From silks to Fanny: The face behind The Dolphin Show’s first circus experience and a reimagined ‘Funny Girl’


Photo courtesy of Joanne Haner

Dani Goldberg as Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl.”

Micah Sandy, Copy Chief

Communication senior Dani Goldberg brought a school playground, a circus tent, silks and swings to The Dolphin Show’s January production of “Matilda the Musical,” making it the first production with circus elements in Dolphin’s 84-year history.  

Goldberg, the show’s circus and movement consultant, said they became interested in circus after taking a class taught by The Actors Gymnasium during their freshman year. They said they were inspired to incorporate circus into “Matilda” after attending Lookingglass Theatre Company’s production of “Lookingglass Alice” with their roommate, Communication senior and Dolphin Show Director Lucy Harrington, last year. 

“As we were in the audience, we had the sense of awe and wonder and amazement that children have,” Goldberg said. “Similarly, we used circus elements to develop and physicalize Matilda’s huge imagination.” 

Harrington said she was excited to incorporate circus in “Matilda” and saw Goldberg’s experience and forthcoming training program with The Actor’s Gymnasium as a major asset.

According to Harrington, only two cast members had previous aerial experience. This expanded Goldberg’s role to that of a teacher who led lessons on flying.

“It was us brainstorming ways in which things could be abstracted and Dani having the technical knowledge and more resources available to them,” Harrington said. “It was really a collaborative effort to find the moments that were in the show that were feasible for us to add surface into.”

Communication sophomore and “Matilda” ensemble member Sofi Pascua was among those who had never used aerial silks for acrobatic performance. She played one of protagonist Matilda Wormwood’s classmates who contributed to musical numbers and the storyline through unique physical movement, background interactions and circus. 

“(Goldberg was) very helpful and patient as I was figuring things out,” Pascua said. “I think that was largely due to their guidance and the way that they explain things.”

Goldberg, who identifies as trans, said they enjoy the welcoming community theatre offers for people of different backgrounds, particularly those who identify as queer. 

They also recently co-directed and acted in an independent production of the musical “Funny Girl,” which featured a trans, non-binary Fanny Brice. Goldberg, who plays Brice, said they aimed to explore queer identities, feminism, beauty standards, Judaism and self-worth without changing the plot.

“I wanted to create that opportunity for myself and represent a whole group of people that typically aren’t represented in musical theatre and in the media,” they said. “We’re exploring what it does to the story, to see a trans, non-binary body in Fanny Brice, and bringing the societal implications of that to her story.”

Goldberg is also a director for the Jewish Theatre Ensemble, a member of Extreme Measures a cappella group and the artistic director for Steam Heat Dance Company.

Communication senior and Steam Heat President Elyse Yun, who was also a member of the “Matilda” cast, said she and Goldberg not only collaborate on choosing dance pieces, but also morale-boosting. 

“Everything about them is just unique and they’re just so confident, so unapologetically themselves, and they make everybody else around them confident,” Yun said.

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