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About Mara

Mara Neimanis creates theatre in the air using suspended steel sculptures and invented aerial apparatus. Drawing on traditions of Mask Performance, Clown, and Commedia dell' Arte, her work integrates circus arts with physical acting to create stories, text, characters, and time which explore the rich interplay of imagination between air and ground. Mara just returned from Brighton England where she was the featured performer for Dementia Care Matters 5th Congress performing Noami's Flight and teaching... more

In-Flight Theater Classes, Residencies, Workshops, and new book

In-Flight Theater/Mara Neimanis teaches an array of aerial classes that focus on risk taking, aerial technique, and creating new forms of theater. In-Flight uses aerialism in non traditional ways to cross over personal boundaries and limitations. Classes are on going in Baltimore. Mara also conducts classes and performances, in residencies here and abroad. Mara is currently artist in residence at The Studios Of Key West where she is teaching aerial workshops, performing her solo show Naomi's Flight, and using residency time to create a new book, On Creating An Aerial Theatre, to be published in 2015.

  • Stevenson University Project, Gravity Stories

    The piece combined and original script that I wrote based on stories that the students had about the media, corporations, and society post 9/11. Sculpture by Tim Scofield. A engaging semester residency
  • Solstice Recital, Creating Aerial Performance

    This was a group spanning from ages 7-65. Artist Kini Collins, acupuncturist Martha Rogers, OSI fellow Maya Kosak just to name a few of the students involved, who were involved in this truly gem of a 3 month class with amazing students!
  • Private Aerial Classes

    Private aerial classes work with individual schedules and provide an intensive learning experience fit for the needs and abilities of each student. For adults, kids and teens. All levels.
  • Flying Over 40

    Spin, float, and glide on low flying trapezes and suspended metal aerial sculptures as vehicles to investigate physical play, communication, strength, and stereotypes we have about age. Class will focus on creating a fuller sense of self- awareness on and off the ground while learning basic aerial techniques. Sessions are taught in an atmosphere of safety and respect as we explore balance, risk, and the flying feminine beyond age! No experience necessary.
  • Naomi's Flight/ performance at The Studios Of Key West

    "Naomi's Flight is theater like you've never seen before; a sixty minute solo aerial performance that takes place on three asymmetrical suspended steel sculptures. Written and performed by Mara Neimanis, the play is carved out of personal experience, telling the love story of George, an 80 year old caregiver, and his wife Naomi, stricken with diabetes, and diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
  • The Studio's Of Key West Residency Artist's

    "The Studios Of Key West provides a collaborative and supportive environment for creative experience; we offer studio space, lectures, workshops, residencies, and partnership projects; we nurture the creation of work, build audiences, and support the advancement of established and emerging artists internationally and in the Florida keys. The residency program grants nearly 35 artists each year the opportunity to imagine, new artistic work, engage in valuable dialogue, and explore island connections with the hope that visiting artists will take inspiration form Key West's rich artist
  • Aerial Objects Class

    Develop aerial skills on invented apparatus and conventional objects while stretching you imagination and developing new physical ability and strength. We will experiment with risk, height, & gravity. A GREAT workout! Some athletic experience a plus. (3 inches off the ground is an important aspect of getting 10 feet off and then 20 feet. Beautiful students!)

