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Happenstance Theater

Happenstance Theater, one of the Washington metropolitan area’s premier performance ensembles, is committed to devising, producing, and touring original, performer-created visual, poetic theater. The six-member ensemble is made up of multi-talented performers who craft all aspects of their work from concept and design to realization. They identify with artists from a variety of circus-related and inspired traditions including commedia dell’arte, vaudeville, clown, mime, and physical theater.

Under the artistic co-direction of Mark Jaster and Sabrina Mandell, they harvest imagery from the past and re-contextualize it in contemporary theatrical works that address themes of life and death. With the simplest means—humor, music, movement, silence, text, and beauty—they seek to elevate the moment when performers and audience meet, lift the encounter beyond the daily and pedestrian, and pass through to realms of dreams, poetry, and art intimately and directly experienced.

Life’s meanings are often discovered by pure happenstance. Visitors to the 2017 Folklife Festival will have the chance to make some discoveries of their own by experiencing the circus arts as presented by and together with the artists of Happenstance Theater.


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