Following a spectacular run as part of Muhlenberg’s Summer Music Theatre, the circus production Tal: Beyond Imagination was brought back to Muhlenberg for four performances over alumni weekend.  Created and directed by Noah S. Dach with Atlas Circus Company, Tal became Muhlenberg’s highest-grossing summer show. Tal blends elements of a typical circus performance with those of a play, putting different aerial, acrobatic and clown acts to a storyline.  The cast was made up of current Muhlenberg students and Muhlenberg alumni, all of whom had their own act in the performance. The show follows the titular character of Tal, who is unhappy in her life without joy and imagination. Two clowns, The Eccentric and The Controller, find Tal and, with the help of a bright cast of characters, bring her into a much more exciting and magical adventure.

From the moment audience members walked into the Studio Theatre to see the show, they became immediately immersed in the world of Tal.  The stage floor was painted with bright, rainbow array of colors and blue and green canopies were hanging from the ceiling. Around the catwalk were different chairs and stools that had been weaved into the bars of the catwalk.  At the center of the stage was a desk and other seemingly random set pieces such as doors, a bookshelf and a chest. During the performance, almost all of these props ended up being used during different acts. The show was also staged in the round, creating an engaging and immersive experience for every audience member, no matter where they were in the theater.

A long-exposure shot of jugglers tossing glowing balls in the dark crafts a wavy landscape of light.
Photo by Ken Ek.

Tal ran for about an hour, but in that short time, it was packed with continuous fun and magic.  A pre-show helped to involve the audience in small dances and other fun activities, which immediately enthralled the audience, especially the several young children that were there.  Once Tal had been brought into the world of imagination, the show became full of visually breathtaking stunts and tricks. From high-flying aerial stunts to acrobatic flips and rolls, the audience never stopped being entertained. One particularly exciting part of the performance involved a recurring ball that glowed in a rainbow of colors. As The Controller hoped to get more of these balls to juggle with Tal, the lights blacked out, illuminating only the glowing balls that were passed around between the cast members. The act was visually impressive and captivating, as was every piece of the performance. Each member of the cast was able to have an act or scene where they were able to display their individual talent, and it made the show that much more fantastic because every member of the cast was able to shine.

Four aerialists twist and turn as they wrap themselves in multicolored silks, which hang from the ceilings of the Black Box theatre.
Photo via Ken Ek.

Cast member Andrea Laisure ’21 began her journey with Tal as a performer of acrobatic tricks, not aerial acts, but when a cast member had to leave the show early in the summer, Laisure stepped in and learned an aerial act.  As she explained, she “learned only the things that are in that routine, a few things that would look good and everyone else could do.” An audience member would never have been able to tell that Laisure was not as experienced as the other cast members; through her performance and Dach’s direction and choreography, her act blended seamlessly with the others. The cast had five weeks of rehearsal and five weeks of performances over the summer, and then had about a month off before having two rehearsals and four performances during this past week, according to Laisure.  She explained that the rehearsal process “was more collaborative than [she] expected […] he [Dach] had some choreography, but the way things worked, like movement patterns, tricks and flips, we all pitched in to come up with those things.” All of the efforts of Laisure and the rest of the cast and crew were very evident on stage, as everyone in the cast had a great relationship with each other during the performance, and they worked extremely well throughout the entire show.

Tal: Beyond Imagination had a constant air of joy, magic and excitement that kept audience members of all ages engaged. Even the adults in the audience left the theater with smiles on their faces. The show highlighted the sense of childlike wonder that we often forget to let roam free, but through Tal, everyone in the audience was able to completely let themselves go to the wonder and magic.  As audience member Ji Ku ’20 described,

“Due to Tal, I learned that you can still have fun, childlike moments even as an adult, and I want to remember and retain my childhood passion one more time.”

Ku’s hopes were realized as every moment of Tal continued to awe and amaze the audience.  The show was an incredibly unique experience, and it was full of magic that audiences both during the summer and over alumni weekend will surely remember for years to come.

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