Seattle Couple Defies Gravity at Teatro ZinZanni

By Kim Holcomb; Produced by Eric Riddle

SEATTLE – A career in the circus arts is a job many in the profession choose early in life. But Ben Wendel and Rachel Nehmer took a more scientific path to performing.

“I went to school at Haverford college in Pennsylvania and I study biology there,” Said Wendel “And at Haverford is where I meet Rachel.”

“They specialized in molecular biology and I was always interested in neurodevelopment so that’s what I studied.” Said Nehmer.

After graduation, they both landed research jobs at the University of Washington – and came out west. But Nehmer had interests outside the lab.

“I had this trapeze that I gave to Ben. He carried it cross-country in the truck of his car. When I came and met him in Seattle we thought well why not try and find a place to hang it and you know maybe I could get back into it maybe it could be a way to meet people here in a new city. And It slowly but surely it took over our lives.” Said Nehmer.

They traded in their test tubes for the trapeze full-time in 2006 and became known as Duo Madrona.

“It’s two people on one trapeze. And a lot of people automatically picture a flying trapeze,” Said Nehmer. “But our trapeze is actually one trapeze that hangs straight up and down and we, just the two of us, are both on it.”

Like all the performers at Teatro ZinZanni, the couple does more than just their act.

“We create a character that’s part of a story that involves all the other artist in the ensemble,” Said Wendel. “Then our act at the end of the night is a culmination of our characters journey. We meet and sort of develop our relationship and our romance over the course of our act. And that’s all done in the language of dance and acrobatics and trust.”

Science may have brought these two together, but it’s the circus that keeps their love flying high.

“I get to share what I do with the person that I love, with my partner, that’s super-special.” Said Nehmer.

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