Peace Through Circus

What happens when you get a mix of people who speak Romanian, English, French, and Serbo-Croatian* all trying to put up a circus tent together? Well, the tent gets put up all the same and we all get to know each other a bit better. Oh, and we all have a dry place to juggle!*

Did I mention that I'm in NW Bosnia volunteering with a circus at an arts festival to promote peace between the strongly divided communities of children here. (Clever segue, eh?) The festival is called Most Mira* and it is pretty awesome concept. In a country where people seem to dislike people only because of their religion or which alphabet they seem to prefer (which, if you recall, led to some rather extreme nastiness back in the 90s), focusing on teaching the children that we all like to play, create art, make music, and dance and building friendships between them before the hatred is too ingrained seems like a pretty good idea to me.

I feel infinitely lucky that I've found my way here, to help out and experience the magic in person. Plus, any place where I can juggle 4 hours a day (shoeless and shirtless no less) and not be out of place is a place for me!
Sunday May 15 2011File under: Balkans, circus

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Shoenicycle (Part 1)

I've been putting off this post until the project is complete, but I can't wait any longer. Completion is within sight, but I gotta share what I've got so far.

I introduce you to the Shoenicycle. Totally custom made from salvaged parts (and shoes), it's been a project almost a year in the making. With bucketloads of help from Per, the frame was welded, grinded*, and brazed at his bike fabrication shop in Montreal. The wheel* was put together in Anacortes with my old shoes that I knew I had been keeping around for some reason. Tweaks to the axle/pedal mechanism were made on the spot of the first test ride at the Cirque Lab in Bellingham.

The first (and second) test ride attempts both identified problems, so officially, it has yet to be ridden. But with new steel crank arms, I trust that the last problem will be overcome soon. Hopefully, within a month, I'll have a video of this frankenstein of a machine being ridden around with glee. Then comes working up an act for Vaudevillingham. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for March.
Wednesday February 2 2011File under: circus, misc

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2011 Bellingham Circus Guild Calendar


It's that time of year again, time to start thinking about finding a new calendar to hang on your wall, to look at day after day, to entrust your appointments to*. I suggest, if I may, the 2011 Bellingham Circus Guild Calendar. It's got lots of pictures of pretty people doing amazing things, fun facts about the Guild, reminder about Vaudevililngham on the 15th of every month, and, best of all, the proceeds go to support the Guild, to keep the Cirque Lab open for teaching classes, giving awesome performance, and hosting a weekly juggling club* among other things.

Why am I shilling this masterpiece of monthly merriness? Well, just like last year's calendar, I am co-creator. This year, however, I was giving more creative license, and from my side of things, the process was much smoother, so no gripes at all. Just a fun calendar to support a fun group!

To obtain a calendar, come by the Cirque Lab during juggle club or December's Vaudevillingham, talk to a cirque guild member, or contact me. I'd be glad to work out the details (payment, shipping*, etc.). We are asking for a donation of $10-$20 per calendar, and again, the money goes to support the Guild.

To entice you further, here are a couple sample pages: July and May*.
Tuesday November 16 2010File under: circus, misc

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Vote Vaudeville to the Gulf

Online voting in lieu of actual judging of contests, etc. is a hard concept for me. On the one hand, I recognize that when open to an almost infinite audience, the best ideas (/photos/etc.) will be selected. Afterall, what defines best, esp. in terms of art, etc. than what pleases most people. On the other, all such contests have ulterior motives (get e-mail addresses, promote a product or idea). And because of the prize aspect, the participants will lobby, campaign, urge, etc. which makes the voting hardly unbiased. All in all, I wish such promotions didn't exist in that form. But since they do....

The circus I run with, the New Old Time Chautauqua, has put in an application for an online contest Pepsi is running to bring some good to the Gulf Coast (after this whole BP debacle). The idea is that taking circus, music, workshops, and parades to the area is a great way to spread positivity, joy, hope, and fun. If you believe in this idea (or if you just want to support my love for travel, circus, and service) please go check out the voting page and consider giving us your vote. You gotta sign up (unfortunately), but I used my this-account-is-only-for-sign-ups account.

http://gulf.refresheverything.com/currenthopecircusandmusictour

You can vote every day between now and Aug 31. And if Chautauqua wins one of the grants, I will send each and every voter (from this blog) a postcard from some small town in Louisiana (as if the bringing joy to that area isn't reason enough to vote.) Thanks so much!!
Wednesday August 11 2010File under: circus

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Stage Time

For being a non-performer, I've found myself on stage quite a bit recently. In fact, I'm thinking of jettisoning the "non-performer" label in favor of "not really a performer" since occasionally, it seems, I have occasion to take the stage.

Recently, Chautauqua did Future Fest down at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds. This was the fair's third year and we've been there every year. This year, however, was different because it didn't coincide with tour, therefore we didn't have a show at the ready. Somehow, during the putting together of the show, I got in with my one trick pony "act"*. Besides having to lug a giant horse head on a public transportation trek that encompassed 6 buses and a ferry (and sleep with it in my tent), it was great. All those in the know, that have a basis for criticism of such circus-y acts were uniform in their assessment. "It's short!" they said, which, in the land of vaudeville shows, is almost always a great compliment.

