Circus Amok’s “At the Crossroads”Posted: September 15, 2014
I began working with Circus Amok in the late 1990s, volunteering whenever I could; setting up, passing out programs. Soon after I began appearing at every show, carrying, loading, fixing, making duck quack sound effects as needed.
Circus Amok eventually became the center of my entire queer weirdo community. I’d moved to New York City (a little, but totally unconsciously) to find a life filled with artists, doers and activists—and the electricity of those things overlapping.
A Circus Amok season—like the energy of each performance—is sometimes an overwhelming blur. We move our bodies and our props from very literally one end of the city to another, thirteen-hour days punctuated only by permit surprises, twisted ankles, embracing audiences, applause.
When I remember the details, I can only sometimes tell you if it was 2006 or 2012—but I can fix the images in my mind and then tell you that we were in Marcus Garvey Park, or Coney Island, Tompkins Square or Bedford Playground. In this way, my sense of home in this city has been extended. In fact, when I try to picture myself having not intersected with Amok so many years ago, there is no version of me that I can, or want to imagine.
I love the moment the show begins, the alertness, the tension as we countdown to go. I believe that the momentum that the performance creates is a physical, tangible thing. It washes out over the crowds, in waves of anger and joy, across the the concrete and bits of grass on which we’ve set up our made-just-for-you spectacle.
The show always opens with stilts, for practical and aesthetic reasons: The stilts take a longish time to put on and take off, and you need something big and explosive to start an outdoor show that will grab the attention of the audience. Then the show moves into a manufactured mayhem—the band plays jerking, crashing, sounds and everyone in the ring begins to flail about, as if some uncertain doom is imminent. I run a microphone out to Jennifer for her welcome speech, and we’ve taken to kissing each other at the moment of the hand off. It’s one of my favorite rituals, both personally, and for what it does theatrically. A tiny pause, a beat of love in the midst of the chaos.
Circus Amok has made me a better writer, a better artist. It has given me a welcoming, challenging space to push my imagination, to conceive possibilities, to work collaboratively. Every season, Circus Amok asks me to become a more genuine version of myself—it allows for that, and it also demands it. I appreciate the irony that in order to do this we first adorn ourselves with wigs and makeup, fabulous feathers and sumptuous sequins. We arm our acrobats with cardboard ice cream cones. We stuff clowns inside of giant papier mache elephants. We present exaggerated, towering, cartoonish versions of our beloved, complicated New York.
I love the after, too—the striking, the packing, the smeared make up. During the season I sleep soundly. Every morning I wake with my pillow covered in glitter.
There are two more weekends, showtimes and locations are here.