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Your Source For The Arts In Atlanta

As far back as ancient Egypt, juggling has served as a beguiling form of entertainment. Now, in the 7 Stages show Lucy Juggles, the art will also serve as a form of illumination. In her one-of-a-kind solo show opening this weekend, seasoned circus-arts performer Lucy Eden weaves together classic daredevil acts of knife and fire-throwing in tandem with the equally daredevil feats of autobiographical narrative, exploring themes of identity, trauma and what it means to arrive at self-acceptance.

Eden grew up in Jesup, a small town southwest of Savannah, and majored in English at Columbus State University. A versatile entertainer with an often-deadpan sense of humor, Eden is also a fierce advocate for greater trans visibility, having come out as transgender in 2016.

“For this show,” the transgender artist says, “I use the established format of street performance to keep people engaged in an otherwise heavy and difficult conversation.”

The show — which provocatively asks, “How do you juggle your past, present, and future selves without dropping the ball?” — will be staged at the Little 5 Points Center for Arts & Community on November 6-7 and 13-14, with two shows on Saturdays and one each Sunday. 7 Stages Covid-19 safety protocols require mask-wearing and proof of full vaccination or a negative PCR test taken in the last 72 hours.

ArtsATL: What is your show about?

Lucy Eden: My show’s about my favorite thing: me! (Laughs.) It’s also about juggling, which is my second-favorite thing. And it’s about gender, the ‘90s, homophobia. So, yeah, there’s a lot in this format of a show.

ArtsATL: How do you go about packing so much into one show?

Eden: I have a background in street performance, so I’m used to drawing people in with some juggling tricks and leveraging that into a conversation. Normally it would be like, “Look at this impressive trick and let me start building my case for why you should give me $20.” But for this show, I use the established format of street performance to keep people engaged in an otherwise heavy and difficult conversation. It’s my story — a Southern queer, trans narrative.

ArtsATL: How did where you grew up shape you?

Eden: I grew up in rural South Georgia in the ’90s, which I definitely do not recommend. It was a rough place to grow up as a closeted trans person. I didn’t have any role models then, and the culture of the ’90s was pretty toxic, and that’s a major theme in my show: the way that homophobia and transphobia were just ever-present and completely unapologetic in the ’90s.

ArtsATL: How did you decide to make Atlanta your home base?

Eden: I guess what brought me back to Atlanta was the people I knew here and the opportunities for live performance. I live with some other circus performers, so there’s a nice community here. One thing that makes me motivated to stay here: Taylor Alxndr, who runs Southern Fried Queer Pride. When I’m like, “Oh God, should I move to a more progressive state?” and I’m worried about not having healthcare or coming under attack, I think of the things that Taylor has to say. Being on the front lines of our current political movement is more important to me than being more comfortable.

Lucy Eden believes Ringling Bros. made clowning less nuanced, but she plans to use the circus arts in “Lucy Juggles” to get across “a lot of important messages.”

ArtsATL: How have you developed your clown persona? And how is the clowning you do different from what many might picture if they think more of the stereotypical Bozo variety?

Eden: Many people think of the very Americanized, pop culture conception of a clown that’s from Ringling Brothers . . . . I think that clowns have a lot of important messages they can tell us — they can talk about failure, they can talk about social norms. Half of my show is done with clown makeup on, and midway through, that makeup is removed. Part of that is to acknowledge that we’re always presenting a version of ourselves, we’re always wearing a costume and a mask whether we want to or not.

ArtsATL: In recent years, there has been incremental growth in terms of visibility of the transgender community thanks to prominent trans celebrities and activists such as Laverne Cox and Elliot Page. At the same time, there are prominent transphobic figures like J.K. Rowling, and we have seen a rolling back of civil rights legislation. Where do things stand in terms of your experience? How have things changed, and what do you see as the role of art in helping to shape change?

Eden: A lot of these questions are right at the front of what I’m talking about in the show because they’re really at the front of my mind. Yes, we obviously have made a lot of progress. The reason I talk about the ’90s so much is because I remember what it was like being a queer and closeted trans person (then), and it was horrible. The transphobia we have now stings, but it doesn’t sting as much as Jim Carrey retching for two whole minutes in Ace Ventura. But it’s still scary.

The scary thing now is the amount of subterfuge. The TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) people aren’t saying, ‘They need to be put in prisons and need to be excluded from bathrooms.’ They’re saying, ‘Biology is real, and gender is a fact.’ I’m not surprised that they fool people. You’re not going to see the elaborate things that they’re avoiding.

The other side of that is feeling motivated to try and make better art than a TERF. Which I don’t think is actually that hard.

ArtsATL: What do you hope people take away from this show?

Eden: Hopefully, by me living as loudly and authentically as I’m trying to do in this show, that creates a little space for them to be or do whatever version of themselves they want to be.

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Alexis Hauk has written and edited for numerous newspapers, alt-weeklies, trade publications and national magazines including Time, the AtlanticMental FlossUproxx and Washingtonian magazine. Having grown up in Decatur, Alexis returned to Atlanta in 2018 after a decade living in Boston, Washington, D.C., New York City and Los Angeles. By day, she works in health communications. By night, she enjoys covering the arts and being Batman.

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