About Us

Over a cup of coffee and a book of poetry by Tim Burton, Paper Doll Militia was born. The child of four artists in Santa Fe, Paper Doll Militia has roots in circus, original music, puppetry, and dreamy, whimsical, dark storytelling. Read The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and think of us in a cafe in the desert dreaming of circus with a story. That’s who we were, that’s who we are.


Paper Doll Militia’s purpose is to enrich the cultural life of the community through dynamic movement, storytelling and education. We seek to create a total visual and emotional experience. In the creation process, we emphasize interdisciplinary collaborations within the larger artistic community, Our educational programs provide tools for technique and artistry to unlock creative potential.  PDM welcomes adults of all ages, genders, sizes and fitness levels to join us for a variety of workshops, teacher trainings & retreats. You’ll find a warm and welcoming community of artists who love to innovate and play. 


Paper Doll Militia’s innovative approach to choreography and poignant use of theatricality have gained the company the reputation of being pioneers in original aerial theatre. Their pieces seamlessly weave dynamic physicality, aerial arts, and visual theatre. They emphasize the mixture of modern and vintage mediums as well as invented aerial apparatus to create their signature aesthetic; dreamy, whimsical, and dark. Paper Doll Militia are also known for their Aerial Instruction courses, specifically Teacher Training courses, Vertical Theatre Method Method Master Classes and Aerial Retreats.

The Company was formed in Santa Fe, New Mexico (USA) in 2006 by four artists Colleen McKeown, Westin McDowell, Sarah Holmes and Rain Anya. Together they created the collective with the sole intention of making a full length circus theatre production which integrated text, live music, puppetry and storytelling. And thus they created Rara Avis, the company’s first show. Through this there became the need to name the collective and Paper Doll Militia was born. Rara Avis had a sold out run at Wise Fool, New Mexico in Santa Fe followed by a short tour which included excerpts of the show. The company then disbanded. In 2008 artists Sarah Holmes and Rain Anya re-ignited the company in Oakland California. Since then the company has been run with the vision of these two co-artistic directors. They have since written and produced 5 other full length productions and toured internationally with their performances and instruction. The company is still run by these two women and with their shared vision they continue to develop educational programs and create work, each from their home locations of Los Angeles California (Rain) and Glasgow Scotland (Sarah).

The Artists

Rain Anya

Co-Founder, Co-Artistic Director

With her 25 years of experience onstage in theatre, dance, music, and circus, Rain’s life’s work is in the integration of circus arts with other performance and movement disciplines. Rain’s aerial career began with the political circus company Wise Fool New Mexico in 2003. Out of inspired collaborations there, the seeds for the Paper Doll Militia were sown. Rain has been creating and touring original productions with the company since 2006, in the US and the UK.

Rain is also a passionate aerial arts instructor and travels around the world teaching PDM specialty workshops, teacher trainings, and aerial retreats (Greece & Mexico). When she’s not on the road, Rain offers private lessons out of her East LA home studio. Rain also works as a trainer and consultant for theatre and film, notable clients include top Bollywood actress Katrina Kaif for her role in Dhoom 3 and sports legend Serena Williams.


Sarah Bebe Holmes

Co-Founder, Co-Artistic Director

Sarah Bebe Holmes’ style is characterized by quality of movement, emotional narrative content, and original innovative choreography.  Sarah writes, performs, choreographs and designs. She has worked extensively internally in and around the US, UK, Mexico, India, Lebanon, Egypt, Austria, Germany, Croatia, Netherlands, Spain, Italy and Greece.  

Most recently Sarah is remounting Egg for a final Scottish Tour to commence in 2022- After a world hiatus –  Egg is an aerial theatre production on aerial plastic looking at our modern approach to fertility. Egg had a sell out run on the Edinburgh Fringe Festival at which Sarah was selected by the List as one of Scotland’s most Influential and Creative women of 2018. Sarah is also in the process of writing and directing a new Paper Doll Militia Production, Arthropoda. 

Sarah lives in Glasgow, Scotland

Guest Performers in
Paper Doll Militia Productions

Lena Alani
Sam Aquatic
Windu Sayles
Jordann Baker
Helen Goodrum
Tyler Jacobson
Mckinley MacLean
Amber Monson
Diego Serna
Tanisha Davis
Tim Mack
Claire Crook
Joe Garcia
Phil Hardie
Debbie Reynolds
Colleen McKeown – Founder
Westin McDowell – Founder

Associate Artists and Collaborators
in Paper Doll Militia Productions

Bado Reti – Composer
Circus Gear – Custom Apparatus Fabricator
Paul Holmes – Set Design / Master Carpenter
David Tatu – Lighting Designer
George Tarbuck – Lighting Designer
Ben Exler- Animator
Zdenko Bašić – Animator
Ben Harrison – Director
Mike Estee – Inventor
David Paul Jones – Composer
Anthony Espina – Composer
Corvas K. Brinkerhoff II – Lighting Designer
Nikolas Strubbe – Storyteller
Santhosh Koneru – Digital Artist (Live photo essay)
Sasha Baskina – Visual Designer
Evan Tracy – Aerial Sculptor
Emily Frost – Visual Artist (Shadow puppets)
Calum MacAskill -Animator
Lee Dotson – Animator
Saye Gbatu – Animator