| 03.19.2018

The art of playing with fire – Fire juggling theater student to graduate with BFA


David Lenz began juggling fire for a fire dancing troupe when he was 18 years old. Though Lenz began juggling as a hobby when he was young, it wasn”t until he was 18 that he began to use it as a performance art.

Lenz said his first experience performing with fire was with the use of a prop called poi.

“Basically (poi) is a chain with a kevlar wick on the end and the chain straps to your hand so you can do all kinds of cool spins and tricks with it,” Lenz said.

Graduating senior David Lenz and second-year graduate student Christina Holaday rehearse his play "Heartstrings." The play with be performed Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Forge Theatre.

Austin Maas | Argonaut
Graduating senior David Lenz and second-year graduate student Christina Holaday rehearse his play “Heartstrings.” The play with be performed Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Forge Theatre.

Lenz said though he had practiced with the prop without it being lit, the first time he actually lit it was quite intimidating.

“It”s an adrenaline rush, but eventually once the adrenaline wears off and you calm down it”s just this beautiful, very unique art form that is very close to my heart,” he said.

Lenz”s career is not without its burns. He said his most embarrassing moment as a performer happened while he was performing in England. Lenz said he was spinning poi while delivering a speech about the dangerous but beautiful nature of fire when something went wrong and the prop collided with his face.

Lenz said, “It singed my beard, my eyelashes and eyebrows, and because (the poi) were chained to my hands I couldn”t just drop them.”

After taking some time away from school to work as a street performer and study in England, Lenz came to the University of Idaho to study theater.

Lenz will graduate with a Bachelor”s of Fine Arts degree in theatrical performance.

For his next performance, Lenz will set down the fire and focus on a more intimate type of storytelling. His final project as a UI student is a play titled “Heartstrings” that he is both directing and starring in.

“Part of the reason I came here was because I wanted to learn what it takes to tell a story in a theatrical sense,” Lenz said. “I wanted to use the skill that I already have, such as the juggling, the fire dancing, the magic, whatever, as a form of theater. So  this is project to find out if I can do that.”

Lenz said he also wanted to try to perform an entire play without any words.

“There”s no dialogue in the actual play itself, it”s all movement-based,” he said.

Joining Lenz on stage will be second-year MFA student Christina Holaday who will be playing the part of Annie, Lenz”s character”s love interest.

Holaday said in preparation for the play the two have had to study dance and martial arts to deliver the message of the play.

“I”m really interested in movement pieces and physical theater and telling a story with our bodies. So it”s been really challenging but in the best way,” she said.

Holaday said working with Lenz has been extremely rewarding. She said Lenz is motivational and she can tell he cares deeply about the meaning of the play.

Lenz said the play”s inspiration is rooted in both his story, and the story of his sister. He said he wanted to honor his sister, who is pregnant, and her husband. Lenz said the couple recently learned that their child has anencephaly and won”t live long past birth.

“And I”m way over here and I can”t be there to support them so I”m sticking to what I know and I”m doing this in their honor,” Lenz said.

“Heartstrings” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Forge Theatre.

Austin Maas  can be reached at  arg-news@uidaho.edu  or on Twitter @austindmaas

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