The Snow Queen

The Snow Queen is a sixty minute aerial and mask performance that incorporates a hearing and deaf cast. Set atop floating ice castles, amidst magical masked and flying forest creatures, both speech and sign are set in a context of ground and air in telling this famous Hans Christian Andersen dark tale about love, friendship, and courage. The Snow Queen premiered in January 2008 at Quest Fest Baltimore as a result of a five-month process of daily aerial training and ensemble development. Using a mixed ability cast facilitated a way of devising a common stage language based on the partnership with gravity and the interpretation of topography both on and off the ground. This, in turn allowed for an audience that is hearing and deaf to come together in a shared experience where no translation is necessary. In this process, the ensemble created a narrative derived from a common physical experience that is athletically rigorous, based in collective risk taking, and channeled through fully embodied acting choices. The work has been fueled by respect for Andersen's story and the children that he wrote for. In The Snow Queen, the fact that Monique Holt is deaf is not an exception. The cast, the story, and the audience are bonded in the fact that communication literally happens in and on various levels. The Snow Queen attempts to illustrate characters that go beyond normal limits. It is an example of theatre that contains real and imagined risk and puts an individual who has a supposed disability into a place of empowerment.
The Snow Queen is perhaps Hans Christian Andersen's darkest and strangest story. It has held me captive since I was a little girl when my grandparents first introduced me to this tale. As a child, the themes of courage, selflessness and love against all odds executed by a child empowered my sense of being a child and how children can be very brave. In our current economic and environmental crises, the themes of courage, service, and truth of heart seem particularly relevant and paramount to incorporate into our lives and communities than ever before. I believe that Hans Christian Andersen himself would agree with the assessment that how we hear depends on how we listen-how we speak depends on how language is manifested. Gravity is a great truth teller in how we communicate and how effective we are in our honesty. Creating The Snow Queen was a many-layered process. I hope the performance serves as a reminder of Andersen's vision that we can and do transform through love, and that courage is a part of the journey homeward.
Featuring Mara Neimanis, Monique Holt, Ben King, Timothy Chamberlain, Bryce Butler
Conceived and Aerial Training by Mara and created by the ensemble, Masks by Bryce Butler

Photos by Elliot Lieberman

The Baltimore Alley Aerial Festival

The Baltimore Alley Aerial Festival took place in a wondrous graffiti alleyway behind Load Of Fun on the corner of North Ave and Howard in Baltimore. I created the Festival in order to provide a unique performance venue for audiences of all kinds and for aerialists, (who never get their own event but rather perform as a part of a variety showcases), and as a way for Tim Scofield to present his large scale work. I felt a need to introduce audiences (and aerialists, for that matter) to the variety of what aerial work can be beyond Circue Du Soliel. I also wanted to bring the Baltimore and DC Aerial community together. All of this in a very specific space that is considered urban, unsafe, and unfamiliar. For three days of the festival and for 3 years, aerialists transformed the alleyway into a space of flight that celebrates our city and the urban art of graffiti. Performances of athleticism, sculpture, and beauty for audiences of every age, race, and back round came together in the swirling, whirling color images and messages on the walls. The festival upheld In-Flight Theater's mission "to seek and support the exploration of aerialism as a pioneering form of performance that has the potential to transform a community and a place". We doubled our audiences every year and wound up creating an event that was enormously lucrative and never lost its magic. Although In-Flight created and produced the festival annually until the tragic shut down of Load of Fun, it would be nothing without the exceptional hearts and talents of the performers who have included over the years; The amazing work of Tim Scofield,Trixie Little and The Evil Hate Monkey, Arachne Aerial Arts, Eric Gorsuch, Updraft; A Conspiracy Of Movement, The DC Aerial Collective, Kristen Faber and Jessica Buccaro, Eric Gorsuch, Echo, Kate Wilson, Meagan Berg just to name a few. To this day, it is one of the most exciting events I have created to honor Baltimore and allow for poetry to fly and transform the very air of the city. I said it then and I say it now, "Let your imagination fly"! Amazing things can happen when truth and love and permission come together in a city.

Photos by Julia Pearson

  • The Teeter Totter During the day performance

    Featured, Tim Scofield, Mara Neimanis.
  • Close up and upside down, up on the roof of The United Sanitary building in a 2 ton machine that one wears and moves

    Ready for the new age of flight on Scofield sculpture. DaVinci's prodigal son.
  • The Tower

    "The Boss" (Tim Scofield) & The Other One (Mara Neimanis) in clown duet The Tower. Danger and clowning goes together well on sculpture
  • We Await You

    The objects call to me, 'use me, fly with me, I will take you to magic"
  • Awaiting Our Cue On the Roof Of The United Sanitary Building

    The United Sanitary Building has been on the corner of Howard and North Ave and owned by Lanny's family for over 30 years. It shares the alleyway with Load Of Fun. We were allowed to bring the 2 ton "Flying Machine" up on the roof with the help of Lanny's staff and fork lifts so that we could perform and make our surprise entrance from there. Only in Baltimore, folks. Only in Baltimore
  • Watching Flight

