No really. I’m not clowning around. The circus really DID come to town.
I noticed the atmosphere change on campus last week. When I went to Quidditch practice, there were two caravans, parked ever so suspiciously with their tattered mustard drapes. The Quidditch captain told me it was because of the circus and I laughed, thinking she was kidding. She wasn’t. They really were there because of the circus.
Tuesday, as I innocently studied for my two tests which took place yesterday, I was interrupted by circus music and strangely costumed people, dancing about. “Come to the circus! We await your presence!” They shouted.
Tell that to my professors. I thought.
But, since I suffered through two tests yesterday and since Quidditch practice was cancelled because a giant circus tent was on our field, I decided to go to the circus. It only makes sense. What else do you do after a test and when you don’t have Quidditch practice? Besides, the circus was free. Who can say no to a free circus?
At eight o’clock, I went with two of my American friends to the tent which occupied the Quidditch field. It was red and yellow…and fiercely small. What kind of circus was this? Well, it was a free circus. And free circuses do not have elephants or lions nor do they have three rings or cotton candy. They had a stage with a curtain held up with string. They had an old armchair on stage and a desk lamp powered with power strips bought at the local store. It was an intimate scene and it was cozy.
I felt like I had been transported to an earlier time. A time before the circus was commercialized. A time when the circus was filled with magic, wonder, pickpockets, and working conditions that would make the author of Water for Elephants very unhappy.
The show said it started at eight, which in French time translates to eight-thirty. It began with a man, a single man on stage. He welcomed the audience and then began to tell a story. It became apparent that he was a fantastic actor, able to carry out an entire scene by himself, creating comedy and wonder. He first started out in the arm chair, snoozing away. He woke up, got dressed for work and then went to work, which consisted of a chair and a desk which he sat on his lap. He had a boring job, answering the phone attentively when the boss called, but playing around when he thought no one was looking. He began to tap his pencil against a cup, then against a lamp. He created a rhythm and invited the audience to join in, but when the boss called, he hushed us. But then he was fired.
Returning home (which, on a small stage, is difficult to do – this was done by the actor himself lighting different parts of the stage with lamps), he sat back on the arm chair, saying that since he was done with work, he could do something he truly enjoyed with his life. From the arm chair, bubbles were created by a bubble machine. He playfully chased them until, pop! He captured one (it was actually a glass ball, hidden somewhere, but he was so masterful that it looked like pure magic). He began to manipulate the clear glass ball and it looked like it was floating in space. I have seen other tricks like this, but those use a cloth which conceals the strings used to manipulate the ball. Here, the man had nothing but a clear ball and his hands. There was something in that moment that made you lose grip of reality and become a part of Jean-Claude’s dream world, a world where after being fired, you can find pure happiness in bubbles.
The next group was a trio that consisted of four people. They sang and played instruments, which was certainly different. It became apparent that the circus was more like a variety show. It was followed by a trapeze artist, singing as she hung upside down. This was certainly the most circus-like act of the night. There was a Latin American dance group, then another trapeze artist. One of my favorite acts of the night was a young man who had five rings, which he manipulated perfectly. He was able to walk across the stage while turning all five rings, which appeared to be fixed in place. It was apparent that he had very steady hands.
The last event of the night was an urban acrobatic group. They jumped and tumbled across the stage with a story. A man was struggling to connect in this urban world, where people were talking on their phones and when we are so self-absorbed. But, suddenly, he manages to breakthrough and they all begin this tumbling act which was quite incredible.
The circus was over before I knew it and, as I was leaving, someone told me, “Thank you for coming.”
In English. In a perfect American accent. There was no way that it was fake, so I replied, “Thank you.”
“Are you from America?” he asked.
“Are you?” I returned.
He was. A young man from San Francisco was now a part of the circus in France. Who knows where life will take you? I enjoyed my time at the circus. There is something about the circus that makes you forget about the daily grind we find ourselves in. The circus is someplace magical that allows you to hold on to the wonder of childhood.