Aaron Marquise is not exactly risk adverse. Graduating Shenendehowa High in 2009 he spent one year studying play writing and musical theater at Marymount College in Manhattan only to abandon of the more traditional route into the professional theater world to attend the National Circus School in Montreal where he focused on clowning. Since graduating in 2015 he’s run his own touring circus and performed regularly in the region. 

Now he’s ready to put down roots in that he’s established The Contemporary Circus and Immersive Arts Center in Troy in an effort to make circus arts more of the popular artistic conversation in the area and the country.  

Marquise joined The Collabcast with trapeze artist Cooper Stanton to discuss the upcoming performance of “Roadkill” in Troy’s Prospect Park this weekend. Check that out to learn more about why Marquise decided to pursue a life in clowning and his plans to bring more cricus events to the area. Then read his 10 Questions to learn more about his perspective on the local arts scene. 

What was the last live performance you attended? 

The last live performance I saw was this little show called “Hamilton.” Maybe you’ve heard of it?

Name one local creative everyone needs to know. 

Kyle Engstrom. He is not only the Board Chair for the CCIAC but he and his wife run a boutique architecture firm in Troy called ME Studio. Check out their website, you’ll be surprised to see the work they’ve done because you know it but you didn’t know you knew them. He has also done all the graphic work for our organization. He is a creative through and through. He lives his life by being creative everyday. Him and I are very similar in our dedication to our work and he could talk to you about any genre of music, movie, design, health, the list goes on and I’ve been constantly impressed by him.

What is a locally produced art, craft, clothing item or delicacy you can’t live without?

I’d say an Iced Coffee from Superior Merchandise. I’m big on coffee. I love it. It’s not even for the caffeine (or at least that’s what I tell myself) but it’s for the taste and the experience of going into a shop, seeing people, and getting an incredibly tasty cup. Superior has launched it’s own sister brand “Touchy Coffee”. Really excited about that one.

What does “Creative Economy” mean to you? 

To me, Creative Economy is an economy in which the more traditionally creative industries (visual arts, technological arts, performing arts, culinary arts, etc.) can mix and thrive with those that are considered traditionally less creative (I won’t name any as to not offend those industries). With that said, I think creativity can be found in any industry. Health care has to be just as creative as dance but it’s in a different facet.

What was the last project you oversaw to completion? 

We just produced a new solo show of mine called Oh, Garçon. It was one of the most interesting performances I’ve ever been apart of. In a nut shell, 12 people are invited to dinner at a home and they show up and are told “Thank you for coming. Your table is almost ready. Oh! by the way, we have a new waiter starting tonight so we ask that you be patient with him.” Then for 2 hours I act as a waiter in my clown persona. It’s part scripted material, a whole lot of improv, there is real food and wine and every night was completely different. It was a challenge but a very exciting one.

How can we overcome parochialism in the arts? 

We have to get outside of ourselves, our neighborhoods, our cities, and our country. There is so much happening in the world every day but if we get too stuck in where we are and not looking at what’s going on “over there”, then how can any of the art we are producing progress? I spent 4 years in Montreal and my whole view on performing and the arts shifted and I’ve come home with this knowledge that I hope to inspire others with. But, I would consider myself a failure if I never pushed that boundary further by challenging myself to try things and keep exposing myself to different art forms. I have to keep traveling and exploring and coming back home to try stuff and then repeating the cycle.

What was the most important development for local arts in the last decade? 

The resurgence of our downtowns. I think things can shift drastically when we can exchange ideas and concepts on streets, or in cafes and in bars. Being able to walk or work downtown allows for spontaneous interactions which I think are important to giving food to creativity. I don’t think you get that same exchange online or on the phone. I think you need it in person and the revitalization of our downtowns only enhances that.

What arts event/performance should every resident of the Capital Region see this year? 

I hate answers like this but, there is so much going on here that I’d actually say every resident should go out and experience something that they would not normally go to. Even I don’t do this so it’s sort of my own advice but, start saying “Yes” anytime someone invites you to an event or performance. Just go. You may HATE it but at least you’ve experienced it and can have an opinion.

What local organization/artist/creative etc would be your dream collaborator? 

Adirondack Studios in Argyle. They design, produce, and build all this incredible stuff for the theme parks in Orlando and Hong Kong, really all over the world. I think a lot of audiences are looking for more experience based work. We spend so much time in front of screens being passive that people want to be involved in the shows they attend so when they go back to their friends they can tell them all about this thing they did rather than this thing they saw. All that to say, I’d love to build something crazy immersive with their expertise.

What is the biggest change in the arts community you have observed over the course of your career in the Capital Region arts scene?

I’d say the importance and focus that the arts community is getting as a whole. It’s not just about one theater producing one thing anymore, but we’re talking about music, art, dance, hip-hop, breweries and a contemporary circus! It says a lot about our region when these organizations want to be here, creating here.