Seattle-based contemporary circus managing director juggles multiple hats at work.

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Susie Williams

What do you do? I am the managing director of Acrobatic Conundrum, a Seattle-based, nationally touring, contemporary circus company — which means I do a lot of different things! I am responsible for administrative tasks, fundraising, budgeting, and I step into other roles as needed. Basically, I help determine the company’s direction and then try to keep us on track.

How did you get started in that field? I studied theater in undergrad, graduated, my grandmother gave me a gift certificate to an aerial class for my birthday, and the next thing I knew I was performing flying trapeze. Pretty classic, really. Performing was never really my main thing, though. As long as I’d been in the arts, I had an eye on, and often a hand in, how the work was made. Eventually, I formalized everything I’d learned through experience about arts administration in a lovely — and sadly defunct — program called “Performers in Transition,” which was a year-long fellowship at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).

What’s a typical day like? There’s a seasonality to the work. So what’s typical in May is not what is typical in December. The beginning months of the year, I’m at my home office putting into motion everything that happens from August to December. In the later months, on any given day I could be giving feedback at rehearsal, setting up a ticketing system, designing posters, attending a performing arts conference …

What’s the best part of the job? Honestly, I think almost everything about my job is the best thing! I contribute art to the world and help generate paid work for incredible artists. My colleagues are hardworking, generous, kind and courageous. We’re able to share our work in communities, small and large, that have never experienced contemporary circus before. There’s a massive circus evolution underway, and it is very cool to be a part of it.

What surprises people about what you do? That there is such a thing called contemporary circus! And even more so that Seattle has a national reputation as one of the hot spots in the American contemporary circus. I don’t know what it is about the Pacific Northwest. I think there’s just something in the water here.

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