The Circus is Coming to Ashland University

The Circus is Coming to Ashland

3/18/14 ASHLAND, Ohio – The 34th annual Ashland University Spectrum Series concludes its season with a family event for all ages as the Zany Umbrella Circus comes to town. Along with a main stage evening performance on Friday, March 28, at 7:30 p.m. in Hugo Young Theatre, the artists will also present an acting with a mask master class and a school matinee performance. 

Zany Umbrella Circus is a folk art circus that uses physical theater, dance, multi-media and live music to tell stories. Under the direction of founder Benjamin Sota, the circus explores a zany, fantastical realism where everyday items and experiences come to life and take on a magic of their own. The ensemble has performed at the Kennedy Center and the White House, has toured internationally, and was featured on “Good Morning America” and Al Jazeera Television. “Performances are so breathtaking, they must be seen to be believed,” said 1960s icon Wavy Gravy. 

For their show in Ashland, Zany will perform their original, fully-staged, theatre production of "Cake," which is a visual storybook acted onstage. With bold colors and 1950s era stylings, this show focuses on a young child as she anticipates an exciting birthday surprise, but things do not go as planned. Hijinks ensue as the family attempts to recover, discovering that magic can be found in mishap. This delightful and highly physical new show integrates aerial, trapeze, clowning, mask work and other circus feats. 

Tickets for the evening performance are only $5 per person or $2 for Ashland University students. They can be purchased Monday through Friday, noon to 6 p.m., at the Ashland University Box Office by phone at 419-289-5125, in person in the lobby of Hugo Young Theatre located at the corner of College Avenue and Grant Street, or on-line 24/7 at where additional fees apply. 

In addition to Friday evening’s full production of "Cake," Ben Sota will present an "Acting for the Mask" master class on Thursday, March 27, from 10:50 a.m. to 12:05 p.m. on the Hugo Young Theatre stage. The master class is free and open to the public, but recommended for experienced actors as students will learn performance techniques with neutral, larval and Commedia dell'Art masks. 

Sota has studied circus at Flic Circus school in Turin Italy, the San Francisco Circus Center, Trapeze Arts, and Acro Sports and is pursuing an MFA in physical theater from the Accademia Dell' Arte school in Tuscany Italy. He has produced over thirty shows and performed at the National Council on Foundation, the National Storytelling Convention, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Al Hussein Amphitheater in Amman Jordan, and at hundreds of other venues. As a teacher, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts has selected Sota as an artist residency teacher and he is recognized as a commonwealth speaker of Pennsylvania. Recently he was awarded the Eben Demarest Trust and a prize based on his artistic merit that Jackson Pollock once won. Recently, Sota traveled to New Orleans, Jordan, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan to perform and teach.

Seats also are available for the Friday, March 28, 9 a.m. school matinee performance, which is an abbreviation of the evening show. To reserve and guarantee seats, schools can contact Tricia Applegate, coordinator of performing arts publicity and events at 419.289.5950 or e-mail  All seats are $2 each.

This artist residency is made possible with grant support from the National Endowment for the Arts; the Ohio Arts Council with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans; and the Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour, a program developed and funded by The Heinz Endowments, the William Penn Foundation, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency, and The Pew Charitable Trusts with administration by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.

For more than three decades, the Spectrum Series has brought world-class talent to Ashland, Ohio, by presenting nationally known artists and programs to provide thought-provoking programming while expanding the cultural perspectives of the audience.  The Series strives to educate, entertain and inspire its audience members, and instill the belief that the arts are fundamental to our humanity as they build bridges between cultures and bring us together. By enhancing cultural experiences for the Ashland community and surrounding areas, the series is produced by the Ashland University College of Arts & Sciences with supplemental funding provided by the Office of Student Affairs. For more information about the Spectrum Series, visit the web site at

Ashland University, which has been ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University ( values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students. ###