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Artistic Director Mike Finch talks Boston debut of all-human circus, 'Circus Oz'

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Built for the entire family, Celebrity Series of Boston proudly presents a circus the Australian way with ‘Circus Oz: From the Ground Up’ at Citi Shubert Theatre, 270 Tremont Street in Boston, Massachusetts, from Wednesday, February 19 through Sunday, February 23! The National Circus of Australia, an all-human troupe, is chock full of astounding aerial stunts, incredible music, humor, and entertainment for adults and children ages four and up. Click here for more information and for tickets!

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Mike Finch, Artistic Director of Circus Oz, spoke with me about the show and making their very first appearance in Boston.

Circus Oz is entitled ‘From the Ground Up.’ How is that title significant for this particular circus act?

We created this show as a reference to a number of things: Charles Ebbets’ beautiful, black and white photos of steelworkers on skyscrapers, the building of Circus Oz’s new Home Base in Melbourne, Australia, and a reference to the ground that we land on each time we perform acrobatics. It’s about building, building identity, building buildings, and building human pyramids…. From the ground up!

Aside from excluding animals, in what way is Circus Oz a unique experience and what qualities set it apart as an Australian circus?

Australians have a fairly unique, laid-back larrikin attitude, which tends to make fun of itself. There’s a tendency to heckle and make fun of authority, and to not take things particularly seriously. Our show and our performers reflect those attributes. We want to reflect the world, so roughly half our performers are women!

We celebrate the full diversity of our ensemble with strong women lifting men, graceful men being lyrical, and diverse groups of people co-operating to achieve the seemingly impossible. There are indigenous Australian Aboriginal performers in our show, who are some of the funniest and most skilled people we know.

Australia has one of the world’s oldest living cultures, stretching back more than 40,000 years! We celebrate the survival of that culture and the First People’s of our continent in the best way we know how – with physicality, music and laughter.

It sounds like a spectacle beyond measure for the whole family! Circus Oz is recommended for children from ages four and up. How does this show appeal to younger audiences and what particular highlights do you think young children will enjoy?

Young kids tend to just get wildly excited by the movement, the acrobatics, and the physical comedy. Older kids and teenagers tend to connect with the extreme sports skills on display and the way that the acrobats and the live music work together. It is almost like an eclectic’s rock concert!

People in their 20s and 30s imagine themselves on stage and are usually very fascinated by the Australian accents and the absurd irreverent style of comedy.

Regular theater-goers are usually delighted by the way our show inhabits and takes over the often staid interiors of traditional theatres. Our performers interact in the auditorium before the show. Then, from a hugely tall, bendy pole with a one-handed handstand on top, swaying out over the audience to a Flying Trapeze act that swings into the wings, we squeeze our entire full-scale circus show onto the stage! There is no "fourth wall" in this show!

Circus Oz has been all over the world. What does it have in store for Boston? Does the act change a bit with each destination?

Yes, the show changes every night! We tour with a director, who gives notes on every show, and our ensemble are each highly creative, individual artists who can’t help but play around with the show from night to night. We are aware that the USA has 50, co-existing states and each with their own culture, accent, political inclinations, and style.

We’ve never played Boston, so we’re all really excited! As the home to some of the world’s most amazing learning institutions and being one of the oldest European settlements, having incredible socioeconomic diversity, and being the seat of Revolution, we reckon you might have had enough time to really work out what the America of the future might be!

Circus Oz has been established since 1978. How has this production evolved over the years?

The company started as a collective of about 20 people, all sharing equal ownership of the company and making decisions together by consensus. Long meetings!

Over time, we have evolved to be a bit more structured and bigger, but we still run just one show, one ensemble, and the “owners” of the company continue to be people who’ve worked with us. For 35 years, we have been devising the show among our performers and crew, performing it across Australia and around the world, and hope that never changes!

Circus Oz has prided itself on its humanitarian efforts such as visiting children’s hospitals and homeless shelters. Tell me a bit about the recent humanitarian work that Circus Oz has done.

We are a not-for-profit, but we care about Social Justice. Over the years we’ve supported many worthy causes including Women’s Shelters, Indigenous Groups, AIDS charities, and kids at risk. One current campaign we have is helping support Asylum Seekers and Refugees living in Australia.

As you may know, the Australian federal government has an appalling policy of mandatory detention and other harsh policies that treat people fleeing persecution as “illegals,” often denying them the right to work or an education and appealing to latent xenophobia in the community.

We are busy proving that ordinary Australians actually do have an enormous amount of compassion. We have raised close to $400,000 dollars so far to help Asylum seekers who are living in Australia.

What do you hope that families will take away from this unique and revolutionary experience?

We hope that families and our whole diverse audience come away having a shared celebratory experience. Across ages, backgrounds, and cultures, we think that bringing people together who wouldn’t normally hang out together, and giving them a reason to clap, cheer and laugh, is the best way to save the planet!

Click here for tickets and more information on all of Celebrity Series of Boston’s upcoming events!

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