The Circus Came to Town

Flynn Creek Circus gave several performances at the Sebastopol Grange. This small family circus works closely with youth circuses and non-profit circus camps. Like most small venues, the focus is on tumbling, ropes and rings, juggling and magic tricks. No non-human animals are part of the show.

The show takes place inside a true circus tent, with seating made up of plastic chairs and garden benches. The VIP seats (first row) are painted red and made a nice statement against the white of the rest of the seats. The show is wheelchair accessible if you let them know when you reserve tickets. Since they usually perform in some sort of field, people using wheelchairs, walkers or other mobility devices need to be aware they’ll be crossing uneven ground.

The show has a story that connects the various acts, a parable called “Out of Hat.” It looks at a magic show from the perspective of the rabbit.

After the band (drummer not shown) is introduced, a very conceited magician struts out onto the stage. For his final trick, he pulls his rabbit, Porkchop out of the hat.

Porkchop is a joyous innocent. He has no memory of where he was before, except that it was dark. He loves all the lights and all the people. When the conceited magician tells the audience that his final trick is putting Porkchop back in the hat, the bunny rebels. He steals the red hat the magician is wearing and hides.

The chase is on! First, Porkchop wants to hide the hat. Before he can find a hiding place, he has to dodge Animal Control, who pursues him on a unicycle. Fortunately, Animal Control is distracted by a flirtatious feline.

The “through story” of Porkchop and the magician is broken up by performances by Kris and Harrison Kremo, “gentlemen” jugglers, by a young woman called The Scientist who pauses to explain the science of circus work, and by two performances of the magicican himself (one a set of card tricks using audience assistance).

The magician sends his two assistants out with carrots to tempt Porkchop, to no avail. Somehow, the braids of the two young women become entwined, turning them into the Two-Headed Girl.

Porkchop is assisted by the Rabbit Revolutionists, who also do a knife-throwing act (the least polished of all the performances. It wasn’t that it was bad; they were simply slightly less proficient than the other performers.).

Porkchop decides that he is no longer going to try to hide the hat. Instead, he will become a magician himself. Porkchop’s Magic Show! He chooses an assistant from the audience, and starts trying to do magic, with hilarious results.

The show takes a slightly darker turn when the conceited magician reappears with a locked chest. The lights shift to blue tones, the music becomes minor-key and ominous and dry ice fog drifts out onto the stage. The magician reveals his muse, who he keeps blindfolded and locked in a box. Not cool, magician!

Before we saw the muse’s act, the magician himself did a rope routine. I was in awe of all these performers. I did notice that the rope routine as performed capitalizes on the performer’s upper body strength. The silks, the ring and the straps seem designed for a performer whose lower body strength is greater.

At the other end of those ropes, lines and silks, by the way, is a troupe member who is holding them to keep you from crashing head-first to the floor. These performances require trust.

But, I was mad at the magician because he kept his muse locked up. Porkchop, who watched this whole situation from hiding, sneaked out and freed the muse. Together the rabbit and the muse cook up a scheme, and turn the tables on that selfish magician!

But not before a teeterboard performance.

This was the general audience show, definitely aimed at children, although there are plenty of laughs and thrills for the adults. (Think vintage Bugs Bunny cartoons.) It wouldn’t be a life show for kids without at least one fart joke, but that one was funny. The woman who performed Porkchop was simply brilliant, as was the man playing the magician… and really, all the performers. Much of this is clowning, not the scary, Stephen-King, red-nose type of clowning we tend to think of and many of us hate. This is closer to being a court jester.

I had some quibbles. You’re inside a big canvas tent. The sound wasn’t great. The musicians handled it okay, but the young woman who played the Scientist was nearly inaudible to me. That was my single biggest complaint.

The cost for an adult was $32. I don’t think that’s outrageous for any live performance these days. The program booklet was an additional $8; that money goes to the circus camp. The VIP seat package, which is $50, includes free cotton candy, one free alcoholic beverage (I think) and a program. Since I planned to skip the cotton candy, that hardly seemed worth the additional $12.

Flynn Creek Circus makes its year-round home in Mendocino County. I’m delighted to see them extending performances into Sonoma County. I really hope they come back next year!

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