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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 1, 2007

'Birdhouse Factory' comes to Hancher Oct. 19 and 20

Circus, acrobatics, theater and early-20th-century machines will breathtakingly combine when Cirque-Works presents "Birdhouse Factory," a unique family show at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19, and 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, in the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium.

At a fun-filled fantasy factory in which Rube Goldberg-like devices provide the setting and the power for remarkable athletic and acrobatic feats of fancy, the flight of a single bird transforms everything.

"Birdhouse Factory" was inspired by Diego Rivera's Detroit industry murals, the outrageous illustrations of Rube Goldberg, and the slaptstick Charlie Chaplin film "Modern Times." A theatrical setting filled with wheels, cables, gears, pulleys and cranks, "Birdhouse Factory" features sharply etched characters who juggle, tumble, balance, contort, fly, clown and climb.

And the performance -- featuring veterans of Cirque du Soleil, the Pickle Family Circus and the Moscow Circus -- combines the best of Chinese and American approaches to presenting the circus and acrobatic arts.

For example, a Chinese-style contortionist performs on a platform rotated by two unicyclists, and a trapeze artist flies high thanks to the spins of an acrobat inside a giant gearwheel.

Calling "Birdhouse Factory" "the most important contribution to the American circus since Cirque du Soleil," Robert Hurwitt wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle, "The beauty in 'Birdhouse' lies in the generosity with which the acts are layered upon each other and the superb integration of circus skills and music, light and choreography . . . and the glory is in the excellence of its performers."

A review in Spectacle magazine asserted that "Birdhouse Factory," "is the must-see show if you want to have a look at what is new and innovative and exciting in the American circus. . . (It's) fascinating entertainment featuring world-class talent, an original score, and an innovative concept. . . It was an experience I haven't stopped thinking about for weeks afterwards."

The show was first produced by the Circus Center of San Francisco and the Pickle Family Circus, which has performed both on the Hancher stage and in a bigtop on the Hancher green.

The show was conceived and realized by three veterans of Cirque du Soleil -- creative director Chris Lashua, co-director Aloysia Gavre and "Captain of the Funny" Steve Ragatz.

Lashua, the wheel-crazy guy who first conceived of the show, spent a decade in freestyle bicycle competitions before touring with Cirque du Soleil for six years as the opening act in "Quidam." During his time with the tour, he developed a series of ever-more-ingenious machines that evolved into the factory works of the new show.

Gavre performed a featured aerial hoop act in the Cirque du Soleil production "O" and "Quidam," and collaborated with Lashua in experimentation with the new machines.

And Ragatz, a multi-purpose clown, juggler, stilt-walker and all-around laugh maker who spent six years with Cirque du Soleil, has been featured on TV shows including "The Tonight Show" and "The Rosie O'Donnell Show."

The "Birdhouse Factory" performances are supported by Cedar Graphics Inc.; Iowa State Bank & Trust Company; Scheels All Sports; Sheraton Iowa City Hotel; and an anonymous family foundation through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Tickets for Cirque-Works "Birdhouse Factory" are $36/32/30; UI student $32.40/15; senior citizen $32.40/28.80/27; youth $25.20/22.40/21.

Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial 319-335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial 319-335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets may be ordered online 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher's website:

Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail at

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Aida Lashua, Wheelwork Arts, LLC, 800-770-1694 ext. 6,; Winston Barclay, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0073 (office), 319-430-1013 (cell),

PHOTOS are available at