Oberlin Blogs

OCircus: Now (on my blog) in Technicolor!

May 11, 2010

Ma'ayan Plaut ’10

Is it strange that two Oberlin bloggers in back-to-back years decide to direct a circus show? I promise you that campus isn't *that* small, but loving something this truly, madly, deeply, is a pretty unlikely thing. Last year, I was an act head and choreographer for the poi act, which mimicked a rainstorm in a big city last year. I wasn't in the act, because if I'm in a show, it's mighty hard for me to take photos. As much as I love spinning poi, I love taking photos more. I hope you aren't surprised.

This semester, I'm a part time student (glory be!) with a well-organized work and extracurricular schedule to boot. This semester is my crowning achievement at scheduling, because it gave me enough time to do something I both dreaded and wanted to do more than anything: direct the spring circus show.

My first OCircus show was my freshman year. I got swept into a group of people headed towards Phillips Gym some overcast Saturday, and was regaled with a magical journey through a student's bored daydreams in school. I had no idea what had hit me (a big truck full of flowers and chocolate drops! Also, tumblers and jugglers!) so I went back for the Sunday performance too. I got the last small classic black OCircus shirt they had. I was completely hooked.

The next fall, I had befriended several circus types (There's a type. They fidget by balancing things on their faces and doing four-orange cascades in Stevenson dining hall...) and photographed both performances of the fall show, a post-apocalyptic zombie cabaret called Steel Dead. A bit scary for my liking, but I had made up my mind that I had to be involved, and the first step was to learn something circusy.

I took PoiCo, the Poi ExCo (protip: if you have an ExCo, see if you can mush the name into the word ExCo and see what comes out. Guaranteed it'll roll off the tongue beautifully) the next semester in the now-traditional location of Starlight Lounge. I bonked myself in the nose a lot and got bonked in the face by other people, too; my glasses took a near-fatal casualty midway through the semester. They never sat straight on my nose again, but my nose was a bit more bruised, too, so I guess they matched well. Either way, I LOVED spinning poi. I had never really tried something entirely new before, so this was both a new skill and a new learning process for me. Protip: take a risk. It's really good for you.

That spring, I learned to spin fire, too (no longer an option, or at least right now. Gotta join a luau in Hawaii now). I also sat in on all the choreography for the spring show's act, but I wanted to be on the sidelines more than I wanted to be in the show, a journey into a closet to find a disappearing doll and encountering many active objects that usually get lost in closets. S'all good, though, the show was awesome from the audience and I cheered extra loud for the poi-ers.

Another fall show, this time it was the Johnson Family Circus, a rag-tag bunch of circus performers who just really wanted to stop being circus performers, so their acts got more and more wacky as the show went on. A great premise, another set of awesome photos. And then there was this past spring's circus show, Will Work for Circus, which tangled me finally into the inner web of circus. You may recall its wonderfulness from Aries and myself blogging last spring.

This fall, I ended up in the show. Did I want to? More than anything! I had spent so much time working with shows and circus folks that I had to perform. It was even arranged that the act I was in would be the first in the show, so I could photograph the rest. The show was called The Seven Deadly Sins: As Seen on TV, an extended infomercial by an angel and a devil trying to sell the sins to a live studio audience. Daniel and I were the poster children for Envy, showing each other up with more and more complicated and ridiculous moves until I lured him offstage with an extremely shiny green poi (ooo subliminal messages).

The experience was fantastic, but I was not made to be a performer. I like watching and applauding more than I like being in the spotlight. When I'm on stage, all I want to do is laugh at myself, which is not the best setup for most performances. With my schedule and my audience interest, I felt that this spring I could direct the show. Luckily, the production team agreed and cast me in the role of director for our spring show, OCircus presents Silver Screen Circus: Now in Technicolor!

Many meetings, castings, act rehearsals, set building and movings-in later, our seventy-person cast and crew gathered in Philips Gym for our week of tech rehearsals. I got into some magical groove, and everything I saw I had ideas about. I took pages of notes, and said at least double that out loud. Everything started fitting together: the set pieces started getting finalized, the costumes were in final fitting, people started getting into the circus spirit of things. Five hours a day, four days a week, things happen, and fast.

Because of all insanity of the Kohl Building opening, we did not plan on a show or a rehearsal on Friday night. By Thursday evening, we were in a pretty good place, but I feared that all the hard work we had done would disappear into the Bill Cosby lecture or the honorary degree ceremony or have an extended break in the new jazz building. Saturday morning we had a call at 9am (!!!) for an 11am show. The show was pretty good, but there was always room for improvement. Luckily, we had another show at 4pm on Saturday, and 2pm and 7pm on Sunday.

Four shows over two days is a big ole exhausting run, but we got the show down to an art form. It was gorgeous.

A student talking on the phone

Our show began with a pre-show act... Sarp as the obnoxious guy talking on a cell phone. It was stolen by a cast member, then a reminder flashed on our movie screen to "Turn off cell phones or you will be incorporated into the show."

Actors on stage conversing

Our kids, Sam and Jo-Han, enter the movie theater with enormous tickets, which were brutally ravaged by usher Hana.

Perfomers on stage

Bored with the silent movie playing, the kids run into the projection room (poi! hoop! juggling!), where they rearrange the machine and steal a magical ring that keeps the movies flat on the movie screen.

Actors singing

Actors peering at one another

Our silent movie characters exit the screen, discombobulating Hana the usher. After realizing the movies are now 3D, alive, and escaping the screen, Hana the usher and Simon the projection room operator team up to find the kids and the missing piece.

A perfomer on a ring

The first 3D movie is a scene from Little Shop of Horrors, complete with Audrey II and aerial lyra act.

Actors smiling and pretend crying

After watching the plant do its carnivorous thing, the kids run into a concessions vendor. After realizing they had no money, they hatch a plan to pull at the vendor's heartstrings for a snack.

Performers balancing on one another

Two acrobalancing French mimes romance over a baguette.

Glowing rings

Next, we enter deep space with Star Trek glow poi.

Performers parnter dancing with a broom

Clown concession vendor and clown custodian are overtaken by their props' desire to tango.

Performers juggling

Performers stacking cups

Actors on stage

We next enter a Western bar, where billard-ball-juggling, cue-twirling, plate-spinning, flair-bartending bar attendees and staff end up in a barroom brawl and club-juggling duel between the town sheriff and resident bad guy.

A performer holds an unplugged iron

After intermission, Sarp comes out to the ring of his phone, which he can't find in his overstuffed side bag. A brief reminder to turn cell phones off again ends his act.


Actors peer out of a makeshift window

Hana the usher and Simon the projectionist are lured on stage by Sam jumproping across the stage. They get overtaken by a group of real kids, the bouncing members of OBJump.

Performers hoola hoop

A hoola hooper

Glow in the dark rings

We next encounter B-movie (glow!) hooping aliens, with a biking astronaut (proudly sporting a People's Republic of Circus helmet).

A performer holding a walking stick

Our favorite custodian reappears to rid the stage of any dangerous dirt.

Next, we enter Paleozoic Park, with stilting dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes.

We next see the black-and-white movie swing dancers performing the Big Apple.

A trio of showoffish Tarzans play on the aerial rope.

A boisterous group of animals from Lion King finish their tumbling number with King Jo-Han upon their shoulder brandishing the magical stolen piece.

The kids turn over the ring to to the projectionist, who realizes that the movies were better in 3D, tosses the ring into the air, and our show ends in a group hug.


Hurray! We had a great show! Missed it? Hope the photos do some justice, check out the complete album on Flickr, or see if you can catch us during Commencement!

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