Circus act

Performers express themselves in unique setting at Cincinnati Circus

Abbey Marshall | Staff Writer


Click the videos above to watch the Cincinnati circus performers practice their acts.

Step right up and witness the unbelievable!

With juggling balls in hand and feet strapped firmly into stilts, students like senior Nikki Wood and Adolph Goetz are expressing themselves in the Cincinnati Circus.

The Cincinnati Circus, grounded mostly in the Northern Kentucky, Cincinnati and Columbus area, extends an invitation to anyone with a knack for performing to work carnivals and other festivals.

Wood is a trainee, spending most of her time swirling paint brushes on children’s cheeks and strutting around in stilts, but she said she aspires to become a high-flying performer.

“Right now I’m in training to be an aerial artist,” Wood said. “Basically, there’s a 12-foot silk hanging down from the ceiling and you have to climb it. It’s more of a beautiful, acrobatic thing…I used to be a gymnast and I like yoga and meditation so the aerial arts are really fun because of that.”

According to Wood, thorough preparation is needed to attain the performing spot. Wood takes strength training classes in hopes to achieve her goal, in addition to weekly circus practices. Wood also practices on her own, strapping her hammock to her tree. Wood said competition is high to become a performer.

“There’s high schoolers like me and high school dropouts who live at the circus,” Wood said. “There’s a lot of girls who actually ran away to join the circus. They ran away and wanted to become really good at it. I’m not as dedicated as those girls though just because I’m still in school.”

According to ECA teacher Andy Goetz, his son, a homeschooled senior, became inspired to juggle in a circus by former Spanish teacher Jen Mott, who has been a stilt walker for about eight years for the Cincinnati Circus.

“MBC did a story on Ms. Mott because she works for the Cincinnati Circus and is a juggler,” Andy said. “I went and I talked to her about it and she said it’s a great place to go and they would love to have Adolph. We took Adolph and he got really excited about doing that kind of thing…He was hooked from the first time.”

Mott also had an influence on Wood’s decision to join the circus. Mott and a daring sense of adventure are what drove Wood to perform on such an unconventional stage.

“I have a bucket list of 300 things I want to do before I die,” Wood said. “One of them was ‘join the circus’, so I said, ‘I’ve got to do it’…I really like adventuring and doing new things.”

Although Andy’s son is strapped into toweringly high stilts, he said the danger of it doesn’t bother him.

“Adolph has always had a very keen sense of balance,” Andy said. “He’s got a really kinesthetic sense about him. I suppose it can be dangerous, but he’s never fallen off of the stilts and so I’m not personally worried about it.”

Andy said he and his wife have a past in a circus performing environment, making it a sort of family tradition.

“My wife and I were both in the Kings Island clown band back in the day,” Andy said. “The key part of the clown band was the clown part; nobody thought, ‘Wow, that is the best sounding band ever’. We were just very entertaining and we were very funny.”

According Adolph being a part of the circus has improved his skill set.

“There are quite a few skills I would never have learned without the Cincinnati Circus,” Adolph said. “The first thing that comes to my mind is stilt-walking. I’ve also learned more juggling tricks, (such as) juggling 4 clubs, working on 5 balls, tons of variations, etcetera. I really enjoy passing clubs. That is a skill I acquired there. In addition, I’ve learned how to spot trapeze-artists, and some magic. The circus is very big on teaching whatever you want to know.”

Being a part of something so different and unique has exposed Wood to a variety of people. She said that learning about others’ cultures and backgrounds is important and interesting.

“I love to meet people and I’m super into finding out about different people’s backgrounds,” Wood said. “The more I went (to the circus) the more I learned to love the people and the environment. I’m just so used to being in Mason with all the typical Mason people then you go and join the circus and it’s a lot of different people with different backgrounds and ways of thinking and living.”


Curtain Raiser

Costume designer brings shows to life unnoticed behind drama club stage

Abbey Marshall | Staff Writer

judyyyPhoto by Editor-in-Chief Sheila Raghavendran

Behind all the bright lights, layers of makeup, and vibrant performances sits one woman and her needle.

Judy Hershner, the costumer of nearly 14 years for the drama club, didn’t originally think she’d be constructing costumes for a high school.

“I started out sewing as a child and always loved it,” Hershner said. “When I was in high school, I was a student director for a production and found that I was one of the only sewers in our group and so I also put the costumes together for that show. I realized that I liked it and I was good at it, so I went to college for a theatre degree to what did not have a strong theatre program…I left there and moved back to Cincinnati, thinking I would go back to college, then life just started unfolding and the next thing you know, you’re married and you have a kid.”

Raising a family is time-consuming work, according to Hershner, so she spent most of her time sewing things for her friends and church. Hershner said she didn’t think she would ever get back to costuming until her son expressed an interest in theatre as an 8th grader at Princeton.

“The next year when (my son) was in high school, he decided he was going to continue theatre,” Hershner said. “So, I introduced myself to Mr. Young and told him I had a theatre background, specifically in costuming. They already had a costumer… At the end of that school year that costumer said, ‘I’m ready to turn this needle over to you’.”

Eventually, Hershner and Young transitioned from Princeton to Mason together.

“(Young) had been looking for another job and Mason hired him,” Hershner said. “He told me that I was coming with him. So without any questions I did that.”

Hershner said that she considers her current job with the drama club to be her calling.

“I love the creativity,” Hershner said. “I get to use my interest in art and my love of fabric and my love of theatre. I can combine all those three things to kind of paint a living picture. The actors walking around in these costumes are like living art. I also love working with the students.”

