By Amber Jenkins
Come one, come all to see amazing feats of acrobatic splendor, comical concoctions and phenomenal stunt performances! Cue the Starfish Circus, a traveling circus troupe that offers children and teens the chance to star in a live theatrical performance.
The circus is comprised of several performance artists who travel across the nation casting students of all ages in their production; giving them the chance to learn fun stunts and routines. Through all the training, the children experience much more than circus performance art — they actually start gaining self-confidence and squash negative “can’t do” attitudes.
The latest performances took place Jan. 21 and 22 at the MEC Theatre in Arlington High School. The AHS students performed alongside children from other schools in the area. All ages were welcome to join the show, including the youngest preschoolers who were cast as little lions and zebras.
“The experience of joining the troupe is wonderful to so many students,” said Britt Meyer, a senior at AHS, and stage manager for the show.
“Kids who have never performed or been onstage were really brought out of their shells and had a lot of fun being a part of something so unique,” Meyer said.
Hanna Gilmore of Cordova may only be ten years old, but she is a veteran starfish. She has been performing with the troupe each time they’ve come to the area for the past three years. She lit atop a long silk curtain and twisted and turned into an amazing little acrobat, thoroughly impressing the audience. While gasps were heard in the theatre each time she flipped around her scarf, she was certainly entertaining and ended the routine with plenty of accolades from peers and the audience.
The Starfish coaches are dedicated to helping children achieve more than mere physical capabilities; they operate on the philosophy that working together and striving toward an attainable goal is an important stepping-stone in maturity.
The amazing part is that the children are taught these outrageous and visually stunning routines in less than two weeks. The coaches put them on a restrictive diet that prohibits fatty foods, junk food and soda completely.
This traveling circus troupe continues to be invited back to the local Memphis area year after year. They help children learn very unique routines such as poi; an LED light-show performed in complete darkness, and Rola-Bola; a balancing act requiring lots of concentration. Not only do the artists teach circus inspired art, they help kids achieve a sense of self-worth and celebrate each feat of accomplishment with them at the end of practice.
“I think the Starfish Circus brings something special to the community — it’s just incredible the way the practices and coaching give them a sense of empowerment over their own lives,” said SaraLyn Archibald, director of the Theatre Program at Arlington High School.
The head coaches have been entertaining audiences with unique shows for years and they all agree that helping the children learn to believe in themselves is the driving force behind their mission.
“It’s outstanding that we are providing something that will stay with them and something they are passionate about,” said Head Coach Figo Wyatt, 29, of Scotland. “We get the privilege of instilling in them passion for something that’s unusual yet attainable.”
Wyatt explained that while the training is only temporary, the skills the children learn can be applied to so many different aspects of their lives, reaching all the way into adulthood.
From juggling to acrobatics to comedic skits, the options are plentiful when joining this unique and talented circus show. The coaches only ask that you “Never say never.” And also to come prepared to give it your all and of course, have the time of your life!