Editor’s Fanfare Vol. II, No. 8


 Rebranding Itself,

 Circus Sarasota Looks to Its Origins


In its early years, when Circus Sarasota first began presenting circus performances almost seventeen years ago, one would always find  some kind of creative innovation  in the way the acts were presented in these annual productions.  Pedro Reis was intent on proving that the circus arts deserved to be called art. It was an exciting time for the fledgling circus.  Over time Pedro and his partner and wife Dolly Jacobs began to find themselves in the company of the other performing arts, the equal to the ballet, the orchestra.  In time it seemed as if they had nothing more to prove.  The circus was accepted and Sarasota’s audiences were embracing the circus as another of its cultural attractions.

The organization has moved away from that kind of creative production in recent years and has been presenting a fairly straight forward program of mostly strong acts.

Now that Circus Sarasota has annexed Sailor Circus and the challenge of reinvigorating a program that had become stalled in funding disputes and seemed to be going nowhere, there seems to be a new creative spirit to the organization.  It is  almost as if Pedro and Dolly, surrounded by youth, have rediscovered their early creativity energy and reinvested in their mission of presenting circus as a legitimate art form.

This change is reflected in the 17-year-old nonprofit organization recent announcement that it was rebranding itself as The Circus Arts Conservatory. The name is an “umbrella” moniker that will embrace Circus Sarasota, Sailor Circus and several education and humor therapy programs — the existing performance, training and outreach branches of the organization, respectively. and recalls its original intention to found a world-class circus school or conservatory.

Steve Smith, ex-Clown College dean and  free-lance performing artist, has been named creative director, and the organization has expanded its activities by presenting a series of circus performances throughout the year to give Sarasota audiences a taste of the variety of styles there are possible  in circus performances and to keep the circus in the public eye as it has not been for many years.   I look forward to seeing this new energy and spirit in the annual performances that have made Circus Sarasota so exciting and memorable in the past.

In the meantime, Circus Sarasota is establishing a year round presence as a producer of circuses in addition to their own annual production.

Already this year they have produced the Sahib Shrine Circus, mixing  outstanding student performers from Sailor Circus with seasoned professionals.  It was presented at the Sailor Circus Arena which is being used as an alternate performance space in addition to its big top.

Next up is Vague de Cirque from Quebec, making their US debut.  It is described as a quirky avant garde troupe featuring stunning acrobotics and comedy.   It will run in Sarasota  Nov.  15-17 and 23-24.

During December audiences will have a chance to experience Cirque des Voix  in a production called  Joy and Wonder , from Dec 13-15.  This is a collaboration of stars from  Circus Sarasota and the 102 voice Key Chorale and the Cirque Orchestra, another foray into high art.  Later in December, 27-30, the kids from Sailor Circus will present their Holiday Spectacular, featuring more than 100 area students.

As a warm-up to the circus’ annual production, it will present Extreme Vegas  on Jan 10-12 and 17-19.  This is a show filled with “grand illusions, extreme stunts, comedy and showgirls.  All enhanced by amazing visual effects, stunning costumes and a heart stopping soundtrack.”

In addition to this busy schedule the circus also hosted the first time reunion of Clown College grads in Sarasota and their show The Big Shoe Review.

Finally Circus Sarasota itself will be under the big top from Feb 7- 23, followed by the Sailor Circus’ 65th Anniversary show March 27-April 5.

All in all it is a varied season that showcases the many sides and personalities of the circus arts that should appeal to a wide audience and broaden Circus Sarasota’s patronage not only of the general audience, which it must embrace in order to thrive, but it is also opening its arms to the circus community.


This issue features an interview with  Rob Torres, a uniquely successful  clown who did not win a Ringling contract after graduating from Clown College, but found his way to international stardom by following a path of his own devising.  He is currently starring in the Big Apple Circus’ new production Luminocity, which is also reviewed in this issue on the Passing Spectacle page.  We also learn of doings on the West coast thanks to our correspondent Judy Finelli, and on the FYI page, ex-clown Scott O’Donnell  is filled with ideas for revitalizing Circus World Museum, which he now heads.