The first time Free and I ran A Smorgasbord of Circus was in 2011*. It was super cool. We converted our training space into a makeshift theatre. We spent the night before sewing lengths of fabric together to make a backdrop, and piecing together second hand stage lights scrounged from old theatres. The acts were made up of many of our close circus friends who jumped in for the fun of it. The calibre of the acts was not what you would expect to see in a warehouse in Pascoe Vale, a plethora of performers who had worked with big circus companies across the globe. Free and I both performed our solo acts, and it kinda felt like we were hosting a kooky circus house warming with all our friends.
(I think my selective memory has blocked out all the stresses that went along with piecing together a show with minimal resources. I’m sure if you asked Free, she would tell you I was an overwhelmed mess for the duration).
What made the whole shebang really special was more than the performances. For me that was when I first got a sense of the community that was growing around The Circus Spot. It was the first time we got together so many of our students and their families who made up the audience for the night. We packed them in on plastic seats and had a kids section up the front on some spare tumbling mats.
We’ve tried to stage these performance nights as often as we could manage. The second time round we included two student acts and a couple of our coaches performed as well. Each consecutive performance had more students involved. As our community grew, so did the audience. The size of the audience was reflected in my stress levels – I’m sure that we were inadvertently breaking a fire code or regulation of some sort.
So now the whole thing has exploded in my face, this weekend we have 18 student acts, complimented by 5 acts by coaches and professionals. As a result we’ve had to hire a proper theatre, running two shows with completely different line ups. Instead of doing last minute rigging changes and running to the music shop to get extra parts for the sound system, I now have a production schedule 5 pages long, and a lighting design that I barely understand (lucky we’ve hired a professional to deal with the lights).
What is really heartening (and definitely makes up for the 13 hour day I have ahead of me bumping in** on Friday), is the youth troupes that are performing. These kids who started learning circus with us 5 years ago are now to be referred to as “young adults” or “youths”. Over several years, I have had the privilege of seeing them develop an impressive level of skill, and watched them grow into awesome individuals in their own right. Some have even started learning to teach circus; you may see them supporting our coaches as assistants on the Circus 101 classes.
I’m always inspired when we have a performance coming up, but even more so now that I’ve reflected on what our young acrobats have achieved. It doesn’t mean I won’t be stressed out and overwhelmed come Saturday night, but I’m definitely embracing the journey.
*in 2007 I produced a circus cabaret as part of Melbourne Fringe titled A Smorgasbord of Circus (it was such a good name I had to re-use it), but that’s another story.
**Bump in – theatre / circus speak for set up
If you haven’t got your tickets for the shows this weekend, make sure you head to the booking page to grab them.
A Smorgasbord of Circus will be held at Darebin Arts Centre, corner of Bell Street and St Georges Road in Preston. Shows are on May 14th at 7pm and May 15th at 2pm.
Daniel is the Chief Executive Clown (i.e. founder and director) of The Circus Spot, with a vision that every child in Australia should be able to show off at least one circus trick! He’s slowly getting there too, having taught over 5,000 kids and adults circus skills over the last 10 years. He is a typical circus geek, always dreaming up new ways to teach a cartwheel, or plotting the next performance for our performing troupes. Prior to starting The Circus Spot, Daniel has worked in and around circus as a performer, teacher and rigger (the guy that hangs all the trapezes). His signature circus trick was balancing on one leg on a slackrope (like a tightrope, but very loose), and then proceeding to use his spare foot to kick cups and cutlery high in the air to land in a bowl balanced on his head! This cool trick may have taken 4 years to perfect, but gave Daniel a chance to perform with a variety of companies such as Circus Quirkus, ThowDown, Circus Oz, the traditional family circus Circus Royale, Dislocate Physical Theatre and even supporting the rock band The Dresden Dolls.