This past weekend I found myself on "stage" yet again. I say "stage" because it was really just a flatbed trailer, but still. Some friends were throwing a big old barn party and asked me to put together a circus show for it (as our lawn juggling at the previous year's shindig garnered much comment). Due to a few last minute cancellations and time conflicts, I ended up filling in a few holes in the line-up myself. Oh, and I also ended up MCing. The show was a huge hit (barn audiences are the best audiences) and even us performers* had a great time. *

Yep, I'm starting to get my stage legs, kind of. And for this, I'm glad. To be able to entertain is a noble pursuit, and I'm glad fate is pushing me in that direction.
Sunday August 8 2010File under: circus

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Apron Coffee

Have you ever made coffee for 60 people? What about coffee for 60 people at an outdoor, makeshift kitchen with not much in the way of coffee pots and no electricity? Well, let me tell you, it takes a little creativity and doesn't always satisfy everyone involved, but it can be done.

I'm down here at the Great Peninsula Future Festival in Kitsap County with Chautauqua for a fundraising event. It's like a mini-tour, with us all camping and cooking our meals over our propane burners. And the way we do coffee is, well...unique.

1) Get a giant colander.
2) Find a semi-clean linen(?) apron.
3) Situate giant colander over giant pot.
4) Pour a lot* of ground coffee in apron.
5) Pour a lot of hot water in apron.
6) Repeat.

Yep, brewing coffee in an apron lined giant colander isn't an experience I had before Chautauqua, but I guess I could say that for a lot of experiences. Good times. And now "apron coffee" is a new entry in my personal lexicon. You should add it to yours too.
Saturday July 31 2010File under: circus, food

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2010 Chautauqua Picture Round-Up

After a trip, there's a whole list of things to do. Go through the mail, do a load (or 8*) of laundry, deal with e-mails and calls you've been putting off, etc. And then there's the pictures. It's both a burden and a pleasure, at least for me. Luckily I've got the blog as an outlet for sharing them, giving me more incentive to get them dealt with. Anyway, I hope they put a smile on your face.

Wednesday July 14 2010File under: circus, pics

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Subtleties of the Show

I watch a lot of vaudeville/circus acts in a given year–Cirque du Soleil, Vaudevillingham, etc. In most cases, they are new to me, if not in content, at least in arrangement. Traveling with the circus, I get to see more than a few shows. While the content varies some from show to show, there are also a lot of repeated acts.

Don't get me wrong, seeing repeat acts isn't a bad thing. In fact, it lends a new light on the whole performance process. Seeing the subtle difference in timing on jokes, order of tricks, combined with other variables (weather (for outdoor shows), sound set-ups, etc.) make for each show being different enough that it stays interesting.

Yep, I saw the Flying Karamazov perform in at least 7 shows, and from each one I saw something new, understood a joke in a new way, or learned which jokes are improvised, etc. Not only did I not get burned out, I would welcome watching them, or any of our other performers, do their act 10 more times. Knowing that no two performances is quite the same makes me that much more excited to go out and see some more. Who knows, maybe I'll even get out on the stage myself someday.
Monday July 5 2010File under: circus

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Solar Living Institute

Chautauqua is currently camped* at the ever so lovely Solar Living Institute in Hopland, CA. Talk about an amazing piece of property—a pond, carousel, solar panels everywhere, solar ovens, gardens, straw bale structures, outdoor kitchen, and so much more. Besides hosting random bands of roving circus folk, they teach classes and have a store full of alternative products. Not a bad place to spend 5 or 6 nights*

We did a show here a couple nights ago on an outdoor stage (set up on straw bales: totally awesome). The attendance was good and very energetic. Tonight is the Ben Show, a show by Chautauquans for Chautauquans. Much mockery, drunken antics, and lewdness is expected. It won't fit in so well with the gorgeous setting, but luckily it will be after business hours so the public won't be subjected to the ridiculousness.

Have I mentioned that running with the circus is pretty awesome? Because it is.
Wednesday June 30 2010File under: circus

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Crowdsourcing Chautauqua

I've mentioned my blogging catch-22 before: when I'm doing something really worthy of blogging, I barely have time to make good posts, but when I've got time, I often don't have anything exciting going on to blog about. Well, I'm decidedly in the former situation these days—life is exciting but blog posts are few and not so good*. Anyway, since I've been busy (mostly in the "kitchen"), I thought I would point to a few place online where others are publishing their experiences, photos, stories, etc. about this shared adventure that we call Chautauqua.
  • Facebook photos by our tour photographer. I don't think you have to be a member to join.
  • A Collective Blog which is meant to be both a conglomeration of news articles and other outside information related to tour and a place for new content.
  • NOTC*'s website: This isn't updated realtime, but has good general information about our group, etc.

Anyhoo, I hope to get a [good] post or two up in the near future, but in the meantime, explore these other sites if you are interested in getting a fuller picture of this adventure that I'm on.
Tuesday June 29 2010File under: circus

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