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Circus plans event for 2021 in Powell River

Gibsons arts organization scouting locations and participants

“The circus is coming!” Those words have been heard through centuries since Circus Maximus was built in Rome. They have evolved dramatically since then and a modern version will be coming to Powell River in 2021.

Rainforest Circus presentation Submerged is a project of Deer Crossing The Art Farm situated on five acres in Gibsons. It has been engaging the community in art tours of all kinds in coastal communities since 2008, producing multimedia projects from small to full-scale theatre productions. With COVID-19, the organization has pivoted to online versions.

“We will be reaching out to a variety of Powell River community members to work with them to make the shows as unique as this community,” said artistic director Chad Herschler. “Submerged is a rich theme that has a lot of depth.” 

One partner that has come on board is inclusion Powell River (iPR), whose chief operating officer Lilla Tipton made the original connection. Jenn Lawlor from iPR’s Community Connector program and Advocates In Motion (AIM) group said Tipton met Keely Sills at one of her yoga classes. Sills, who moved to Powell River three years ago, is also an aerialist who works with Rainforest Circus. 

“When I heard about this I thought it was a great opportunity and fit for us,” said Lawlor, “and am happy to work on the project. “

Rainforest Circus’s advance team visited Powell River last fall to check out several locations such as Powell River Recreation Complex, Cranberry Children’s Centre and an area near Brooks Secondary School. Lawlor accompanied team members to explore the sites. Requirements for aerialists call for large trees with a canopy so it was decided the complex area would be the best site.

“There’s a bit of a spell that happens with our circus so we need an environment which creates that spell; it’s really powerful,” said Herschler, who with his theatre background, is also a performer and writer. 

A contingent of Rainforest Circus staff met with other iPR staff members in The Rotary Garden at The ARC Community Event Centre on August 12. They received a copy of Journey Towards Community: 60 Years of the inclusion Powell River Society, a history of the organization since its inception in 1955.

“The meeting provided a better understanding for us of the scope of its clients and programs,” said Herschler. “This will be our first time working with people with intellectual differences so we’re really excited and energized about the possibilities. We’ve worked in the past with people with dementia. In every community where we produce a show, we try to build relationships so something unique happens to each location.”

The next day, team members met with iPR staff members Chris Weeks and John Tyler, who gathered choir members together. 

“At this point we are investigating the potential for participation,” said Herschler.

Prior to the event scheduled for the third week in August 2021, organizers will be in Powell River five days to prepare.

“It’s entirely dependent on COVID-19,” added Herschler, “but regardless we’ll be doing a show here whether it is 2021 or 2022.”

Rainforest Circus presents up to three one-hour shows a day and each has between 100 and 125 people attending. There will be a 5 pm show on Thursday, a 3 pm and 5 pm show on Friday and then a couple shows each weekend day. There is a staff team of seven, several contract employees and hundreds of participants for each show. 

Lawlor, who has been working with AIM for three years, said she is thrilled with this opportunity.

“Our members have been fundraising through fashion shows, craft fairs and other events, as well as giving back to the community with such activities as an ice cream social,” she added. “They will be eager to be involved with the circus in a variety of ways.” 

For more information about Submerged, go to

“After meeting basic needs of food and housing, humans need to feed their heart and soul,” said Herschler, “and that is what we do.”