa would have been proud to see him twirl away and strut his stuff ... in the modern miracle of LYCRA!
His twin brother, Gary Luke, is just the opposite ... quite normal. He can be seen teaching high school German and History, making pottery and saving kittens. The only shared personality trait that we can see is the fact that he was a street performer in Germany for a few years.... Before he SOLD OUT and left the circus life to his illegitimate kin.