Philadelphia Artists' Collective and Philadelphia School of Circus Arts Bring Circus and Theater Together in He Who Gets Slapped

Behind the curtain of the big top, no one is laughing harder than the saddest clown of them all. Philadelphia Artists’ Collective, in partnership with Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, presents the Philadelphia premiere of He Who Gets Slapped, from March 30 to April 16, 2016, at Broad Street Ministry (315 S. Broad Street). A cast of clowns, lion-tamers and ringmasters perform their routines under a striped awning and glowing lights.  When a new clown arrives, his cheerful makeup conceals a dark secret from his past. PAC’s Co-Founding Artistic Director Damon Bonetti directs an ensemble cast of familiar faces, who will perform their own circus skills with training from PSCA’s Circus Art / Movement Choreographer Terry Brennan.

He Who Gets Slapped is written by the Russian “Poe” Leonid Andreyev and was adapted by Walter Wykes. Previews begin on Wednesday, March 30, with opening night on Friday, April 1, 2016. The show runs for a total of 13 performances through Saturday, April 16, 2016. All shows are at 8:00pm. Tickets are on sale for $25 (or $15 with student identification or under 25) by calling (215) 551-1543 or visiting

Head into the underbelly of the French circus to follow the fate of a heartbroken writer who tries to escape his past by becoming a clown. Amidst circus performances and comic interludes, the carnival’s myriad outcasts make their way as best they can, seeking happiness, friendship and love. Completely silly and yet devastatingly poignant, He Who Gets Slapped is at its heart a romantic symbolist drama, and a portrait of human struggle in a material world.

“The PAC heads back to France in the early 1900s, where we started the season with The Captive,” said Bonetti. “HE tackles many of the same subjects like forbidden love, class conflict and everyone wanting something they can’t have. Yet, HE challenges the PAC in a totally different way. We wanted to bring this tragic love story to life by challenging the cast to create an authentic experience that meshes together classic acting, physical performance, circus arts and live music. My hope is that audiences will be affected mentally and emotionally. We picked a darkly comic story that brings the laughs, but also a ton of heart.”

HE is based on a 1914 play by Russian writer Leonid Andreyev. Acclaimed in Europe, the play made its American premiere in 1922 at New York’s Garrick Theater for six months, before playing to crowds across the country. Alexander Woollcott, a member of the Algonquin Round Table, wrote, “It has things in it that belong to the theater of all the world.” In 1924, He Who Gets Slapped was turned into a silent drama film by newly formed company Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). Over the years, He Who Gets Slapped has been staged a handful of times, including once at the Berkeley Repertory in the 1980s.

Multiple Barrymore Award nominee Damon Bonetti (PAC’s Blood Wedding and The Sea Plays) will direct the ensemble cast that includes Ross Beschler (PAC’s Mary Stuart, Wilma Theater’s The Hard Problem) as He, Isabella Fehlandt (Luna Theater Company’s Animal Farm, Curio Theatre Company’s Noises Off) as Consuelo, Brian Mccann (Hedgerow Theatre’s Don Quixote, PAC’s The Sea Plays) as Count Mancini, Annette Kaplafka (Hedgerow Theatre’s Hamlet, PAC’s Timon of Athens) as Zena, Bob Weick (Plays & Players’ Voices of a People’s History of the United States, Iron Age Theatre’s Marx in Soho) as Papa Briquet, Terry Brennan (Tribe of Fools’ Zombies...With Guns, Tribe of Fools’ Two Street) as Jackson and The Gentleman, Ben Grinberg (Al­man­ac Dance Cir­cus Theatre’s  Com­munitas, Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training) as Bezano, Josh Totora (Prince Theater’s The Three Maries: A Philadelphia Phable, People’s Light’s Cinderella) as Wally, Andalyn Young (Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training) as Paulie, and Nathan Foley (PAC’s Mary Stuart, Montgomery Theater’s God of Carnage) as Baron Regnard.

Lauren Tracy (Inis Nua Theatre Company, Azuka Theatre) serves as Production Manager, with Sam Wend as Stage Manager, with Katherine Fritz (PAC, Inis Nua Theatre Company, Theatre Exile) as Costume Designer and Jessica DalCanton as Makeup Consultant. All music will be performed live with direction from Music Director Josh Totora. Matt Campbell (Set Design), Robert Thorpe and James Lewis (Lighting Design) and Flora Vassar (Props) will transform Broad Street Ministry into a look behind the tent flaps of the big top.

He Who Gets Slapped is a special partnership between Philadelphia Artists’ Collective and Philadelphia School of Circus Arts. Under direction of PSCA’s Circus Art / Movement Choreographer Terry Brennan, the cast of He has been training for months on mastering their own circus techniques to be used in the show, including bullwhip, slapstick comedy, partner acrobatics, tumbling, hat tricks, rolling globe, juggling, and rola-bola. The cast was selected not only for their acting skills, but also for their physicality and willingness to learn new skills.

“Damon Bonetti approached me last year with the interest of tackling He Who Gets Slapped,” said PSCA’s Executive Director Shana Kennedy.  “Damon wanted our assistance in integrating real circus arts into this show, to effectively capture the spirit of the place and to bring added excitement to the performance. The timing couldn’t have been better. Circus is overlapping other art forms in many new ways in Philadelphia - we are working more and more with physical theatre groups, dancers, and musicians quite often.  But to work with a classical theater company has been a new experience for us.”

He Who Gets Slapped runs from from Wednesday, March 30, 2016 to Saturday, April 16, 2016, with all performances at 8:00pm. Tickets are on sale for $25 (or $15 with student identification or under 25) by calling (215) 551-1543 or visiting For more information, please like “Philadelphia Artists Collective” on Facebook and follow @philartsco on Twitter.


Wednesday, March 30th at 8pm Preview

Thursday, March 31st at 8pm Preview

Friday April 1st at 8pm Opening

Saturday April 2nd at 8pm

Wednesday April 6th at 8pm

Thursday April 7th at 8pm

Friday April 8th at 8pm

Saturday April 9th at 8pm

Monday April 11th at 8pm Industry

Wednesday April 13th at 8pm

Thursday April 14th at 8pm

Friday April 15th at 8pm

Saturday April 16th at 8pm

Philadelphia School of Circus Arts is the regional center of contemporary circus arts. The seasoned faculty leads a curriculum featuring aerials (static trapeze, corde lisse, aerial silks and lyra), juggling, unicycling, tight wire, tumbling and physical conditioning. Besides ongoing classes, PSCA also offers introductory workshops, birthday parties, rental space, summer camp and special guest performances.  Students are all ages and all levels. PSCA is located at 5900A Greene Street, Philadelphia, PA 19144.  For information, visit

Bonetti is a Philadelphia actor, director, and teacher, and the co-founding artistic director of the PAC. As an actor with the PAC: Duchess of Malfi, Creditors. As a director: Changes of Heart, The Sea Plays, Blood Wedding, and A Christmas Carol, his original adaptation of the Dickens classic and a yearly PAC tradition. Damon earned a BA in Theatre cum laude from DeSales University and an MFA in Acting from Florida State University / Asolo Conservatory. Since returning to Philadelphia, he has worked as both an actor and a director at many area theatres, teaches at Rutgers, Drexel and Rowan University and filmed numerous on-camera spots. Barrymore Nominations: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play (Orange Flower Water, 2009)