Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi turns the circus into an art form.
Born into a circus family, multiple Jeff Award winner Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi started performing with the troupe at the tender age of 7, leaping off the teeterboard to the shoulders of her brothers. By age 27, she had performed around the world and with Ringling Bros., but was ready for a change. “I ran away from the circus with one of the clowns,” she laughs. Chicago beckoned, and she translated her circus skills to stunning physical stage choreography for Lookingglass Theatre and others. In 1995, Hernandez-DiStasi opened The Actors Gymnasium in Evanston’s Noyes Cultural Arts Center, originally as a space for stage performers to develop skills. “What we offer is truly unique,” Hernandez-DiStasi says. “The gym is its own community within the community. It’s not what we do, but whom we do it with, that’s most important to me.” That includes her continuing work as a Lookingglass artistic associate, most recently at the circus-infused Hard Times, which closes this month. Her philosophy? Preparation and training are everything. “Do everything you can so you can do what you love for as long as you can.” Even her thoughts have wings. 927 Noyes St., Evanston