Weekender

Circus Oz flips into town with ‘Straight Up’ tour

The Australian Circus Oz troupe focuses on classic circus themes such as acrobatics, juggling and hula hoop tricks, along with modern circus attractions.
The Australian Circus Oz troupe focuses on classic circus themes such as acrobatics, juggling and hula hoop tricks, along with modern circus attractions. Photo provided

Direct from the city of Melbourne, Australia, Circus Oz will perform a unique mixture of acrobatics, comedy and original music when it kicks off its U.S. tour at Penn State on Feb. 7.

“Straight Up” has been running for about a year, and cast members assure audiences they can expect a wide array of classic circus themes such as acrobatics, juggling and hula hoop tricks, along with more modern circus attractions such as the cyr wheel. The flying trapeze acts are also not to be missed, as these are an all-around unusual sight in a theater performance, often reserved for large arenas or outdoors, with a net. This particular act additionally features a female catcher, a role usually claimed by male performers due to the strength and stamina required.

The Circus Oz cast is made up of nine acrobats and two musicians, with a full technical staff. However, those who would normally stay behind the scenes play an important on-stage role as well, according to three-year Circus Oz veteran April Dawson.

“Our stage manager and our rigger are both quite heavily involved in the show, so the rigger you see quite a lot of, especially in a few of the aerial acts where they counterweigh us,” Dawson said. “There’s one act where three of us are on a trapeze and we have some of the other performers and the rigger on the other side of the rope pulling us up and down.”

It’s all visually accessible to the audience,” Dawson said.

“You notice during the act that some people are watching us, some people are watching the band and some people are watching the riggers and that’s really interesting, so it’s a real ensemble piece. Even though technically people would say it’s a three-person act, really it’s a 10-person act,” she said.

Many of the cast members boast prior work with Australia’s national children’s circus and the National Institute of Circus Arts. Others come with extensive resumes in the worlds of music, dance and acting.

The cast has been rehearsing eight hours a day, five days a week leading up to the tour. According to Dawson, though, the long hours are nothing new.

“We work full time, so we’re always training and always working on new scenes and keeping on top condition with our bodies, and also musically as well, because all of the acrobats play musical instruments, so we spend a lot of time in the music room.”

The musicality of the performance is the show’s major draw for some. There’s a little bit of every genre, from heavy rock to elegant piano solos. All of the songs are original, and the music is adapted to fit every aspect of every performance. The music is also one reason the show appeals to a wider variety of audiences.

“There’s definitely something for everybody,” Dawson said. “There’s some great visual humor, which is always fabulous for really young kids, but then there’s some really interesting pieces for adults who find a different side of it. There’s one piece in the show that’s very much like a Salvador Dali sort of dreamscape. It’s really quite unusual and a lot of people comment on how wonderful it is to watch.”

Dawson said she tries to make it off the stage after each show to mingle with the audience, and she loves to hear their feedback.

“Everybody has a different favorite part and I think that’s what’s really fabulous about the show — that there is something for everybody, and everybody takes away from it maybe a favorite moment or favorite performer or favorite section, and some people just love the whole lot, and that’s exactly what we want to be doing, so that’s great,” she said.

IF YOU GO

  • What: Circus Oz
  • When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 7
  • Where: Eisenhower Auditorium, University Park
  • Info: www.cpa.psu.edu
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