    The Alleyway alight with color, flight, whirling graffiti, and Baltimore love.
  • The Tower, 2010

    On the aerial sculpture, The Tower, sculpted by Tim Scofield (also performing) the apparatus has its own geographic world. Like any geography, it is distinct, has its own customs, speaks its own way, and has a particular feel, smell, and locomotion. So do the clowns who at this performance, smelled very distinctly performing in a 99 degree summer night!
  • Encountering #1, 2009

    On The aerial sculpture, The Teeter Totter, sculpted by Tim Scofield (also performing), Encounterings #1 explores hovering, reaching out, counterbalance, flying in great speed but never reaching one another as a prelude to Encounterings #2. Both pieces take us to a collective place of understood symbol and image that informs a narrative of our need to connect and the obstacles real or imagined that stop us. Circles turn into other circles, virtuosity in using the parameters of building walls as part of the drama creates site-specific stories. We meet somehow, or do we?
  • Encounterings #2, 2009

    On the aerial sculpture, "The Flying Machine", sculpted by Tim Scofield (also performing), Encounterings #2 explores counterbalance as metaphor and function and our often futile attempt to connect and hold each other-the fleeting nature of relationship. In this work, the apparatus is what we wear, what we are affected by, what we partner with and our conflict in reaching one another. The sculpture becomes part of the body and thereby extends expression through machinery; magically giving the soul housed in the body and machinery vulnerability. Photos by Julia Pearson

For That Which Returns

I often start the process of creating a piece with a particular piece of music that invokes something in me. Writing and creating For That Which Returns was no different but it happened in a strange chronology.
I first met musician Helen Chadwick in Punta Uva, on the southern coast of Costa Rica in October 2010. We had been working on Teatro Abya Yala’s intense all female production of Vacio at different times. Rest from the project brought us both to Punta Uva at the same time. We were told that we would no doubt meet one another and become fast friends, and indeed that is exactly what happened. Both of us independent artists (Helen from the UK), pioneering new forms in our trained back rounds and about the same age. In such an idyllic place, we found ourselves talking about how the recession in the U.K. for her and in the U.S. for me was influencing how we created and the subject matter we were choosing. We talked about our age and our energy and we talked about our parents aging, the cycles we were experiencing in ourselves as daughters becoming mothers to our parents and what that was doing to what and how we created as well. I returned to the states to a phone message from Arachne Aerial Arts. Andrea Burkholder & Sharon Whiting were interested in collaborating on a large project, perhaps a full length theater piece. Our conversations were many but led to the myth of Persephone and Demeter and the cycles of mothers and daughters. It was as if Helen was in my studio and the myth was following me from Costa Rica waiting for some response.
This piece has been in process for almost 2 years. In this time it seems as if Demeter and Persephone have come alive in our lives and taken form in metaphor as well as in reality. Scripting the work has often been arduous, the rehearsal schedules challenging, and the process of forming one world of the play with performers from different skill sets (aerial dance and aerial theater) was a major push under the watchful eye of director Bryce Butler. Through it all however, the work has been about finding truth, connection in our own techniques, cycles, and the importance of story telling. We often doubt the importance of our own story; we lose the fact that our social imagination is not actually fueled by Face book or Twitter but in something much more intimate and at the same time universal. This piece is attempts to combine physical craft with story, cycles, myth and metal. We hope this work may inspire an awareness that we are tied to the planet as we are tied to our own families and that we are continually cycling into seasons of our own that match the planet. Call you mother. Take a moment to feel your connection to season, soil, and soul. Written by Mara Neimanis, Featuring Andrea Burkholder, Sharon Witing, Mara Neimanis, Directed by Bryce Butler who also collaborated on script, Sculpture by Tim Scofield, Music by Helen Chadwick.

