Walking Tall

Georgetown stilt walker Sage Viniconis brings a sense of normalcy to the abnormal.

Few people can actually call themselves a fountain of creativity. But stilt-walking performance artist Sage Viniconis literally spews ideas, philosophies, and ruminations with almost every breath he takes.

Exuding boundless energy, Viniconis narrates personal anecdotes with the delicious schizophrenia of a Cops re-enactment: One second he's his merry old self; the next, he's slipped into the role of an ex-girlfriend or ex-con.

Not surprisingly, much of what Viniconis does seeks to elicit laughter, or at least amusement, from his audience. Born with a natural proclivity for performance and imitation (an art form more correctly referred to as "mummery," says Viniconis), it's no wonder he's chosen the artistic path less traveled.

"I want to see people smile and laugh, and that's all I really want to do," says the 36-year-old Viniconis while quaffing a cold glass of Pabst at Jules Maes Saloon in Georgetown.

His career as a performance artist spans roughly a decade, from his first paid public stint as a toy soldier for FAO Schwarz in 1995 to his current work with his troupe, the Petting Zoo Players, whose motto is: "In life, we don't sweat the petty things; we just pet the sweaty things." Co-founded in 1999 by Viniconis, the group's sole remaining original member, the Players provide audiences with "interactive theatrical ambient entertainment."

But what Viniconis is best known for is his stilt work, a craft he's been perfecting for six years. Often seen around Georgetown "clearing his head" atop his 2-foot tall stilts, he's performed at Folklife, Bumbershoot, the Tractor Tavern, and the Oregon Country Fair, to name but a few gigs.

A self-taught stilt walker, Viniconis frequently shows up at community events in one of many character guises. Popular incarnations include Soggi Milk Toast, a redneck banjo player adept at rescuing monkeys from captivity, and Winston Winthrop, hobo extraordinaire.

"He adds a kind of vaudeville character [to Georgetown]," says friend Jana Sorsen, a licensed massage practitioner and Pike Place Market art vendor. "I've always been able to depend on him. I had a birthday party at my house, and he came in character— he really lit up the crowd."

Scott Horrell, owner of the Airport Way watering hole 9 lb. Hammer, can vouch for Viniconis' somewhat wacky behavior, as well as his love of magic and card tricks. "He's gotten pretty good at it over the years," says Horrell, who's known Viniconis for five years. "He probably has a better time fitting in here than anywhere else. There are a lot of weirdos [in Georgetown]," Horrel says with a laugh.

Since taking his stilted antics to the sidewalks of Georgetown, Viniconis has brought a sense of normalcy to the abnormal, says Horrel.

"You'll be walking down the street and turn the corner and see some guy on stilts, and you won't think twice about it," he says. Adds 9 lb. Hammer patron David Mazak, "I know that if I see some guy in his pajamas from far away, it's Sage."

These days, Viniconis is recruiting participants to don monkey suits for a project titled "The Hundredth Monkey" (based on Carl Jung's theory about the collective consciousness). He's also preparing for a two-week trek across Arizona—dubbed the "Faith and Healing Tour"—on a fancy pair of biomechanical stilts that can take 7-and-a-half-foot strides and go as fast as 22 miles per hour.

twan@seattleweekly.com

 
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