Mechanical madness comes to Pound, Virginia, in circus performances | Art and theatre

Contributed report

POUND, Va. — Enter the most unlikely circus setting: a factory. One where the workers are acrobats and the machines are circus props. Welcome to “Birdhouse Factory”! The Pro-Art Association presents Las Vegas-based circus troupe Cirque Mechanics for a one-of-a-kind performance on Sunday, February 6 at 2 p.m. at the Wise County Performing Arts Center at the JW Adams Combined School in Pound, Virginia.

See a contortionist perform on a turntable powered by unicycles. Witness the trapeze artist soaring high thanks to an acrobat’s spins in a giant gear-like wheel. Marvel as the trampoline wall artists defy the laws of physics by flying and walking virtually in the air. Laugh at the antics of the characters, marvel at the acro-dances and be enchanted by the story of laughter, love, flies and birdhouses.

Cirque Mechanics, inspired by modern circus, finds its roots in the mechanical and its heart in stories of American ingenuity, wrapped in circus acrobatics, mechanical wonders and a bit of clowning. “Birdhouse Factory” toured the United States and Europe for 10 years, inspiring and entertaining audiences and critics. The New York Times found this circus performance “exceptional, evocative … and captivatingly entertaining.”

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“Birdhouse Factory” was inspired in part by the masterful industrial murals of Mexican-born artist Diego Rivera, the outrageous illustrations by cartoonist Rube Goldberg, and the slapstick humor of Charlie Chaplin’s film “Modern Times”. While these inspirations make “Birdhouse Factory” artsy, nostalgic and funny, the true essence of the show comes from the circus.

This is a simple story of everyday life in a ‘widgets’ factory circa 1935, where workers are brought together by the most unlikely of events, a bird accidentally injured by the main steam boiler. The misfortune and caring for the bird brings the workers closer and inspires them to break with the efficiency and monotony of the assembly line mentality and show their true inner talents and abilities. In doing so, they use their bodies and machines to build birdhouses in a less efficient, but joyful and soulful way.

“Birdhouse Factory” delivers a timeless message of hope, camaraderie and the strength of the human spirit that works together in the face of adversity. Though conceptualized before the pandemic and inspired by the Great Depression, “Birdhouse Factory” addresses the challenges facing industry and workers in unprecedented times. The story is one of imaginative recovery, where people create magic when they work together towards common goals.

General admission tickets are $15 at the door, and all children and students are free to attend. Pro-Art subscriptions are honored for this performance. Season tickets can be purchased at proartva.org, in person at each show, or by calling 276-376-4520. To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, customers are required to wear a mask for the duration of the performance.

Pro-Art works together with different locations; therefore, individuals with mobility issues are encouraged to call or email the Pro-Art office to make arrangements for parking. For changing circumstances related to the global pandemic, severe weather or similar contingencies, customers are encouraged to visit proartva.org or call 276-376-4520 for current information.

Pro-Art’s mission is to promote the arts and increase the accessibility of cultural experiences for residents and students in Wise, Lee and Dickenson counties and the city of Norton. For more information on scheduled performances, please visit proartva.org. You can find the Pro-Art Association on social media @ProArtVA.

Pro-Art is supported in part by a grant from the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the Slemp Foundation, The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, and Mountain Empire Community College. If you have any questions, please visit proartva.org, call the office at 276-376-4520, or email pro-art@uvawise.edu.

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