Cirque Mechanics: 42FT Swings into Stephens


Courtesy of Stephens

The ensemble of acrobats, aerialists, sword-swallowers and strongmen in Cirque Mechanics: “42FT.”

Meg Grice

Bundled up from the mid-winter cold, an audience of over 1,000 made the trek to Stephens Auditorium on Monday.

Numerous rustles of winter coats, shuffling patrons and popcorn buckets can be heard within the confines of the theater. Children chatter in their seats, hunched over programs. Their feet barely reach the floor.

“A strong man? Look!” one cries.

“We can do this, kids. 14 minutes to go,” says another.

The curtain is drawn open with blue and white spotlights centered on a red ring, connected by an arch. The outlines of the famous red and white big-top set the scene. A sign painter slowly but surely displays posters for “Circus Magnificus” as the minutes count down. The audience watches the lone man.

Before we know it, the house lights dim even further. Our protagonist saunters in. Justin is an average man with no distinguishable pizzazz on the the surface, tattered pants and all. The circus behind him beckons. He seems drawn to the noises behind the wood barrier.

Pushing the poster-strewn fences in either direction, he stares in awe at acrobats, a strongman and the ringmaster himself as the music heightens to a crescendo. A mechanical circus ring rotates towards the audience in a display of splendor.

After the performers take their bows in the circus world, Justin lingers. Why? It appears Circus Magnificus has caught his attention. If one looks around at the audience’s faces, the circus has captured their attention as well.

From this moment, the audience and Justin are pulled into a world of acrobatic marvels, human-sized rings, stilts, a turntable, juggled bowling balls, a revolving ladder, an animal trainer, audience interaction, a mechanical horse named Rosebud and even more acts exemplifying a limitless world. The performers deliver a grand show, a perfectly balanced mixture between gravity and poise.

Think not much can happen inside a 42-foot ring? Well, try a trapeze act, a strong man juggling a log and an entire Russian swing, too.

Slowly and carefully, Justin works his way up the ranks from sign hanger to act assistant. After a show, Justin plays with a sword from the act. The troupe wanders in noticing Justin’s practice. After some experimental gestures, Justin precariously slips the sword into his mouth. The audience watches the painfully slow process. Justin pulls the sword out and is greeted with praise by all.

The show is about to begin once more. Justin is bestowed with a poster showcasing his image, his name. He struts into the ring with his fellow performers around him. As the ring rotates one last time, the circus waves to the audience, another show in the books.

Cirque Mechanics: “42 FT” enchants audiences of all ages. Justin, as a symbol, embodies the young dreamer within us all. The awe of the circus appeals to the dreamers and limit breakers; Cirque Mechanics was no exception.