The circus has changed: Waning are the days of the multi-ring craziness, of hangar-size tents packed with screaming children climbing for a chance to see a fire-eater or a lackluster clown. What has become increasingly popular, notes famed circus performer and real-life "horse whisperer" Katja Schumann, is "the one-ring circus, the smaller shows -- though 1,600 or 1,700 people can't really be called 'small.' But a show like [Circus Flora] is much better for the audience than your typical Midwestern five-ring extravaganza."
This is Schumann's first year with our own one-ring Circus Flora, and she couldn't be happier. Circus Flora's nineteenth season is named Tzigan (zee-gan), the Hungarian word for gypsy. Explains Schumann: "Tzigan is a very old word, in many European tongues, but it always means the same thing. You say Tzigan, and they know what you're talking about." Schumann would know; she was born into Circus Schumann, an esteemed (but now defunct) Danish circus.
The Tzigan performance is a traditional circus and a history of the art form, focusing on amazing feats of horsemanship -- the root of the circus -- as well as the gypsy jugglers and acrobats. The plot revolves around the blossoming love between the Gypsy King (played by circus superstar Alexandre Sacha Pavlata) and Schumann's mysterious Horsewoman; of course, they must also fend off attacks from Cossacks while establishing a rapport with their four-legged friends, which leads to breathtaking equine-and-human acrobatics.
Like Schumann, many of the performers are from old circus families -- everyone from the Osetian Riders (who play the Cossacks) to the Flying Wallendas to Giovanni Zoppe as Nino the Clown. Seriously, how can you miss this? You can't, so don't. Catch Circus Flora at its tent, located on the corner of Grand Boulevard and Samuel Shepard Drive, beginning at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 9. Shows continue through June 26 (Tuesday through Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sunday at 1 and 5 p.m.). Tickets are $15 to $30 and available through MetroTix (314-534-1111 or www.metrotix.com). Visit www.circusflora.org for more information.