Clowning Around: Ben and Crystal

by Allyson Yoder

If you asked me to make a list of things I don’t expect to see during a commute on the light rail, clowns on stilts might be on it. I guess you might say Crystal and Ben are taking the Light Rail Plays to new heights.

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Crystal Cruz

What do you do when you’re not doing Light Rail plays? I’m a full-time performer and director. I run different circus performance troops and booking entertainment. I’ve done that for about ten years. Sometimes we produce our own shows, and a lot of times we get hired for different things, cultural festivals, club events, corporate events—anything that people want to celebrate or make cooler.

What did you do before that? Corporate. Boring.

So this is different than what you usually do? Not so much—I’ve done on-site cultural performances before, and I teach weekly classes on stilts for all ages. So that’s something I’m used to doing. The light rail, though, that’s a little different. I am used to street performance, though, so—getting yelled at by the guy who wanted to know where the Renaissance Festival was, because obviously we know, we’re on stilts! You know, that’s always the fun part about it, you never know what’s going to happen.

What got you interested in RYT? One of the lovely ladies of Rising Youth had put a shout out to some of the groups I follow asking if there are any Phoenix-based circus troups. So we met, talked about the project, it sounded like a lot of fun.

About their piece: This is my fun project for the quarter, with Ben. It’s interesting because it’s the first time I’ve kind of thrown in my Butoh background into a stilt piece. So, Butoh with clown funeraling. It’s a new twist.

What’s Butoh? It’s a type of physical movement more based on common day man than dancer, and it’s extremely emotional. Projecting all over the audience. Which is working—on Thursday, when everyone showed their pieces, they were laughing in all the right places.

Ben Collison

What do you do when you’re not doing Light Rail plays? I go to school at Vista Verde Middle School. Yeah, we actually teach the drama club at our school. We teach our peers, and younger—7th and 8th graders.

How did you get involved with RYT? On an audition website, we saw that they were doing a show, so me and my friend auditioned and we got in, and just kept going with it until now.

So you’ve been passionate about theater for a while. “Yes, a long time. I first got involved when I was five, at Valley Youth Theater, and then Phoenix theater summer camps, and then here last year…and here again.”

Why do you love theater so much? Well, I like to become a different person, because I feel completely different. And to experience something else than what you’re used to is awesome.

How is Light Rail Plays different than what you’ve done before? Well it’s different because we’re outside, and there are people everywhere, and there are random people, so you really get to spread it without just buying tickets and sitting in one place. They get to experience it around everywhere, which is really cool.

Have there been any surprises? Well, when we were rehearsing outside, there was a guy yelling… which was weird. But other than that, it’s been pretty calm. And it’s been surprising to learn stilts! It’s fun—it’s easier now than it was the first day, but it’s fun.

Why should people come see the Light Rail Plays? Because they’re awesome! Everyone’s so good, and they’re all really cool productions.

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