Amancay Kugler ’15 Launches Circus Arts Company
Yes Ma’am Circus has performed to critical acclaim in Chicago and Philadelphia so far.
There’s just one ring in this circus, not three, and not a single elephant or tiger walks across the stage. Instead, Yes Ma’am Circus, made up of four performers plus a narrator/clown, re-enacts classic stories through aerial skills, juggling, partner acrobatics, and other circus arts.
Cofounded by Amancay (Candal Tribe) Kugler ’15, the Chicago-based circus arts company launched in early 2018. “Cirque du Soleil is the big one when you think of circus arts,” explains Kugler. “Unlike traditional circuses, we focus more on the human body and emotions and use unusual apparatus to tell a story. The circus is our artistic medium.”
Yes Ma’am’s first show, It’s Not Me, It’s You: A Paradise Lost Reimagining, pulls from John Milton’s original text, as well as from the Bible and other sources. The idea for the show was conceived by Kugler, whose husband, Matthew, a Northwestern University law professor and the show’s narrator, wrote the bulk of the script.
The Argentine-born Kugler moved to the United States at age 3 and grew up doing a bit of everything, she says, from gymnastics and dance to musicals, marching band, drama, and choir. “I couldn’t settle on one art form. I just loved moving.” At Haverford she majored in psychology and dance, and intended to be a children’s social worker. “But I realized I really liked dance and that I could major in it,” she says. “And I was way too sensitive to children’s pain, so that was going to be a terrible career choice.”
Kugler discovered circus arts the first semester of her junior year, during a study away program at Philadelphia’s Headlong Performance Institute. The following spring, Kugler commuted to a weekly class at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts and realized she both loved and had a talent for the skills she was learning.
After graduation, Kugler married and moved to Chicago, where her husband had a clerkship with a judge; she enrolled in a full-time, nine-month program at Aloft Circus Arts, majoring in aerial hoop and aerial sling. She also met Yes Ma’am’s current artistic director, Maggie Karlin, there. Along with two other women who studied circus arts in Chicago, Kugler and Karlin formed Yes Ma’am, which is an acronym of their initials (Maggie, Amancay, Athena, and Myriam).
The company premiered It’s Not Me, It’s You in Chicago in August, then took the show to Philadelphia for two performances at Venice Island Performing Arts Center in October. The Philadelphia booking was facilitated by actor/director Ryan Rebel ’14, whose Shoe Box theater company is based at Venice Island.
After the Philadelphia performances, Kugler and the company will dive into devising their next piece, a production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. They hope to have the premiere next spring or early summer in Chicago. “We’ll bring in two additional cast members to work with us as clowns in the subplot,” Kugler says excitedly. “It’s going to be a good show.”