Most circuses happen under a big top, but a circus coming to the qathet region will take place under treetops.
“There was always a chance it wouldn’t happen this year,” said artistic director for Rainforest Circus Chad Heschler, “so we’re pretty excited. It’s been three years since we last performed on Malcolm Island near Alert Bay.”
Submerged is a presentation of Deer Crossing the Art Farm in Gibsons that has been holding art tours in coastal communities since 2008.
Crew members have been to this area a number of times, most recently a couple weeks ago to reconnect with local groups, including A.I.M., a self-advocates group with inclusion Powell River, which will be involved in the shows. They checked out the Triple Bypass Trail by Powell River Recreation Complex where the shows will take place. Locations for the box office, backstage and other tents were determined.
The crew arrived again on Monday, August 9, and will be here until after the shows on August 20 through 22.
One of the core performers is local resident Keely Sills. She and her partner moved to this area at the end of 2016. They had visited many communities in their quest for a location to meet their love of sailing and her love of aerials.
“Powell River was a yes,” said Sills, “with its closeness to Desolation Sound and potential for teaching aerials.”
Sills took a professional dance program at the age of 24 and then was offered a position with a dance company. It was while on tour that she first saw aerialists performing and was mesmerized.
“I was taken under a spell by the dancing in air and, while continuing to tour the US, I started to train with other aerialists, finding mentors including former performers with Cirque du Soleil.”
After their move, Sills began teaching at the gymnastics centre and now holds sessions at the recreation complex. Several adults and teens from her Aerial Edge company are performing in Submerged.
“I have seen them blossom and grow into a super solid core of aerialists,” she said. “They are a huge part of the show in various roles.”
Sills is happy they have the opportunity to see how a show is put together.
“I’m thrilled to be a mentor as well as performing alongside them,” she added.
Sills recently spent time in Gibsons with other core performers and musicians getting themselves “solid” before bringing others into the show here.
More than 40 locals are involved, including composer Lesley Sutherland, musician Sophia Sanford, sound designer Donna Lytle, spoken word artists, an experimental choir and band.
Between 100 and 120 people will be welcomed to each of the six shows that last about an hour and 15 minutes, and will move from one scene to the next in the forest.
“Our primary motivation is to bring the community together,” explained Herschler. “It gathers people of different backgrounds for something they may not have had an opportunity to experience.”
He added that it is difficult to overstate how much happens during the show, especially considering what has occurred in the last year and a half with COVID-19.
“It allows us to breathe easier. We explore what lies beneath the surface of our lives; the stories and emotions submerged below,” he said. “While this journey leads us to reckonings with grief and loss, there is plenty of light as well. Something magical happens when we come together in a shared experience.”
Show days and times are Friday and Saturday, August 20 and 21 at 1 and 4 pm, and Sunday, August 22 at 11 am and 2 pm.
For more information about the Rainforest Circus production of Submerged, or Deer Crossing the Art Farm, go to deercrossingtheartfarm.org.