John Boylan’s Next Conversation: “Circus! Part Four”

Event Date: Tuesday, May 5, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Admission is free. Tell your friends.

Location: 12th Avenue Arts, 1620 12th Ave

To link to this announcement, do so at

The scheduling for this conversation is a little unusual. We’re not having a conversation in April. There will be one in May, however, earlier in the month than usual (Tuesday May 5), and it’s at 12th Avenue Arts, not Vermillion. Read on for details.

The Guests

Terry Crane, co-founding director, The Acrobatic Conundrum

Elizabeth Klob, UMO Ensemble

Ty Vennewitz, clown with the Acrobatic Conundrum

Leah Jones, straps aerialist and hip hop dancer

David Crellin, circus emcee and cabaret singer, co-founder of the legendary Circus Contraption, and recently, director of IMPulse Circus Collective.

The Story

Longtime watchers of this series know that I have a passion for circus and vaudeville. We did our first of three conversations about circus ten years ago, and the latest was in 2011. I’ve done a wee bit of circus (as a complete amateur), watched a lot of both circus and vaudeville, and talked to enough artists in both areas to have a fascination with how it works, where it has been, and where it is going.

So I was pleased to find out that Terry Crane was interested in doing another circus conversation. He and his troupe, the Acrobatic Conundrum, are putting on THREE HIGH, a circus festival at 12 Avenue Arts and co-sponsored by the Seattle branch of Circus Now. Running from April 28-May 10, the festival features three shows, including the Cirque en Déroute’s “The Really Weird Cabaret!” and Acrobatic Conundrum’s “The Language of Chance.”

To me, circus has long been about bringing wonder and magic into the everyday. For centuries, circus troupes and later, variety shows, were often the one of few sources of source of everyday magic. Nowadays, in a time when wonder might seem so common as to be cheap, magic is everywhere, from the tiny supercomputer you’re holding in your hand to the huge and spectacular fantasies of the silver screen.

So circus and its companion, variety, have found a new niche, of bringing us an immediate and human-scale delight, with talented people doing strange and amazing things to their bodies very much in front of us, delighting us, surprising us, and sometimes fooling us in ways that that the glowing screens can never imagine. But as contemporary circus explodes, is that niche big enough to welcome what’s coming?

In recent years, some circus performers have worked to stretch the model of what circus is. They’ve worked on bringing the power of theater and contemporary dance into what they do. A performance becomes a work, something more than a routine. Performers who’ve spent years perfecting the skills of aerial flight, say, now are working to master the discipline of the actor or the physical comedian. The superhuman becomes human, or even something less.

As with most things, sometimes the attempt at transformation and expansion works, and sometimes it doesn’t. But no matter what, the passion and the discipline remain and so does the wonder.

Come and talk about circus. And expect a few demonstrations of what we’ll be talking about.


Here are a few things happening you may find interesting:

  • Cafe Nordo, after long anticipation, has opened its new Culinarium in Pioneer Square with the show, Don Nordo del Midwest. Do check it out. Here’s some good press.
  • Third Place Technologies is organizing Electric Sky Art Camp, sort of a maker fair/summer camp for adults (children are welcome as well) on the Skykomish River in Skykomish. The goals are to camp, make stuff, and build community.

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