Out Of the Blue

I woke up one day and out of the blue, I was told that I had a brain tumor. I found that the borders between the soul, the body and the natural world shifted and I was the shape shifter. Out Of The Blue is about that journey, and how my relationship to the animals, and the nature around me remained my constant companion. As ever, the piece is a solo show about relationships of our place in the natural world and the how the balance of the mind in inherent in our behavior

Vacio

In August of 2009 Roxana Avila, the artistic director of Teatro Abya Yala in Costa Rica, contacted me to work on a piece she was creating that involved a 14 woman ensemble, entitled Vacio. She wanted me to train the cast in how to devise theater with aerial elements using invented apparatus and to direct and choreograph 22 aerial scenes with one actress who would be suspended in an apparatus. Vacio premiered in October of 2010. In Feb of 2010 I taught as a guest artist for the theater department of The University of Costa Rica while at the same working for Teatro Abya Yala training the cast. I was paid to return to Costa Rica throughout the year to work on this production.

Vacio mixes dance, song, poetry, biographical material, and aerial elements to investigate images of women-mothers, daughters, aunts, and sisters. The story line is based on letters written by women in a famous Costa Rican insane asylum from 1920-1963 that came into the Costa Rican public domain in 2009. The letters revealed tortured voices of women who begged to get out of the asylum and who were put there due to issues of post pardum depression and domestic violence. The women were told that their letters were being delivered to their families but were, in truth, withheld. Vacio finally made their stories known and integrated the cataclysmic meeting of modern images of women versus traditional images that slammed Costa Rica in the 1950's.

Vacio premiered in October 2010 at The University of Costa Rica. It went on to play at The Theater Nacional for a month run in San Jose, and then on to Spain a year later. It was the first time aerial work had ever been seen in the context of theater in Costa Rica. Roxana and I continue our ongoing conversation about what and how does the female playwright really write. We wonder if there is a whole other way in which to write, report and tell stories as women.

I continue to teach Aerial Theater in Costa Rica and my collaboration with Teatro Abya Yala deepens with another project. The new work, entitled Balagan, will deal with social mediums, urban living, and finding the sacred. Balagan will be performed in a series of mini performances on site through out the city of San Jose and wind up in an abandoned house in the heart of the city.

Teatro Abya Yala is the oldest and only theater company in Costa Rica that integrates new forms of theater in training and performances. My collaboration with them has encouraged new work, new ways of creating, new apparatus, and new community. As I cross cultural and international borders, I find myself aware of the question of what it means to be an American artist at this time. It is a large and challenging question. I am glad to ask it in the company of international artists who feel like home.

Points Of Grief

Points Of Grief is part of a new solo show about loss, connection, and transcendence. Performed on an 8 foot long metal arrow, and other metal sculptures (to be determined), Points Of Grief challenges our western notions of grief and connections. Inspired by the sudden and tragic loss of my one and only sibling, my brother in July 2013, I have found that my grieving is alchemical in nature. I am surprised by what affects me and what does not. I am surprised by the ebb and flow of my physical strength and I find myself changed as a person and artist. “Grief Intelligence: A Primer” by Ashley Davis Bush is a particularly interesting reference. She defines 7 points of grief: 1) Grief is a normal reaction, 2) Grief is hard work, 3) Grief does not offer closure, 4) Grief is lifelong 5) Grievers need to stay connected to the deceased, 6) Grievers are changed forever, 7) Grievers can choose transcendence. These ideas will be explored and integrated into 7 aerial segments with distinct apparatus and text. As an aerial actor, I find that the concept of grief deals with a vertical relationship between heaven and earth in both a tactile and spiritual way-where the great mystery of gravity collides with the reality of it.

  • Points Of Grief (work in progress)

    Performed at Joes Movement Emporium, Mt Ranier, MD November. Creation/Performance: Mara Neimanis, Directed by Bryce Butler, Sculpture by Tim Scofield

Borders And Borderless

Borders and Borderless was an ensemble piece done through a grant from The Native Cultures Fund of California for which I invented a basket like apparatus that metaphorically served as a bridge from the past to the present. The apparatus served as a context for a story dealing with the rich tradition and mythology of basket-making Indians of Northern California including the Hupa, Yurok, Kuruk, Tolowa, , Maidu, Pit River, Painte, and Washo tribes. Consistent in each of their mythologies is the belief that baskets fly around the world at night, carrying the spirit and laughter of the women who make them. Much like the magic toys in the nursery, when morning comes, the basket is back in its place, with only secrets of where it has been.

