Isabella Rossellini brings Link Link Circus to life

Cyan and yellow lights on the black ceiling. Four stations, four faces, four names. René Descartes, BF Skinner, Beatvs Angelicvs and Aristotle were drawn on white paper and partially covered with a red curtain. In the center of the stage, three toy monkeys were facing the audience. On the right side, a collection of toys representing circus animals, such as horses, snakes and dogs, surrounded the stage unified by a fuchsia cloth.

Suddenly the lights went off and a tall man came out with a headlamp on his forehead. He started to put the toys around the stage forming a big circle. After a shuddering scream, Isabella Rossellini appeared on stage dressed in black with a red blazer. Her dog, Peter Pan, then ran on stage dressed as a hen.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the smallest circus in the world, Link Link Circus,” said Isabella Rossellini to open the show. Rossellini, the Italian actress and filmmaker, has a long career including a nomination for a Golden Globe award for best performance in 1997 in the show “Crime of the Century.” But she is also a current Hunter College student who is pursuing a master’s degree in animal behavior. Her show, which delighted more than 90 people just before break, ran at the Kaye Playhouse from April 18 to May 3.

The idea behind “Link Link Circus,” which is a presentation of the Hunter Theater Project, is to explain through art the emotions and imagination of animals.

“Can animals feel or think?” asked Rossellini, who wrote the show and was its only performer.
Rossellini also plays the main character — the animal – in films that play on stage during the show. Throughout the show Rossellini showed about four short films using a projector.

Rossellini has loved animals since she was a little girl, she told the audience, and always wondered if animals were capable of thinking or feeling. “Whenever I go on holidays, I always try to go to do something with animals, whether it is a safari, a visit to a zoo or a visit to a national park,” said Rossellini.

In one of the films, a female duck controls her vagina to let only the duck she likes fertilize her eggs. Each of the films included a straightforward narrative and scientific information.

Rossellini introduces Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution within the first five minutes of the show, noting that Darwin maintained that the difference between animals and humans was one of degrees. Then she mentioned Aristotle’s idea of order in nature—the Scala Naturae by its name in Latin — a ranking from inanimate things to perfection to God. Later she talked about two monks, Beatvs and Angelicvs, who discussed the ladder of being: angels after humans and god after angels. Finally, Rossellini explained the theory proposed by René Descartes that claims that animals don’t have a soul– therefore they don’t have a mind.

In order to show that animals are smart and able to feel emotions, Rossellini showed examples of animals practicing different exercises, such as a pigeon recognizing a Picasso. It is ideas such as this that brought her back to school – to find out if animals can feel or think. She says that she probably will never find the answer. This is the goal of Link Link Circus, to raise this question in the audiences’ mind.


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