#475: How They Joined the Circus — Captain Hammer and the Groupie

May 11th, 2015

Eric did flips at 47th and Michigan.

Kae broke her back in Ohio.

Jim got slapped at a Bruce Wayne fundraiser.

And Julie had too much to drink one night.

That’s how they joined the circus.

Last month, we met Acrobatica Infiniti, the nerd circus. The acrobat collective has Jedi who juggle, Aquaman aerialists, bipedal B-Boy bactrosaurs and other acts, alliterative or not, that combine circus and nerd cultures.

It also has talented professionals who have dedicated their lives and bodies to an often unappreciated art form.

Over the next few weeks, illustrator Emily Torem and I will be looking at how a few of them joined the circus.

“I was about 18 and super-drunk and was trying to sign up for pole dancing classes online and accidentally signed up for trapeze instead,” said Julie Marshall, 22.

Marshall, already a dancer and performer, decided to roll with it. She went to the trapeze class, and once she got there, was sold.

“I dropped out of art school to join the circus, and you can imagine how excited my parents are,” she said.

She talks quickly, skittering like lightning through topics and the room. Red hair, blue eyes and an expressive face that flits from wide smiles to mock stage anger as she tells stories of her four years in Chicago’s circus community.

“Chicago’s a big hub for circus,” Marshall said.

She’s dressed identically to the tall man next to her. To get eyes on the troupe’s later-successful Kickstarter campaign, the nerd acrobats had come out in force, filling Wicker Park’s Geek Bar Beta with superheroes, Jedi, Doctors Who and, in the case of the identically dressed paired acrobatics partners, Captain Hammer and a groupie from “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.”

Jim Priz plays the online movie’s insufferable superhero Captain Hammer.

Marshall and Priz performed adagio at Geek Bar. Also known as partner acro, it’s paired acrobatics with Jim (the base) hoisting Julie (the flier) in the air where she balanced in elegant and physically taxing poses as they wandered the geek-themed bar.

“Different people call it different things,” Captain Hammer said.

If Julie is lightning, Jim’s thunder. She talks quickly, he laughs deeply. He’s tall and broad and charmingly smug, which he said isn’t so much a result of the Captain Hammer role as the reason he likes the Captain Hammer role.

When not doing circus, Priz, 36, is a martial artist and stunt man, appearing mostly in small independent movies, with the occasional blockbuster like “Divergent” and “Dark Knight.”

“Some of that, the tumbling and the body sense and the air sense stuff translates a little bit, but a lot of it is completely different,” he said.

For “Dark Knight,” he got off-screen smacked by Heath Ledger’s Joker and appeared on screen at Bruce Wayne’s fundraiser for Harvey Dent.

“I’m there raising a glass saying, ‘Yep, I agree with everything you say, Mr. Wayne,’” Priz said.

He got involved four years ago at the age of 32. His brother was taking circus classes and it sounded fun. Priz signed up to learn trapeze.

“I am not very good at the trapeze,” the 6 foot 4 Priz said, chuckling. “It turns out someone my size should not be flying through the air.”

“But he can lift pretty girls in the air,” Marshall chimed in.

Priz agreed, nodding in Marshall’s direction. They’ve been doing partner acro together for the last two years, dating slightly less time.

“I mean, if you’re going to be having your hands on each other like that, that’s what’s going to happen,” Marshall said, laughing.

Art by Emily Torem

Come back over the next few weeks to meet more of Acrobatica Infiniti

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You are currently reading #475: How They Joined the Circus — Captain Hammer and the Groupie by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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