Hershner, in addition to producing the costumes for the show, is a mentor to a crew of students who wish to follow in her footsteps.

“They learn how to cut out patterns, how to assemble things on sewing machines, and how to do handwork,” Hershner said. “I stay at the high school because I love teaching and I love watching people’s eyes light up when they’re learning to sew and something works.”

Hershner’s work with students has earned her the title of the “mom” of the drama department, according to director Allen Young.

“Judy is the stabilizing force of our theatre company,” Young said. “She is like the rock… She’s the one working one-on-one with not only our costume crew, but our cast members and our crew members as well. She’s the one that takes care of bandages and boo boos and she’s really kind of the mom of our organization.”

Despite working in Mason since 2001, Hershner’s work goes, for the most part, unnoticed.

“At times, I like it a lot because it is a very solitary work, unless a crew is in here working with me,” Hershner said. “I get a lot of work done by myself in the quiet, so I like that, but I would like for our theatre program to be more understood and appreciated by the district. I’m not saying that they don’t, but a lot of people don’t even know I’m here and I’ve been here for almost 14 years.”

According to Young, however, Hershner’s work is well appreciated throughout the entire
drama department.

“It’s not a glamorous job and I can’t say it’s a high-paying job, but it’s one that she does out of love,” Young said. “You can tell that in how she interacts with the students and the artistic contribution she makes to our shows. Our costumes are always among the best things about our production.”


School House Rock Live!

school house rock live

If you haven’t sung along to cheesy animations of “Conjunction Junction” or “I’m Just a Bill” at least once in your elementary school life, then the education system has failed you. Those cheesy 1970s songs that had been drilled into every young child’s head have been tucked neatly in the back of my mind and not thought about for many years. However, sitting in the audience of the Indiana Theatre on July 9, all the memories began to flood out and I felt like putting my hair in pigtails and bouncing around like a third grader all over again.

School House Rock Live! contains 21 classic songs jam packed into an hour and a half musical (which I discovered was an appropriate length; much after that would quite frankly get annoying). At first, I was a bit skeptical going into the theatre. How could a small group of college kids put all these songs together? I didn’t really think there would be much of a plot at all, more of just a string of random melodies for a trip down memory lane. Boy, was I wrong.

The play follows the morning of Mr. Tom Singer’s (played by Chad Singer) first day of teaching an elementary class, when his “ideas” (5 other characters each dressed in a costume to represent a school subject) pay him a visit to help him. There wasn’t much dialogue, but just enough to transition from one song to another. This impressed me, seeing how vastly different the songs were: from rules about multiplying by three to catchy tunes quoting the preamble. There were various ways that the mood was set in a song that weren’t extravagant; the small theatre of only 50 seats really couldn’t accommodate drastic set changes or massive props anyways. Smaller props and costume add-ons were incorporated, such as hats and vests, as well as various lighting techniques to set the tone of the song.

Being an actress, I know that plenty of my theatre friends would try to avoid performing in a small theatre. Not many people will come, it’s too crowded, the shows are usually on a smaller scale, yadda, yadda, yadda. I, on the other hand, completely disagree. Seeing this show in such a small theatre made it so much more intimate. I made eye contact frequently with many of the 6 cast members, which has never happened to me before (and trust me, I’ve been to many shows in the past) and it made me feel special, like the actors appreciated the fact that I had attended their show. Having the production in such a small space also made the play extremely interactive. Before going into the theatre, audience members were asked to color in bubble letters of an adjective that the cast could collect in the middle of the song “Adjectives” and I thought that was a very cute idea. Cast members would also put dunce caps and top hats on audience members, point at them, and even pull them up on stage.

Now, as I previously stated, I’ve attended probably over a hundred shows in my lifetime. Never once had I been yanked up onto a stage by a cast member teaching me a dance number in the middle of a song. As I swung around jazz squares and swiveled my hips while attentively watching my very nice mentor, I heard the hum of the song, “Circulation”. I hopped around the stage alongside the other guest dancers (all very young girls and one old lady), unable to contain my laughter while my best friend who had kindly volunteered me guffawed with tears in her eyes in the audience. After the song had ended, I returned to my seat, thoroughly embarrassed, yet amused. Pulling up audience members in the middle of a performance was so unheard of, so absolutely insane, and so surprising that it made this musical especially stand out.

This is a show I would definitely recommend, but to the right audience. I didn’t just sit back in my chair and enjoy the actors’ performances; I observed the spectators as well. School House Rock was designed for kids learning the basics of grammar, multiplication, and simple history, so that’s primarily who was sitting in the audience. Their faces were always joyful and filled with a toothy smile. Obviously, young children couldn’t come alone, so they came with parents and grandparents. The older grandparents seemed to enjoy it just as much as their little kids; they laughed, they clapped, and they even knew some of the words. Parents, on the other hand, didn’t seem to enjoy it as much. One mother in particular looked very infuriated to be there, probably worn out from hearing the same catchy songs over and over blaring from YouTube at home. I would say the age range that this play is sure to please are on the opposite ends of the spectrum.

Beautiful melodies, cheesy acting (while was fitting for this particular musical), strong singing, and classic songs all added up to be an entertaining hour of my life. The last thing I wrote in my reporter’s notebook before I left the theatre was that, “this was definitely not the most well-written, eloquent, powerful and moving show in existence, but it was the most fun I’ve ever had sitting in an audience”.