My script, direction of the piece, and creation process was based on interviews with Juanita Samuels, a 75 year old Yurok/Tolowa elder, and Melanie Lowry, a 19 year old Pit River Indian both of whom come from a long line of renowned basket makers. They appeared in the piece as themselves as well as representatives of specific Native issues. I got the chance to hear from them what it is to be Indian; what is the tactile sense of it, what does it feel like psychologically.

We concentrated on Melanie's experience of being "too white for the Indians, and too Indian for the whites" as she was entering into her junior year of college and was challenged by how to place herself as both traditional and non-traditional. We concentrated on Juanita's view of how to get back to tradition; how to feel it in one's skin, and connecting to land. I became the spirit of the basket by creating at 15 foot long wooden and metal truss, shaped in an upstage to downstage arch tapered from 2-4 feet width that I could walk on, (very carefully) and dangle off the end from a harness

The apparatus, which Juanita named "The Jumper", was my first exploration of building an apparatus that did not require ceiling rigging. The tress moved about on a rolling A-frame balanced in combination with my weight and weights made of water jugs on the other end. We decided to fill the weights with water from Trinidad Head Bay, right on the Pacific Ocean, near to where Juanita, and her tribe lived, fished and gathered for centuries. The water made wonderful sound. When the tress moved it had squeaks and moans, which reminded people of whales. No hardware was used to fix the tress on the rolling A-Frame; it was done completely through the balance of weight. The tress moved through the space, controlled by my Technical Director, Andrew Brown. Andy could not only push the apparatus about the space, but by pushing and compressing the back end, he could lift me fifteen feet up in the air and down to the floor again in a split second. With some effort, he could keep me hovering above the actor's heads.

The apparatus was like a live aerial version of a Japanese Buanraku puppet. I wanted Juanita to wear me as if I were a burden basket, I knew that I needed accuracy in being able to land on her back and not put any weight on her 75 year old body and then take off to the sky again. I knew that an act of such a thing had to have certain physical articulation that could incorporate something holy and mythic. The basket character had to be both trickster and sacred. It had to be observing and at the same time involved. It had to start action, end action, and protest, almost in the style of Groucho Marx, who was similar to the trickster figure that appears in many Indian mythologies.

I was entrusted with myths, both personal and historical. The aerial tasks were geared toward telling Melanie and Juanita's story. The apparatus was what we all had in common; this huge thing that was a partner for everyone. As a result, the apparatus served as a canvas for telling the story, their story. It gave both Melanie and Juanita a context for their stage relationship and individual personae which was truthful and filled in where their lack of acting skills could not. The apparatus allowed their own personal myth to stand together with the myth of their people. We referenced baskets that were made by Juanita's mother and Melanie's grandmother and brought them back to life.

The apparatus brought a variety of Native folks from various tribes out to see the show. Native people who do not necessarily leave the reservation, let alone go out to see theatre, came to Borders and Borderless because they were just plain curious as to what in the world this "aerial thing" was. Ninety five percent of the audiences were Native and all shows were sold out.

In many Northern California tribes, basket making traditions are prominent and serve as a link to the natural world and the human psyche, as well as a sad documentation of a people who have lost this link. True stories mingle with myth, in many Yurok, Hupa, Maidu, Kuruk, and Pit River memories. Many Native audience members told me that they felt the basket come to life again due to the aerial elements, and with that, something in them was re-established and reborn.

In closing, Borders and Borders was a response to a community, an affirmation of place, and the illustration of what aerial work does very well-creating myth time within real time. It gave voice to two individuals who represented something larger than themselves. In order to do so, Juanita Samuels, a 75 year old Yurok/Tolowa elder (the oldest Yurok elder in the U.S) and Melanie Lowry a 19 -year old female Pit River college student decided to train with me and fly. I flew with them. To this day, nothing really compares to the power that culminated in this creative experience.
Written and created by Mara Neimanis, Featuring Juanita Samules, Melanie, Lowry, Mara Neimanis, Andrew Brown, Sculpture by Dan Stockwell with Mara Neimanis

  • Borders And Borderless

    An Aerial Theater play that integrates heritage with flight featuring Native American viewpoints on land, modernity, and myth

Air Heart

Air Heart is a 60 minute solo performance that takes place on a 12 foot high spinning metal plane sculpture. Combining theater with aerial elements, Air Heart breaks the fourth wall with text and physical poetry that reflects Earhart's story, my story of flight, and the apparatus/spinning plane sculpture. The personal and the mythic are connected in the concept of Earhart as a feminist icon as well as our concept of flight itself. Air Heart poses important questions about risk, belief, and what it means to re-codify myth; our own or someone else's. In essence, Air Heart is a journey that actually and metaphorically empowers the ability to manipulate gravity, gain levity, and come to a place of physical and imaginative vision. It also examines the facts in that famous and fateful last flight in 1937, when Amelia Earhart disappeared in the midst of the most dangerous and ambitious flight of her career.

