Summer Student Work: High Line and high wires

Travis Jones ’13 is spending a high-flying summer in Manhattan as an instructor at the Trapeze School of New York conducting field research for two senior theses at once in art and visual culture and in theater. Read on for how all this hangs together.

Flanked by Senior Lecturer in Theater Kati Vecsey and theatrical technical director Michael Reidy, Travis Jones ’13 discusses his work as a set designer during the Mount David Summit in April. Photograph by Rene Minnis.

Name: Travis Jones ’13

Hometown: Ithaca, New York

Research advisers: Erica Rand, Whitehouse Professor

Martin Andrucki, Dana Professor of Theater

Research funding: Ellen Seeling Design Fellowship, established in memory of designer, playwright and director Ellen Seeling, a professor in the Bates theater department.

1. As a double major, you’re preparing for two theses. Could you describe each topic?

For art and visual culture with Erica Rand, I’m looking at the intersection of art and the development of public spaces through a case study of the New York City High Line. Originally a railway for the transportation of meats, agricultural goods and mail, the High Line is a 1.5-mile-long elevated park that runs along Manhattan’s West Wide. With the help of local art galleries, museums, designers and neighbors, the High Line opened in 2009 as New York’s first “park in the sky.”

For theater, I’m analyzing the ways in which the physical architecture of a venue influences the performance, focusing on circus-style shows. I’d like to know how circus performance has developed in America, looking at not only how spaces evolve to accommodate changing acts but also how the space shapes the audience experience.

2. What’s the connection between the two projects?

Both projects look at architectural spaces and how people interact with those spaces. Ultimately both are about how the elements of design impact the audience experience.

3. How did you become a flying trapeze instructor?

I took my first class at the Trapeze School of New York three years ago and got hooked immediately. When I figured out that I was going to conduct research in NYC this summer, I quickly got in contact with TSNY to set up a summer work schedule.

4. You have seen several circus performances while in NYC. Which is your favorite?

All the performances have their merits. From the spectacle of Cirque du Soleil’s Zarkana to the intimate and wild Empire by Spiegelworld, I have enjoyed so many shows. However, Traces at the Union Square Theater is my favorite. The blend of dance and circus made for a thoroughly entertaining evening.

5. What has been the most valuable part of studying in New York this summer?

The chance to live in an environment with which I had no previous experience, and analyze various locations within that environment, has helped me to grow as an individual. I’ve learned as much about how I interact with my immediate space — for example, how I behave in my apartment — as I have about how other people engage with the spaces I’m studying.