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Behind The Scenes Of 'Cirquetacular! Cirquetacular!'


Contemporary circus show displays some superhuman talent

Behind the Scenes of 'Cirquetacular! Cirquetacular!'

The Circus Collective of San Diego is a group of circus artists who present original shows that blur the lines between traditional circus and contemporary theater. Last year they did a film noir circus, "Circustantial Evidence," now they serve up “Cirquetacular! Cirquetacular!”

Deep down everyone harbors a secret desire to run off and join the circus. Right?


"Yes, as a kid I always wanted to run away and join the circus, but growing up in a small town in Utah there wasn’t a whole lot of options for that," Travis Ti said. He succeeded in doing it in his 30s and wouldn't change it for anything. He's now part of the Circus Collective of San Diego and is one of the performers featured in “Cirquetacular! Cirquetacular!”

The Collective's creative director Danielle Berg had a similar desire that was sparked only a few years ago when her husband told her to wait in the car while he went in to a jeweler's shop and Berg's eye was drawn to a shop next door.

"I was drawn to this neon sign, 'Kung fu and circus arts,' and I just couldn’t resist," Berg said.

The irresistible sign can still be found in the window of the Sophia Isadora Academy of Circus Arts at Park Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard.

Currently, Berg and the Circus Collective of San Diego are rehearsing their new show "Cirquetacular! Cirquetacular!" The show will be staged at the Lyceum Theater.


"We’re excited too to actually be able to reach one of our goals of the Collective, which is to bridge the gap between circus and theater, and the Lyceum is that perfect combination because it’s set up in a half round, which is half like the big top in the round and half a theater so we are so excited about this space, it’s really perfect," Berg said.

Daniel Nava wrote the script for "Circustantial Evidence" and crafted the script for "Cirquetacular! Cirquetacular!" that weaves together the specialty of each performer with dialogue that pushes a narrative forward. In this case a story about a group of Bohemian artists trying to put on a show.

"I think we’d like to think of it as it’s own genre," Nava said. "A lot of what goes on in this show compared to what you’d get in normal theater or what you’d get in traditional circus, it’s more its own kind of monster. So it is something that is not entirely theater and it’s something that’s not entirely traditional circus."

Ehrick Costello is another performer in the show.

"For this show we came up with our characters first and then just choreographed the interaction between them and almost in a more theatrical way than you generally do in a circus performance, so we came up with the story and made the story work and then fit the tricks in where it was appropriate," Costello said.

It’s a more contemporary style of circus that leaves out the elephants and clowns in order to focus on the amazing things the human body can do. What Berg calls the basics of circus.

"I think that’s something that people always love to see because it gives us a belief in our own ability to also transcend our own limitations," Berg said.

Zoe Irvine, an aerialist, described the appeal of circus:

"There is something about this where we’re becoming superhuman and particularly when it comes to acts where we’re flying, whether it be on an apparatus or just being tossed in the air, where we’re capturing some kind of fantastical desire, we’ve all had flying dreams right. I think when I perform when I do an act part of it is wish-fulfillment right? That person who is watching the act isn’t just watching what I am doing, they are with me, wondering what would it feel like if I was doing that?"

Nava agrees.

"Some of the stuff they do is like superhuman, they are holding themselves in places that most people couldn’t and occupying space in ways most people couldn’t and there is an escape in that it’s like a special effect, some of the stuff you see in our show you’ll wonder how it’s even humanly possible," Nava said.

And to see it up close so you’ll ooh and aah as performers seem ready to land in your lap.

Hanna Denham pulled back in her chair to demonstrate how she wants people to react to the performance on stage.

"That’s the best part about it is to be able to present something that can make someone have an emotion inside them like that to express it means you’re doing something right," she said.

Denham is a contortionist and hand balancer, which she explained is someone who "specializes in handstands so I do all sorts of balancing on my hands."

Ti called himself an all-around performer who can do a lot of different things but said "for this show I am going to be doing a partner trapeze act where me and a partner, Jacqueline Witt, are going to be doing a, we’re basically going to be hanging on the trapeze and be throwing her around and doing some really cool tricks."

But Ti said the biggest challenge isn’t mastering the tricks but rather staying in character.

"When you are hanging from a bar by one hand or by your feet or something like that and you are trying to portray a character it’s easy to lose your character while you are hanging upside down and putting your life at risk. I think that’s probably the biggest challenge," Ti said.

But when it all comes together onstage this Sunday, the goal is to make it all look seamless and effortless, like it’s something even you and I could do.

"Part of our purpose as the Circus Collective of San Diego is to make circus a little bit more accessible to more people, so we’re able to do that," Nava stated.

You have one chance to run off and join "Cirquetacular! Cirquetacular!" It will be performed Sunday, April 19 at 7 p.m. at the Lyceum Theater.