Air Heart was created at the time when I was a resident artist at The Creative Alliance. Fellow resident artists, Donald Cook/Painter saw Laura Schults/Sculptor, painting pictures of planes with nail polish. His remark was, "What are you doin, girl, trying to bring Amelia Earhart back from the dead?" That night he created a little puzzle game (based on Goulag toys) that was mounted on the wall in front of my apartment that showed Amelia's plane disappearing behind a cloud with a pull of a string. At the same time during my residency, I was creating my MFA thesis at Towson University and was forced to come up with idea, budget, time line immediately for it. I was not having fun. I was frustrated and angry by the fact that I was not asked about any process that I would execute. They wanted no mystery to find the piece physically or emotionally. I felt that I had no room to create as I needed to. I woke up the next day in this state, saw Don's toy on the wall. "Damn it", I said, I'll do a piece on frigin Amelia Earhart!" and so I did (so lucky too). It set up a collaboration with Tim and with Baltimore itself that would form a new career! Written and performed by Mara Neimanis, Directed by Bryce Butler. Sculpture by Laura Shults and Tim Scofield

Photos by Elliot Leiberman

Naomi's Flight

Naomi’s Flight is the most personal of all my projects and was completed in 8 months rather than the 1-2 years it usually takes to create an aerial play. Perhaps this was due to the fact that I was close to the material, my parents. Naomi's Flight is based on discussions, exchanges, stories, that they have shared with me for the past 6 years during which time my mother has progressed further into dementia and immobility while my 81 year old father has become her only caregiver. Perhaps the material came quickly due to the fact that there was so much to report on regarding the stark and dark lack of function in the health care system, doctors, let alone an elder care system and support for caregivers, which has been infuriating and futile. The most significant and immediate element in the process of creating Naomi’s Flight, however, was that I needed both ground and air in telling their story. I felt that reality met metaphor in real time physicality and states of being needed to be fully embodied. My mother is upside down, sideways, inverted, dangling as the disease forces her to be. Despite these challenges she copes with humor and open heart. My father searches for ground, grounding and solid place to stand as my mother becomes more inverted and sideways. And through this hard journey, their enduring bonds of love are consistent. Witnessing this has been both potent and humbling.

Alzheimer’s and dementia are places off the ground. They are full of twists and turns loss of balance, falls, teetering in places with no balance. This material needs the apparatus, the intersection between ground and air, and the strength that playing in vertical space requires. As an aerialist, I am not unlike my mother and father- I am looking for places that hold me; looking for places where I can make sense in the reality of alternative portrayals of my stories.

My hope in this work and in all of my work, is to offer a new form of theater that reveals heightened awareness, empathy and community where the personal becomes universal. The baby boom generation sits on the edge of a huge sobering journey. We are on our way or about to begin the path of care giving and elder care for our parents with no structure in place from our health care system/government, no real anchor for this disease. The statistics are mind boggling and the task is enormous. It is my hope that Naomi’s Flight creates a trans domain dialog, turning very dry material to something with heart and awareness that so many of us are going through the same journey and that we all deserve more from the systems in place. The disease is tragic and eats away at life, money, energy and time. What can we do to create dialog based on our love that can be shared amongst families, our government, palliative care workers, medicaid, the medical community, care givers, health care structures, and audiences of all ages? We must tell our stories. This one is 3 dimensional for sure.
Written and performed by Mara Neimanis, Directed by Bryce Butler, Sculptures by Tim Scofield

photos by Second Glance Photography, and Julia Pearson

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Mara's Curated Collection

This artist has not yet created a curated collection.