The Belly of the Beast- Night #116

For those of you who missed me last night, never fear. The food poisoning has subsided and I am no longer stranded in Washington.

Now, it has occurred to me that in the 3 months or so that I have been writing this blog, I have failed to mention the thing that has occupied the majority of my time here in LA.

I work for the circus. Yes, the wire-walking, flipping, flying with the greatest of ease circus. Or, rather, a small school in Hollywood that serves as a training ground for it’s members; from motivated housewives to Cirque du Soleil performers in from Vegas for the weekend. Once Reese Witherspoon dropped by, but that’s another story.

I would guess that most people, even most theatre people, consider the modern circus little more than a delightful distraction; full of awe-inspiring stunts yet showing little relevance to our troubled world of today. But I disagree.

Because the circus is, unlike theatre, is inherently ballsy. Whether in the stilt-walkers, the act barkers, or the little kids running around cleaning out the audience, classic circus is built on risk.

Yes, it absolutely can be pandering. And ridiculous. And sometimes downright stupid. But there is an underlying guts factor to the circus that theatre can learn a hell of a lot from.

Circus is a its very basic a physical medium. People do extraordinary things for an amazed audience. This audience often assumes, especially in this day and age, that there is some kind of behind the scenes trick to aid the performers.

But really, most of the time, there’s no trick. The performers just do it.

In an age where people spend actual money on World of Warcraft, real courage is a heartening thought.

At some point, you just decided to do the back flip, or the fabric drop, or the leap from the flying trapeze. You make a decision and you jump.

The stakes in such performance are very high and very rewarding.

The best show I saw in all of 2012 was a comedy juggler at a state fair, who rode his 5-foot unicycle on top of a 2×4 resting on top of 2 saw horses. While juggling hammers. By this point in the show, we had seen him drop a number of pins, and were fully aware that he could fall at any moment.

He didn’t. And when he finished his routine, I actually stood and cheered. Here was a guy, doing this for no other reason than love, putting himself in some real physical harm, and pulling it all off with true bravado.

And maybe if it hadn’t been at the state fair, maybe if he hadn’t dropped those pins, it wouldn’t have been as good.

The circus is about elevation. Drawing our eyes and hearts up from the ground to the sky.

It’s about watching others take risks that we are too scared to take.

And then maybe, slowly and painfully, edging out there onto the platform ourselves.

Filed Under: Featuredjen davisPonderings

About the Author: Jen Davis is a stranger in a strange land. Following a life of wandering and re-location(where am i? WHO AM I?) she made a decisive (drunken) decision to forsake all things holy and move to Southern California. She recently received her BA in Theatre while narrowly avoiding a minor in philosophy. Jen has staged plays, mimes, sword fights, and cakewalks throughout the Pacific Northwest, most recently as Associate Artistic Director of Toy Boat Theatre Company. She seeks to revitalize and re-establish the theatre as a necessary part of American life through producing, writing, and generally crying out to anyone who will listen. Her marketable skills include learning to juggle, baking, and persistence.

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