By Grace Hatton, Editor-in-Chief
Every spring, the Warren Wilson community is treated to a spectacular show full of music, dancing, acrobats, clowns and more. This beloved Wilson tradition is commonly known as the Circus. Although the origins of the Circus are ambiguous, Dan Seeger, the head of Student Activities, says it’s a celebration that has been entertaining the Wilson community for over ten years.
And this year’s edition is a mere two weeks away. The process of creating the Circus began back at the beginning of the semester with the Circus interest meeting where Seeger introduced Senior Johna Appelstein as this year’s circus script writer. As script writer, Appelstein’s responsibilities are numerous, including helping to run the dreaded “hell week”. But the main responsibility of the script writer is to create a script that allows all the different acts to fit together in one coherent performance.
Appelstein was chosen as the script writer by Seeger partly because of her enthusiasm for the project and partly because of her dedication to the Circus during her time at Wilson. “Johna truly lives and breathes Circus and circus arts,” says Seeger “She has been an engaged, excited presence in Circus for her entire time at Warren Wilson. She’s passionate about this event in a way that’s nearly unrivaled. When it came time to select this year’s creator, there was no question she was the ideal choice.”
Appelstein has performed in various Circus acts throughout her Wilson career including Aerials, Acrobats, Unicycles, and Clowning. Appelstein is so passionate about the art of Circus performing that, after graduation in May, she will moving to Brattleboro, Vermont to begin training at NECCA (New England Center for Circus Arts) in order to pursue her dream of becoming a full time circus performer.
Although Appelstein is thrilled to be chosen as this year’s Wilson Circus script writer, having organized an Independent Study around the project, she is aware that in the future the role of Circus script writer may be chosen very differently. “In the past one person has stood up and said they wanted to write the script and that was that,” says Appelstein “Through the years, interest has increased and more and more people are interested in writing the script. As a result Dan said that he wants to work toward a system in which people submit their ideas and a committee of Student Activities members and circus veterans vote on their favorite ideas and the ideas that they think will function the best.”
As script writer, it was Appelstein’s responsibility to come up with the theme of this year’s Circus and, after reading Dr.Seuss’ If I Ran the Circus, Appelstein decided on having a Dr.Seuss themed performance. “I was inspired to mix a lot of different ideas from Dr. Seuss stories together, sort of like the Seussical,” says Appelstein “Dr.Seuss is brilliant. I love the way he addresses really intense and deep topics through really simple words and children’s stories. I thought that Dr. Seuss would provide enough of a magical and imaginative world that would allow anything to be possible.”
However, after the issue of using copyrighted characters and words was brought up by Seeger, Appelstein adapted her theme to avoid any legal issues. “My ideas are original but inspired by Dr. Seuss,” says Appelstein “I have not used any of his exact words. Some characters are supposed to represent specific Seuss characters while others are completely made up but maintain the Seuss style.”
After the theme was shared with interested performers at the beginning of the semester, groups began to form and rehearsals began. However, some more established groups had already begun to think of their Circus performance even before the theme was announced “The performers spend months honing their acts, usually the entire second semester working on the specifics,” says Seeger. “Beyond, several performers spend the entire year developing their skills, always with an eye towards this performance.”
After multiple meetings with Appelstein throughout the semester, each group has been given a point in the circus where their act will fall and a copy of the script. Then, the last week before Circus the real rehearsal begins with something performers have affectionately dubbed “hell week” over the years. During “hell week” all performers meet together for the first time and spend every night, apart from Thursday, running through the entire show. “Circus Week itself is intense, with nightly rehearsals and finishing touches,” says Seeger “We pull together a large, elaborate, multi-act show in a short amount of time as a collective unit, bringing together the countless hours of individual work into a finished product for the audience.”
Rehearsals during “hell week” usually last from about 6:30pm-11pm, and sometimes longer. The final rehearsal on Wednesday evening is a full dress rehearsal before the opening night on Friday. Circus is also the only event on campus, apart from Theatre performances, where the show is more than a one night affair and tickets are required for entry.
This year, in order to control how many people can squeeze intro Bryson for the show, Student Activities has organized a thorough ticket distribution system,with two tickets allowed per student and four tickets allowed per faculty and staff member. Indeed, the Circus is so popular that many non-student members of the community bring out their entire families for the event.
By the time this issue is released, ticket distribution for the Circus will have already happened. However, at every Circus performance there will be a standing room only line, which opens right before the show, and allows a certain number of people in depending on how many ticketed community members never show.
This year’s circus will be filling Bryson on May 2nd and 3rd and the show will begin at 8pm each night. As with every year, this year’s Circus will serve as a wonderful end of semester event, but
more than that it will showcase all the amazing talent (both onstage and off) that Wilson has to offer to the larger community.
“The Wilson circus brings the entire community together in the most beautiful way,” says Appelstein “It really is the biggest event on campus. Between all the performers, the band, student activities crew, students helping with lighting, costumes, and make-up, and the audience, pretty much all of the campus is involved somehow.”
This year’s Circus, like its predecessors, will inspire and entertain the Wilson student and faculty body alike all the while reminding us that as a community we have the ability, talent and gumption to create something truly wondrous.