Theatre Talk With Caitlin “Spinnabel Lee” Matanle, Circus Performer & Businesswoman

Theatre Talk With Caitlin

I met Caitlin Matanle, aka Spinnabel Lee, at the Blogcademy in Washington, DC last year. She and I hit it off right away with our shared love of theatre and performing! Not to mention, she has killer style — can you say spiderweb dress? Yes please!

Not only is she an amazing performer, but Caitlin is a badass business babe who runs her own entertainment company, a teacher, blogger, podcast host, festival director, and the list goes on and on! I don’t know how she does it! But now I’m going to turn it over to her… read on to find out more!

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Caitlin “Spinnabel Lee” Matanle, and I run (and perform for!) my Washington, DC-area contemporary circus and fire dancing company, Spinnabel Lee Entertainment LLC. Personally, I am a multi-prop fire performer, hula hoop dancer and multi-personality costumed character. I also contract stilt walkers, fire eaters and breathers, and additional entertainers for my company. I produce entertainment for a variety of public and private events (mostly for adults – think weddings, corporate events, and the like).

I do lots of other things, too! I teach private hula hoop dancing lessons, I am the assistant manager of online content for the Flow Arts Institute (an organization that furthers flow arts — performance arts such as hula hooping, poi, and other types of prop manipulations — experience and education around the world), and I am one of the directors for FLAME Festival (the Southeastern U.S.’s largest fire arts festival). I also work on the staff for The Jellyvision Show (a podcast for creative entrepreneurs) and as a co-host for Breaking Business Podcast (another business-centric podcast to be released this fall!).

Unrelated to show business, I moonlight as an interior design/feng shui writer for my blog Liberation Decor and am about to pursue a second career in the interior design industry. Yes, I am a multi-passionate creative! I love staying busy, even though my fiance says I over commit myself.

What made you want to do what you do? How did you get to where you are today?

I have always wanted to be in show business, even when I was a shy child convinced I would be on Broadway when I grew up. I did dance and theatre but stopped in high school. I was in a couple of college productions, but didn’t really give it much thought.

In 2006, I was traveling in Guatemala and went to a party where a few of the hosts spun fire poi for the guests. I was absolutely mesmerized and knew I had to learn. When I went home, I ordered a set of (ridiculously heavy and bruise-inducing) practice poi online and set out to find some instructional videos. The problem was, YouTube at the time was nowhere near the treasure trove of knowledge it is today — all I could find were a couple of hard-to-understand videos, and I quickly gave up.

A couple of years later, I saw an old friend at an out-of-town party, and she was learning poi herself. She taught me the basics, and I went home and continued to learn. At the time, I was in a new town with no friends, so I looked online to see if I could find another teacher. I found a hula hoop class starting up about an hour away and thought I might at least meet some like-minded people (even though I wasn’t very interested in hooping at the time). I drove there every week, quickly became obsessed, and linked up with a performance collective organized by the teacher. The rest is, more or less, history!

 

Theatre Talk With Caitlin

 

What has been your favourite past project/performance so far, and why?

I majored in sociology/anthropology in college, and I joke that I use that major (along with a healthy dose of psychology) every time I am part of an event. Hands down, the best part of my job as a performer is meeting all sorts of people and getting to observe their crazy social gatherings. I’m fascinated by new social groups. It would be impossible to pick a favourite! I’ve worked at events for celebrity lawyers, government folks, business tycoons and heirs, motorcycle clubs, haunted houses, large financial institutions… the list goes on! Probably the weirdest are the secretive unnamed “corporate events” I occasionally get contracted for — I don’t usually find out who the client is until I arrive. One was an offshore drilling convention!

Do you have a “war story” from your performing past that you’d be willing to share?

One time I failed to prepare my fire poi properly and the whole chain, handle, and hand (my own) holding it caught on fire. I had gross blisters, but surprisingly, no scars (I have them from much less severe burns, though!). It was my safety assistant’s first show, but they handled it with aplomb. I finished the act with a single poi before quickly heading to the nearest cold faucet!

What’s coming up next for you? Do you have a project on the go, or one coming up in the near future?

I am working on outsourcing more of my business (both in my office and performing in the field) to allow it to grow while freeing up my time to pursue new interests and endeavors. I recently started a second blog, Liberation Decor, which is all about intuitive interior design, feng shui, and rule breaking decorating. I plan to add services in the future!

 

Theatre Talk With Caitlin

What are your goals for the future?

I want to continue to grow Spinnabel Lee Entertainment, as well as eventually start my own practice as a feng shui interior design consultant. I plan on attending an online design school starting this winter to fill out my knowledge, and have secured a job to get started in the industry! I never want to feel confined to one job, passion, or industry.

What words of advice would you give to a young person who would like to do what you do and follow in your footsteps?

Don’t quit your day job! I’m half-kidding… but really, any endeavor where you’re in business for yourself will require serious hustle — more than you can ever imagine. Entrepreneurship is truly not for the faint of heart.

If you do want a future in show business, make sure you always set goals and know where you are headed. Have a five-year plan. If you see yourself as part of a big touring show five years from now, your actions and decisions today will be completely different from those of someone who sees themselves running an entertainment company five years from now.

 

Theatre Talk With Caitlin

Where can we find you online?

 

Thank you so much for sharing, Caitlin!

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