Sunday, February 5, 2012

Let the "Showdown" Begin!

Just three weeks after the final performance of GRIMM, I began to write the script for the next summer's show with Betty Butler and Rhiannon Fisk, the artistic director and assistant artistic director, in that order, of Circus Juventas. We knew the theme: The Wild, Wild West!, so that is where we began...

There are over 900 students at Circus Juventas, the largest circus school for youth in this country. And of those 900 students, there are over 50 performers at the advanced level for whom we write the script. First to be decided are the acts in the show, which this coming year will include: wall tramp, wheel of steel, high wire, teeterboard, straps, chair stacking, and flying trapeze, just to name a few! The story grows and develops around the act order, as well as the music researched and collected by Betty. Indeed, the music! The summer shows have fantastic recorded music as well as live music provided by the remarkable Peter Ostroushko and his band. As soon as Betty compiles some of the music, I begin listening to it as I write-- We both find it helps us picture the scenes and the emotions and actions that need to be conveyed.

Since this is my fifth year of script-writing for Circus Juventas, I have become familiar with what these young performers are capable of. And because they are such extraordinary performers, it is like painting on a canvas with the best quality materials. Knowing ahead of time who will be the main characters and knowing their past performances, allows the scenes to easily come to life.  After many meetings and tons of research that included several trips to my local library for books on outlaws, gold mining, and the history of the Wild West, then watching lots of Westerns, our story was born: SHOWDOWN! It begins with the discovery of gold. And gold as we all know can change people for good and bad, which makes for great characters and plot right away. Outlaws, including Billy the Kid, prospectors, cowboys, dance hall girls, and a steely-eyed sheriff named Wyatt Earp will all have their lives twisted, contorted, somersaulted, lassoed, balanced, and spun in circles by gold. I can hardly wait to see it come to life. It is most definitely going to be "an action packed, rip-snortin', gold-strikin', hoedown dancin', cowboy lassoin', card gamblin', barroom brawlin', sharp-shootin', Dance Hall swingin', wildest show in the West!"

Model for Showdown by Susan Furr
Model of jail and Sheriff's office by Susan Furr
The character descriptions were handed out to the students and the script was read aloud at the beginning of January. Lassoing workshops have ropes spinning all over the Circus Juventas Big Top. The set design and building have begun, with painting and prop building soon to follow. August is not seeming so far away with the gray winter days of Minnesota growing longer. 

Okay, forget I just wrote that last sentence. It is only February. There is plenty of time! I have a picture book to finish illustrating after all. In the mean time, listen to this to get you in the Western mood.


  1. Sounds awesome. You do such a great job. Looking forward to seeing it come together.