All the skate park’s a stage

‘4ISH’ is half circus, half street corner and all fun

Katie Wilber

With flashing lights and enough bass to satisfy a 16-year-old’s subwoofer fetish, “4-ISH” is not just a show – it’s a performing arts bonanza. It combines acrobatics, beat-boxing and kung fu, throwing in some in-line skating for good measure.

Marco Gerris is the founder of ISH, a performance group from Amsterdam, Netherlands. In six years, Gerris’ collaborative artistic vision has gone from inside his head to around the world. Its latest stop is the Children’s Theatre Company, where it runs through Oct. 8.

The 11 cast members hail from all over the world, including Egypt, Holland and Sweden. Their specialties range from break dancing to circus performing.

The show’s concept, according to the program, was inspired by the bevy of street disciplines Gerris saw while living in the Netherlands. A native of the Philippines, he founded ISH in 1999 at 23 years old, taking on the club circuit, pop concerts, circus entertainment, video games and cartoons to form a theatrical group.

ISH has toured Europe and North America and is scheduled to tour China, Brazil, Canada and Europe.

The name of the troupe is not used in the little-kid-refusing-to-eat-steamed-vegetables context; instead, it’s a suffix, whether formal or informal, to describe a similarity.

“They do so many different things that they couldn’t give an exact name to what they do,” said Linda Jacobs, director of public relations for Children’s Theatre Company.

“It’s similar to a lot of things, but it’s not precisely any of them.”

The show’s playlist is urban, but still ranges in styles. Quincy Jones might follow the Beastie Boys.

With songs like Busta Rhymes’ “Light Ya Ass on Fire” and J. Kwon’s “Tipsy,” ISH strains against the comfort level set by classical and musical theater. It’s edgy without being uncomfortable, and it showcases the trend of turning the untraditional into theater.

The show is promoted for ages 8 and older, which is unusual for a theater company geared toward children. While all can enjoy the combination of extreme sports and performing and visual arts, the music, the nuances and the cultural impact are better suited for older kids and adults, Jacobs said.

The Children’s Theatre Company is expanding as well as celebrating its 40th anniversary, and it’s the perfect time to explore, she said.

“We want to include everyone, especially teenagers, in the expansion,” Jacobs said. “It’s an opportunity for people to understand all the different aspects of theater.”

The company wants to push boundaries and show that theater is more than Shakespeare and musicals.

“It’s not to say that those disciplines aren’t good,” Jacobs said, “but we want to explore everything that’s out there.”

With theater’s growing emphasis on collaboration among disciplines, “4-ISH” fits right in.