The Performer: Holly Rothschild

January 9, 2012

Sometimes when I can’t sleep I listen to bedtime stories. Preferably, This American Life or podcasts from KCRW. Recently, I heard an enchanting, and slightly bizarre, story that went a little something like this…


Once upon a time there was a little girl named Holly. Holly lived in a prison. Sort of. She lived in a mansion attached to a prison where she played with prisoners and her cat, Spooky Spots…


And that’s really all I needed to hear to realize that I wanted to know more. The way Holly shares her story not only makes you want to be her pal, but also leaves you longing to know what this open-hearted, free spirited kid ended-up doing with her life…

where are you from?
I am from the Chicago area. Originally from the city and then grew up northwest of the city and eventually moved back to the city after college.

what do you do?
I have a performance ensemble called String Theory and a dance company called Strange & Elegant.

String Theory is a genre bending ensemble combining giant instruments that transform architecture in to musical instruments, original music, dance and video installations. My husband builds the instruments which sometimes go as large as 1,000 feet and I produce, direct and choreograph our performances. Luke also writes music. We also do music for film & tv. I also freelance as a choreographer. I have a company called Strange & Elegant Choreography and Performance Installations. I love making contemporary dance that is full of imagery and unusual costumes.

what did you want to be when you were a kid?
I think I always wanted to be some kind of performer.

what was unique about your childhood?
I grew up in a prison for awhile. My Dad was the county Sheriff and we lived in one of those old mansions with the jail directly attached to it. It was a really old building and the prison was directly attached to our house. I could talk to the prisoners from our old bathroom pipes. I used to think they were my pets…in a good way. I still have some old drawings that they made of me & my cat.

what is one of your favorite childhood memories?
After we moved out of the prison…(It’s a really long story)…We moved to a farm where we had lots of land. I was the youngest kid so spent a lot of time alone. We had these big beautiful cows and horses as pets so one thing I loved was to curl up to Fernanda (one of our black angus)  in the big field and soak up the sun with her. I spent a lot of time horse back riding and hanging with various animals. It was dreamy!

what do you love about your job?
I love working for myself and I love the challenge of running a company. I also love creating a big performance out of pure imagination and lots of tenacity. The only thing I would change…is that sometimes I end up spending a ton of time doing administrative work.

which of your productions makes you most proud?
There is something really satisfying in all of them. Just the fact that I get through them makes me proud. Some of the productions turn out better than others but it’s always a huge learning curve.

who inspires you?
I have to say that Pina Bausch has always been a huge inspiration. I’m definitely not making a comparison but her work is the best. There are tons of inspiring people out there…….can’t even begin to name them all.

what is your other dream job?
Working at an animal sanctuary.

if you could play part throughout history, what would it be, and what role would you play?
I’d love to play Hedda Gabler, and strangely, I’d love to do one of Karen Black’s horror roles.

what do you collect?
I just realized that I don’t collect anything.  That’s weird!

Photos by Luke Rothschild, Christa Mae and David Lowe.

Harlots Web from String Theory on Vimeo.