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Brian Sostek and Megan McClellan blend theater and dance with comedy, storytelling and puppetry in “Trick Boxing,” which will be performed Oct. 5 at the Sheldon.
Brian Sostek and Megan McClellan blend theater and dance with comedy, storytelling and puppetry in “Trick Boxing,” which will be performed Oct. 5 at the Sheldon.

Get kick out of energetic, funny show

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life Red Wing, 55066

Red Wing Minnesota 2760 North Service Drive / P.O. Box 15 55066

By Ruth Nerhaugen, contributor

What kind of show mixes high-energy dancing with boxing? Then tosses in some storytelling, romance and puppetry?

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Only one: “Trick Boxing.”

The eclectic comedy will be staged at 7 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Sheldon Theatre, part of its celebration of 25 years since the Sheldon’s restoration.

The duo known as Sossy Mechanics — Brian Sostek and Megan McClellan — created “Trick Boxing” several years ago for the Minnesota Fringe Festival in Minneapolis.

Sostek, whose background is in theater, and McClellan, whose forte is dance, had created three duets for a choreographers’ production. They decided to take those acts and write their own show linking them together.

Two of them didn’t fit, Sostek said, so they focused on one dance, created a few more pieces and built a new show, “Trick Boxing.”

By the luck of the draw, they were selected to stage the 55-minute production at the 2002 Fringe Festival.

“It was a huge hit,” he said. By the third or fourth performance, “There was literally a line around the block. … I had no idea. I had hoped people would not be bored.”

That success prompted them to take “Trick Boxing” on the road. For four months, they hit Fringe Festivals around the country and one major festival abroad — in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Again, the public’s response was “phenomenal,” Sostek said. After a review appeared in The Scotsman, word spread like wildfire.

“‘Trick Boxing’ is a uniquely lovely blending of genres and dramatic tones that make a wonderful, touching, spine-tinglingly captivating piece of storytelling, which doesn’t merely warm the cockles of your heart, it flambes them,” the reviewer said.

Sold-out shows prompted them to add a second venue in Edinburgh, though the logistics were challenging. “We couldn’t get a taxi” because they had too much equipment, he said, so they had to haul everything across town on foot.

The couple took about a 5-year hiatus to start a family. They decided to rework the show, lengthening it to around 90 minutes. That full version premiered in 2012 at the Guthrie Theater.

“Trick Boxing” tells the story of Dancing Danny, who is caught between a rock and a hard place. Indebted to a street tough who saved his life, Danny reluctantly becomes a boxer to pay him back.

While training for matches he meets a dancer, Bella, who teaches him a few moves of her own.

The production is a physical comedy “told through rapid-fire dialogue, high-energy dance numbers, ridiculous puppetry, true love, and of course, boxing,” according to a Sheldon press release.

Sostek and McClellan met in 1996 when both were performing with Joe Chvala and the Flying Foot Forum. He was a member of that troupe when it performed at the Sheldon in the early 1990s. McClellan danced in Red Wing when she and her sister choreographed a performance for Red Wing Shoe Company’s 100th anniversary.

The two chose the name Sossy Mechanics when they formed their own company. The name came from selecting words that not only sound like their names, but also hold meanings that fit their sensibilities.

“Sossy” is sassy, or irreverent, Sostek said. And “mechanic” has an archaic definition describing it as the art of applying the laws of motion, something that is an integral part of their physical performances.

“And,” he added, “we like to tinker with things.”

They have performed widely in the United States and also appeared in Great Britain, Prague and Canada.

As individuals, both also are active on the Twin Cities arts scene. Sostek can be seen on stages including the Guthrie, Children’s Theater Company and the Ordway Center. He’s choreographing “Cinderella” for CTC this fall. McClellan is a professional dancer performing with Shapiro & Smith and other companies.

As Sossy Mechanics, the duo said, they “strive to communicate through our creations and performances in a way that is so clear that people get what we’re saying, so evocative that they become willing participants in imagining the worlds we create.”

That world has grown. Son Misha is now 6, and daughter Mahira is 4.

When Misha was born, Sostek said, they created a duet for him called “A Recipe for Love” that ended with Misha appearing in his diaper. Now the little boy is writing songs and performed at Ball’s Cabaret in the Southern Theater, where the couple was married.

They haven’t made plans to become a family act, Sostek said, but “I have a feeling we might be headed down that path.”

Appropriately, the upcoming Sheldon performance is suitable for children as well as adults. In Sostek’s view, “a surprisingly wide range of ages” seems to enjoy the show. “It’s got great appeal. … It’s not like anything you’ve seen.”

For tickets or information, call 651-388-8700 or go online to www.sheldontheatre.org.

If you go …

What: “Trick Boxing”

Who: Sossy Mechanics

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 5

Where: Sheldon Theatre, 443 W. Third St.

How much: $22.50 adults, $14.50 students

More info: 651-388-8700 or www.sheldontheatre.org

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