Most people have probably called their dad a clown once or twice, but for junior Sophia Rosman, it’s no joke.
Her father, Michael Rosman, has worked as a professional comedy juggler in a circus for over 20 years. Sophia is a professional special events entertainer. She has performed at the White House, on the Ellen Degeneres Show, and hundreds of other venues.
Growing up, live performance was a consistent presence in Sophia’s life. She learned to juggle at 7 years old. Her family owns over 50 unicycles, and at any given time you can find at least four tightropes strung up in her backyard.
While she was always exposed to circuses, festivals, renaissance fairs, and performing, Sophia never felt pressured into that lifestyle. But she knew people that were. Many family friends involved in the performing industry had children her age, and she would spend time with them when given the chance.
“Some of my friends growing up would ask me stuff like, ‘What’s it like to play soccer?’” Sophia, a philosophy and art history major, said.
Sophia, who is also pursuing a minor in business, would help her dad perform on weekends, along with her younger brother. The family would get booked for festivals, resorts, sweet 16s, quinceañeras, corporate events and was heavily involved in the Baltimore street performing community. Over the years, she has developed a wide-ranging skill set: from riding unicycles, juggling, stilt walking, riding mini bikes, walking tightropes, and swinging on the trapeze, to face and body painting.
“Painting is my favorite at the moment, because it’s what’s newest to me, and it’s exciting,” Sophia explained. Before college, Sophia attended an arts magnet school. Combining that with her studies in Arts History at UR, she finds painting the most exciting and expressive type of work she does.
Rosman says that, in the performance business, it’s really all about who you know. Lucky for her, Sophia knows just about everyone you would need to know. Her dad is well-connected thanks to years of performing and his role in organizing an industry networking trade show that regularly draws over 1,000 performers. Entertainers in the Baltimore/DC area are familiar with the Rosmans, and Sophia developed relationships with many in the business from a young age.
“As a kid, I had the challenge of having to know people in costume and out of costume,” Sophia said. “That was a big deal because I couldn’t recognize some people.”
Through these connections, she was introduced to face painting. Starting as a painter’s apprentice at a renaissance fair, Sophia learned a lot early on. The painters she was working under were not playing around.
“They did not hold back when criticizing, and I loved that,” Sophia said.
When she was 16, Sophia attended a face painting conference where she was introduced to body painting. She finds that body painting is more artistically liberating than face painting.
“It gives me more space and time to add my own unique flair to the art.”
One of the most rewarding experiences for Sophia involved her painting faces. She was volunteering in Baltimore during the aftermath of the riots in 2015. Sophia face-painted at an event dedicated to giving inner-city children positive influences and life goals.
The human body isn’t the only medium she works with. Sophia also enjoys painting textiles and canvas. Airbrushed t-shirts are a popular request at events. Sophia has been asked to “speed paint” for crowds before. She is given a finite amount of minutes to paint an entire piece on canvas, and then the work is often auctioned off.
In March 2017, Sophia was asked to participate in a service dedicated to a family friend, and circus performer, who had recently passed away. She was given five minutes to speed paint a portrait of the man in honor of his life as an entertainer. Her piece was well-received.
A typical gig normally consists of a juggling routine between her and either one or two other people. The routine is mostly juggling in different formations with different items (clubs, balls, torches, knives, etc.). The show usually ends with the “big finale,” where Sophia’s two co-performers are riding six-foot and nine-foot tall unicycles, Sophia is balancing on a platform, sitting on a rolling tube, on a table. Oh, and then they juggle either flaming clubs or knives. Again, this is the typical set.
A few years ago, Sophia was hired to be filmed performing in Aruba. The man that hired her was hoping to make a viral video of people juggling live iguanas. Simple enough, all he would need was a talented juggler and some iguanas. The juggler was on her way. The iguanas were nowhere to be seen. Sophia spent hours helping the director try to chase down and catch live iguanas. They eventually gave up the hunt and decided to proceed with stuffed iguanas.
“I don’t even think there’s a video,” Sophia told the Campus Times. “But at least I got to spend a week down in Aruba.”
Sophia has also played a living statue at events, where she has to interact with the party in unique ways, including tactfully avoiding prodding children. But statues are not the only living objects that Sophia plays. She has also performed as a living bush. Sophia owns a fully functional, entirely encompassing shrub costume. She sits in the bush and plays the recorder to set the mood. Sophia described one time when she was hired to be a living bush at a mansion sale. Lamborghinis were parked out front, and she was stationed in the garden along with a woman wearing a dress made of champagne glasses.
The work environment of a special event entertainer can often be hazardous, with all the knives, stunts, fire, and such. Sophia has definitely seen, and heard about, her fair share of bad accidents. Fortunately, the worst injuries she’s sustained have only been minor cuts and tendonitis from juggling too much.
When Sophia is back home over breaks, it isn’t unusual for her to book six to eight performances a week, often having to do multiple shows in a day. While in Rochester, she gets booked about once a week, but recently things have been slowing down because she was abroad last semester. Right now, her goal is to raise up the event entertainment community in Rochester because it is nowhere near the level of the community in Baltimore. For example, Sophia is the only airbrush artist in the Rochester area. She has flown from Baltimore to Rochester before just to do an airbrushing job.
“I’m trying to bring up body painting in Rochester. When people perform better, the entire community would be able to charge more,” Sophia said. “It would help everyone out and we could learn from each other.”