The story of Q Artistry is a bit like a fairy tale.
Not the kind that ends with being swept off to success, but one where Q overcame daunting odds to create their own story. And it's a story that Ben Asaykwee writes year after year.
Starting next Thursday, Q will present on their third round of ZirkusGrimm
, a musical mashup of Brothers Grimm fairy tales told through a band of former convicts turned circus performers. Asaykwee plays the ringmaster and each main character reflects ideals from nearly every Brothers Grimm story.
"The show is designed around, not just Brothers Grimm fairy tales and not just circus-style performers," says Asaykwee. "But the whole concept of the show is that we all represent a facet of the soul. So there are three sections: passion, cleverness and strength. And how those stories — why they resonate so much with us and why they still do for so many decades, centuries really — [do well is] because they represent some of those core parts of ourselves, regardless of what the moral is in the end. ... It doesn't matter, because it still strikes a chord in us somewhere."
The three ideals are reminiscent of a three-ring circus.
"Just like the circus, these stories have more going on than you are really seeing," says Asaykwee. "You could say 'well they are kids' stories and that's why they stick with us.' But it's more than that; even as adults, we are kind of drawn to them. Sometimes it's in a nostalgic way. ... But take the story of Cinderella for example. The story of Cinderella has exponentially changed women. It has created a situation for women to battle out of.
"The story is kind of a morality story on changing things for yourself," says Asaykwee. "Yeah, she is sitting around waiting but she allows the change to happen. She wanted something more."
And that's often pushed forward by an opposing force. One of the songs in ZirkusGrimm
explores the necessity of having an antagonist in our lives.
"We draw attention to why is there always a stepmother," says Asaykwee. "... In life, if we didn't have those moments of challenge, the floods and the hurricanes and whatnot, then sometimes we would never see how far we can reach or how awesome we can be."
He compared the idea to the dominant discourse in America today. Now, says Asaykwee, there's a dialogue and action plans coming to fruition to combat social injustice. But for Q, and for so many small arts organizations, the idea of a stepmother can be something as simple as financing the next show.
"Constantly you are running into things, whether it's something as mundane as money," says Asaykwee. "As a small theater company, we don't have any money. That doesn't sound like a stepmother, but when it comes to having these broad visions and these fantastic ideas, [it's] 'Well, if we only had the money to do that.' But, then, that's what makes it awesome. One of my general themes since we started running is we are going to do this on purpose; we are going to make it on purpose.
Asaykwee cites Q play Cabaret Poe
as a prime example. The costumes in that show were some of their most expensive, but Asaykwee wanted to make sure they were exactly what they needed. Even if it meant cutting a check from his own bank account.
"Literally my hand was shaking writing the check, like, 'I hope this show works,'" laughs Asaykwee.
Making creative choices like that are part of what paves the success of Q's shows.
"[Without the struggle] we would have never achieved some of — what I consider to be — our best endeavors, if it would have been easy in that way," says Asaykwee.
Editor's note: Will McCarty, one of the founders of Q Artistry, is on staff at NUVO.