Our classroom is a circus theatre. If you love both theatre and circus, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how the two elements can be combined to form a social experience of circus theatre.
Melissa Cameron is a 23-year old Master of Creative Practice student who recently directed and performed in a show that hybridized these two creative elements, to showcase the nature of this new up-and-coming circus theatre industry.
According to Melissa, the concept of ‘circus’, with clowns taking centre stage, is no longer the number one drawcard; instead, it has evolved into something much more enticing.
“I was really interested in creating a piece of art that would bring joy to people, and help bring them together.” The production, ‘Get That Circus Out of my Lion’, not only spoke to socio-political themes in both Aotearoa and around the world, it also allowed people to walk out feeling refreshed and invigorated by experiencing something artistic and entertaining.
Melissa and her classmates were tasked to take what they’d learned in the classroom and create something that would be interesting and reflective of a practical learning environment. With lectures looking into arts-based research and adapting the practical learnings according to what students were interested in and wanted to learn more about, students were introduced to a broad scope of creative arts disciplines.
“The experience I’ve had learning about the different disciplines in class has honestly just been incredible. The teachers care so much and are truly world class in what they do, and the pastoral support I received was so special.”
Because Aotearoa’s circus industry is blossoming, Melissa chose to research contemporary circus and acting to understand how these two disciplines might combine to form visual storytelling.
By rallying a group of fellow creative students to help develop and deliver the production, Melissa ensured that a wide range of skillsets were brought to the table. Her project team was made up of two students who trained in Balinese mask performance, a couple of talented musicians, and a friend who helped produce the show, whilst Melissa focused on directing as well as performing.
It took almost a year to create the piece, and a lot of effort was put into developing the spectacular hybrid experience, including designing costumes, marketing the show, and hours of rehearsals. Playhouse Theatre in Glen Eden took the opportunity to get behind Melissa and her team, working collaboratively alongside them to support their production.
For Melissa, the process of being able to create a show from concept to delivery – including business and marketing elements, networking with industry professionals, and project managing every aspect of the performance – and understanding all of the roles that go into making it, was the biggest learning curve.
Moving from the Bachelor of Performing and Screen Arts (Acting for Screen and Theatre) into the Master of Creative Practice, allowed her to learn about different areas, including directing, acting, as well as curating, choreographing and producing a piece of art.
“There aren’t many opportunities where you get to make a show and put it on for the public, and be allowed to try and experiment as a piece of learning.”
What’s more, getting exposure to Auckland’s creative arts industry has led to greater opportunities, like being connected with theatre managers, knowing where to borrow equipment, and who to get in touch with to help make shows like ‘Get That Circus Out of my Lion’, possible.
The project has also given Melissa and her team the opportunity to create their very own theatre company, where they aim to further explore circus theatre, using what worked well, learnings from what didn’t work, and delivering new shows on a much larger scale.
“I plan to work with the group to create more shows and experiment and train more in circus, developing a professional skill with theatre and putting it out there in the hopes that it picks up and takes off.”
Photography by John Rata