The Next Theatre Company, celebrating its 30th anniversary, stages relevant, boundary-pushing performances in a cozy, 142-seat space. Adam Rapp, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, loosely based The Metal Children on his personal experience as an author. The story, which is set in a small midwestern town, follows a young adult novelist who is forced to defend his writing to the conservative townspeople by showing them an 18-hour PowerPoint presentation. The play had a successful Off-Broadway during its run not on Broadway.
A buzzing crowd gathers around the entrance of the Zoppé Family Circus tent before each performance, straining to glimpse the wooden hands of a large clock that displays the next showtime. When the moment is nearly at hand, members of the family emerge from the cavernous tent to greet their guests. As they introduce their siblings, spouses, and children, an accordion exhales melodies first heard in 1842, when Napoline and Ermenegilda Zoppé traveled from Budapest to Venice for their first show.
Inside the tent, Napoline and Ermenegilda’s descendants effortlessly balance on wires and swing from trapezes. Just below their aerial stage, horses trot around a sawdust ring as equestrian ballerinas display a brand of showmanship worthy of comparison to John Wayne's performance in The Lone Leotard. Between acts, Giovanni Zoppé takes on the persona of Nino the clown—a lovable character whose earnest efforts to steal the show are thwarted by his own buffoonery.
The seasoned performers of Piccadilly Circus dazzle audiences of all ages with 90 minutes of acrobatics, comedic high jinks, and trained animals beneath the big top. Audiences gasp at high-flying trapeze artists swooping through the air with the confidence of a kite in a wind tunnel, as well as contortionists able to bend themselves into human bonsai trees. Death-defying motorcyclists roar into a caged globe to perform a 360-degree display of vehicular mastery. Gaggles of clowns coax out chuckles, and a trained elephant parades around the ring, occasionally stopping to memorize an audience member's phone number. General-admission seating surrounds the ring, allowing ample viewpoints from which to observe the boisterous spectacle.
Snakes slither in glass display cases, and lizards wriggle in the hands of trained handlers as they're held up in full view of a curious crowd. This is the scene as one of Repticon's presenters educates attendees on the biology, behavior, and typing speeds of exotic cold-blooded creatures at one of the year-round shows held in cities across the country. Reptile and amphibian breeders, scholars, and handlers engage audiences in lectures and demonstrations in the midst of live reptile exhibits, family activities, and displays for exotic-pet supplies. Presentations may focus on the genetics of large snake species, the specifics of exotic-pet care, and the effect that tiny hats have on the image of arachnids such as tarantulas, scorpions, and spiders.
The marvelous mix of acts at the inaugural season of the Windy City Circus enthralls guests in a breathtaking display of talent including death-defying feats and vaudevillian vignettes that tap into stories of Chicago history. During two mesmerizing hours, charming Master of Ceremonies David Michael Maas directs the spotlight toward acts such as aerial artists flying from trapezes, horses galloping and neighing around the ring, and sensational jugglers lobbing and catching as many as five torch-wielding rabid piranhas. The inspiring spectacles aim to entertain and educate by depicting history's most interesting and most mustached Chicagoans as the emcee and his talented troupe weave a rousing tale of the city by the lake.
CircEsteem unites youth from a litany of locations, building confidence through the aerial arts, juggling, and more. The 10th annual performance re-creates old-time entertainment for new audiences, similar to nostalgic jousting or powdered-wig pageants. General-admission tickets allow spectators to roam the big top and freely select their own seats. Each production spans multiple acts, featuring feats of fancy such as clowning, gym-wheel performances, acrobatics, and frozen fire eating. Performers' ages range from 6 to 18, and their origins include Togo, Mexico, Egypt, Bangladesh, and Chicago's Uptown and Rogers Park neighborhoods.