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Press Releases

Friday, September 19, 2008

Zany Umbrella Circus Founder Ben Sota Speaks, Performs at SU

SALISBURY, MD---Nearly everyone can name the Three Stooges or the Seven Dwarfs, but how many can name the six classic characters of Commedia dell’Arte?

Ben Sota can.

The founder and executive director of Pittsburgh’s Zany Umbrella Circus, Sota is an artist-in-residence at Salisbury University for part of the fall semester, teaching students about classical Italian comedy. The public has the opportunity to hear him speak on the subject 7 p.m. Friday, October 10, in the Great Hall of Holloway Hall as part of SU’s fall Renaissance cultural events series.

His talk and performance includes an introduction to the main characters of Commedia dell’Arte: Arlecchino (the acrobat), Brighella (the con man), Capitano (the Spanish mercenary), Dottore (the incompetent doctor), Pantalone (the self-centered elder) and Zanni (the bystander). He also demonstrates some of the skills used by actors portraying these classic characters, including juggling, stilt walking and balancing tricks.

A former architectural draftsman, Sota has studied circus arts at the San Francisco Circus Center, Trapeze Arts, and Acro Sports. He has produced more than 30 shows, performing at venues including the White House, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Al Hussein Amphitheater in Jordan. He also has demonstrated his talents at the National Storytelling Convention.

In October 2007 the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum debuted the interactive exhibit “Circus for Social Change,” showcasing his projects of giving around the world. The exhibit allows children a chance to walk on a tight wire and try out circus mechanics.

Sota’s work has been supported by the Heinz Foundation, the Grable Foundation, the Mellon Foundation and the Pittsburgh Foundation, among others. His humanitarian work has been praised by celebrities including Patch Adams and Wavy Gravy. He recently appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America.

Sponsored by the Office of Cultural Affairs, his talk is free and the public is invited. For more information call 410-219-2872 or visit the SU Web site at

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