‘The Circus in Winter’

The Middletown Press | October 30, 2014

Circus in Winter Hartford CourantHave you ever just wanted to run away…to the circus? Would owning a circus be high on your to-do list? Author Cathy Day wrote a book, “The Circus in Winter,” about her family and her hometown, Peru, Indiana, deemed the Circus Capitol of the World and the winter headquarters of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus.

Her story cycle of 11 tales of the Big Top has been tumble-saulted into a brand new musical, of all things colorful and creative — and a strange and most intriguing tale it is. Goodspeed Musicals is its resting place — at least through Nov. 16.

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CIRCUS Audience Insight Guide

Cast ProfileA big part of the developmental process that Goodspeed provides is their audience—a theatrically-informed audience—and many opportunities to give feedback by meetings with the cast and creative team, talk-back sessions and audience response forms. Goodspeed has developed an in-depth Audience Insight Guide, including a Director’s Perspective from Joe Calarco.  Meet the cast, follow the journey and take a look inside CIRCUS.

View the Audience Insight Guide

Getting Ready for Goodspeed

What a whirlwind.

I got to Goodspeed a week before we started rehearsal. I was in to do promotional stuff for the show. Two talkbacks, one at a bookstore called RJ Julia, the other at Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT. Both of these events were a performance/discussion with Cathy Day, author of Circus In Winter, the novel. Connecticut is a very artistically connected place, there is an abundance of theatre, developmental theatre in fact.
The other abundance as it turns out, craft breweries. I was entertainment at a fourth event, after playing a morning news show, Tapping Into Twain, my second event of the weekend at the historic home and museum, featured 60 local breweries giving samples of their seasonal specials for $15 a ticket over two levels of the Mark Twain museum. I was entertainment, solo, two one-hour sets. 400 people. Obviously, being a lover of beer, music, and Mark Twain (maybe the sharpest wit in history) I had a great time. Hit some music from the show, “Never Alone”, “Muddy Water”, “Kind of Evil”, then played anything I wanted. Such a great time, and a super way to connect with people on a personal level. Not to mention, the house itself is magnificent.
Twain’s writing space was hilarious, in the way that it was centered around a pool table, he was apparently addicted to playing pool. A huge desk sat in front of the pool table in his room at the top of the house, but the one he actually used to write was a smallish table with a lamp, shoved in the corner of the room, facing a wall, not the pool table. I laughed, thinking of my passion for EA SPORTS video games. At the end of the day, everybody relaxes in their own way. Twain played pool, I score virtual goals form!Manchester United. We both managed to get our work done in the meantime.
Each time Cathy and I did a talk back, we got educated questions from our audience. These folks know they could be seeing a potential Broadway smash, not because they know anything about the show, but because there have been so many people who start here, small, and grow to be something much more. The Goodspeed Guild, a collection of long time fans of the theatre who volunteer their time to help usher, transport personnel etc. cooked a meal for the entire team when we all first arrived. We meet our new family for the next few months, actors, designers, Goodspeed team, Guild members themselves. I was told stories again and again about when Idina Menzel performed here, Angela Lansbury, Stephen Schwartz shows that ran, some guy named Hunter Foster. Feels cool to have the potential to join those ranks.
This is an intelligent community, likewise, it is an older community. I have had no problem with this, because the older generations here truly appreciate theatre. They know what classic musical theatre is, and honestly, that era of golden age musicals are what my writing is built around. That and rock and hip hop and bluegrass. My music has always been modern, but the idea of devices and where songs function is comparable to South Pacific and Oklahoma. On my end, if within this production at Norma Terris we can succeed in pulling young and old audiences into what we’re doing, that will be encouraging.