In November 2021, Omnium Circus — the progressive circus devoted to inclusivity and variety — was all set to open a seven-week run beneath a giant prime in Tysons, Virginia. A invoice of circus acts was introduced, to be carried out by an unprecedented multi-abled, multi-ethnic forged. Then got here omicron, and Omnium needed to cancel.
However for one particular public efficiency, a matinee on February 26, 2022, the present did go on. It wasn’t beneath a tent however within the grand-new Primary Theater at Capital One Corridor — a totally inclusive, absolutely accessible present referred to as I’Mpossible. DC Metro Theater Arts writers Sophia Howes and John Stoltenberg had been there and are nonetheless speaking about what they noticed.
John: Being a circus lover since I used to be 5, I used to be thrilled by I’Mpossible. I discovered it extra feel-good than I ever imagined a circus may very well be. I went questioning/worrying how effectively a tent present might work mounted on a proscenium stage, however my doubts vanished as quickly because the efficiency started. The manufacturing values had been worthy of the most effective large stage exhibits: a spectacular lighting design, a vibrant music monitor tightly cued to the motion, and sometimes enhanced with a bass beat for the hearing-impaired. (For the sight-impaired, audio-description units had been obtainable). As a theatrical spectacle with heart-stopping scenes and an unforgettable emotional arc, Omnium Circus totally surpassed my expectations.
And I had a lump in my throat from the very starting when the Ringmaster sang the Nationwide Anthem a cappella in a beautiful baritone whereas the lyrics had been concurrently and sublimely signed. Then he launched us to the story of Johnny (coincidentally my childhood nickname). I used to be enthralled.
Sophia: The story of Johnny, a boy who ran away with the circus to comply with his dream, is a narrative everybody can relate to. Those that have been instructed you may’t reside out of your coronary heart are being instructed “It’s not possible.” Omnium Circus is all about I’m potential. The sheer expertise, pleasure, and celebration on the stage jogged my memory that we are able to all the time be our greatest selves. Omnium’s founder and government director, Lisa B. Lewis, quotes the phrases of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., that are inspiring to anybody who faces obstacles in life: “When you can’t fly then run, when you can’t run then stroll, when you can’t stroll then crawl, however no matter you do, you must maintain transferring ahead.” The intense costumes, lovely smiles, and unbelievable abilities of the performers had been so uplifting, I felt a wonderful sense of chance.
John: There have been performers with evident disabilities (they used a chair, as an example), and there have been others whose incapacity couldn’t be discerned from the stage (they had been Deaf, as an example). But what was all the time foremost and overwhelmingly obvious was the performers’ talent and flexibility and pleasure.
“Incapacity visibility” took on an entire new that means. We realized to see utterly previous the performers’ deficiency. We realized to see all the time their excellence. In that sense, Omnium Circus was way more than an exciting leisure; it turned a profoundly private transformational expertise. Even because the present was occurring, it was altering how we perceived the folks in it.
This was significantly poignant within the solo acts the place performers had been actually on the market on their very own. The aerialist spinning silver hula hoops within the air, the artist whirling across the stage on the massive Cyr wheel, the contortionist upside-down hitting a goal with bow and arrow, the acrobat balancing on a ladder — one couldn’t watch with out admiration and with out thereby exercising and flexing one’s personal capability for identification with one other’s humanity.
Sophia: The King Charles Troupe’s high-energy basketball-on-unicycles group act was an intense and enjoyable expertise. Later, I used to be stunned to be taught that they’re now within the fifth era! They made historical past as the primary all-Black group to carry out with Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey. Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson made an identical breakthrough: at 22 he was the primary Black Ringmaster of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey. He remained as Ringmaster till the circus closed in 2017. Lisa B. Lewis is a graduate of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown School. The group juggling act artists had been multi-ethnic and multi-abled, with Johnny within the center. It was a gorgeous instance of how Omnium makes everybody a part of the enjoyable.
Among the many stars are the most recent era of the legendary circus household the Españas. Noe España and Marcus Ponce carry out on the breathtaking Wheel of Future. Vivien España amazes us along with her head-balancing trapeze–and–aerial-hoop, or lyra, act. Within the subsequent era are Noemi Lee España along with her hula hoops, and her brother, Elan, along with his astounding Diabolos. Noe España can be the creative director. As Lisa B. Lewis says, “Omnium is main the world into a brand new period of fabulous household leisure — thrillingly joyful, seamlessly inclusive, and utterly accessible.”
John: The children within the viewers appeared and gave the impression of they had been having a good time, some waving rainbow-lit wands their grownups purchased them from the merch sales space. This was undoubtedly a present for the entire household. There was even a cute canine act. However I can attest there have been additionally excessive factors which may have important emotional that means for adults.
The act that completely blew me away, as an example, was the acrobat and aerialist Jen Bricker-Bauer. Born with out legs, she carried out breathtaking feats of gorgeous magnificence and energy suspended from silks. A number of moments into her athletically balletic act, a person walked on stage enjoying a trombone. A curious juxtaposition, I believed. Then he set down his horn and joined Bricker in mid-air, the place collectively they did an astonishingly muscular and tender pas de deux that moved me to tears. By no means has a circus or dance efficiency so dissolved me. As I realized later, that man was Dominik Bauer, Bricker-Bauer’s associate in artwork and life. After the present, when a number of Omnium forged members got here out into the foyer to fulfill and mingle with the viewers, I fairly by probability was head to head with Bricker-Bauer in her chair and Bauer beside her, each humbly smiling, graciously greeting folks, and evidently in love. I in the meantime was weeping and speechless. Besides I bought out the phrases “Thanks.”
Sophia: There’s an outdated saying, “Nothing is not possible once you work with the circus.” The emotional roller-coaster trip that’s Omnium was in some ways distinctive. The performers weren’t within the Huge High. The one animals had been Gail Mirabella’s lovely Disc Doggers, who appeared pleased and well-treated, and had been applauded wildly whether or not they caught the frisbee or not. On Omnium’s web site, you will see that the next phrases: “Sharing within the pleasure and pleasure of the performing arts is an expertise that must be obtainable to everybody, no matter background, race, gender, or skill.” That is really the circus of the longer term, stuffed with limit-defying and life-affirming feats, boundless leisure, and empathy for all.
Omnium Circus carried out I’Mpossible February 26, 2022, within the Primary Theater at Capital One Corridor, 7750 Capital One Tower Rd, Tysons, VA. For details about future performances in different cities, go to omniumcircus.org. For extra in regards to the superb artists, go to omniumcircus.org/#performers.