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Isabella Rossellini brings solo show ‘Link Link Circus’ to Sonoma

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If You Go

What: “Link Link Circus” with Isabella Rossellini

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8

Where: Sebastiani Theatre, 476 First St. E., Sonoma

Admission: $45

Information: gunbun.com

Isabella Rossellini, the daughter of Swedish-born film legend Ingrid Bergman and Italian film director Roberto Rossellini, has spent her life in the spotlight.

She’s been in the public eye from her birth in 1952, all through her career as an actress and model to today, at age 67, as she has once again reshaped her identity and is a traveling lecturer and stage performer.

Rossellini will bring “Link Link Circus,” her “theatrical lecture” on animal intelligence and behavior featuring not only her live performance and monologues but her short films and animated cartoons, her dog co-star, Pan, and a puppeteer, to the Sebastiani Theatre in Sonoma for one performance on Feb 8.

If you think her topic sounds overly serious, wait until you see her dog wearing a rooster costume.

“Animals make me laugh. I find them so comical,” Rossellini said from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, where she is serving as a juror.

The actress also seeks to treat animals with respect. In her live stage show, Rossellini combines her dramatic skills, honed in major films including “Blue Velvet” and “White Night,” with more recently acquired expertise: a master’s degree in conservation and animal behavior from New York’s Hunter College.

“This show is not just academic. It’s a expression of the deep affection I have always had for animals since I was a little girl.”

The show, which has appeared in New York City and Southern California with an extensive European tour in between, will be presented locally by (((folkYEAH!))), which also produces concerts at the Gundlach Bundschu Winery in Sonoma.

“Link Link Circus” follows up on Rosellini’s acclaimed Sundance Channel series and theater piece “Green Porno,” about the sex lives of animals. But the new show studies their mental processes and emotional behavior instead. The last show was “waist down” and this one is “waist up,” as she likes to say.

“This show is about animal cognition, which means intelligence,” she said. “Animals can think. Animals can feel.”

“Link Link Circus” gets its title from Charles Darwin, who Rossellini, in a fake beard, rather humorously impersonates. The naturalist asserted that while humans and animals are different, those differences are only a matter of degree, and there are links between the species.

Beyond her formal studies, Rossellini has learned a lot on her own farm in Bellport, on Long Island in New York, where she raises chickens and sheep — not for meat — and grows vegetables. She even wrote a book titled “My Chickens and I.”

“Even chickens, which are known for being stupid, really are not stupid,” she said. “They recognize me. They come running when they see me. One of them always tries to get into my car to see what’s inside. They’re curious.”

Of course, in the live show, the role of the chicken is played by her dog, Pan.

“My little doggy loves to perform,” she said. “I had tried to use my other dog, Pinocchio. I can train an animal but I couldn’t train the dog not to react to the audience. That dog went down into the auditorium to say hello to everybody.”

So she got Pan, a rescue dog, and worked with a professional trainer who schools dogs used in Broadway musicals.

As much as Rossellini loves and respects animals and wants her audience to feel same, she stops short of preaching.

“I don’t say this explicitly, but if you understand how sentient they are, you inevitably want to treat them better,” she said. “But I don’t tell people want to do.”

There’s a practical rationale behind the format for Rossellini’s show, too.

“I have worked more in film that theater, but films are so expensive to make,” she explained. “Theater you can do on a street corner, in a bar, in a person’s home, in a hundred-seat auditorium or a thousand-seat auditorium. I made videos that were seen on the Internet by millions of people, but I never made any money. You can’t monetize it. In a theater, you know what the box office income is.”

Rossellini has worked on a couple of feature films that are still in post-production, one of them for years. But she said she enjoys live performance now and making her own decisions.

“There are some roles for women my age, but not many,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s more interesting to create your own stuff and do your work, and that is what has happened over the last 10 years.”

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 707-521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @danarts.

If You Go

What: “Link Link Circus” with Isabella Rossellini

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8

Where: Sebastiani Theatre, 476 First St. E., Sonoma

Admission: $45

Information: gunbun.com

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