Tag Archives: Internship

Becoming a Performer: Manuel Garcia

The last blog post I wrote for Circus Mojo was my beginnings with the company and my start of trying to bring joy through Circus. In that first year, my technical skills expanded rapidly, as I learned the various circus disciplines, such as balancing and object manipulation, in concert with the “Mojo philosophy.”

Since then, I would say that I have moved beyond rote abilities like juggling and reciting clowning bits to becoming a performer and an artist. My skills have improved, it’s true- I can juggle two diabolos, run a five ball juggling pattern, and complete sixty casino shows in a month. But the way that I grew the most was in learning to deal with the situations that can’t be anticipated.

I became very comfortable in taking on leadership responsibilities. So often, decisions had to be made to ensure Circus Mojo’s everyday activities went smoothly and because that organization uses an apprenticeship model and I learned to step up and not expect decisions to be made for me. If responsibilities were forgotten (dropping the ball, as it were), I didn’t need anyone to ask me to pick up the slack, it just became second nature.

The group who lived at Mojo got into the habit of planning for a day the night before. This involved assigning gigs and tasks, loading the van with everything we needed, and writing a list of any last-minute things we might need to grab in the morning. We customized our show, adjusting the acts and interactions to fit the age, size, and demographics of the different audiences we encountered. As a group, we became experts at performing in the show while simultaneously running our own music and taking photos. In particular, Rachel, Kira, Rosa, and I became so comfortable in working together that we were able to form an hour (or more) show at a moment’s notice. We were also able to adapt that show to include various performers, including others from the troupe or guests from out of town.

One of my favorite groups to work with was the boys from the Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky (CHNK).  They were always eager to learn and excited to try new things. In particular, the diabolo was very popular among them. Whenever one of them would get a trick for the first time, they’d call me over to watch, and it struck me that my approval would be so meaningful to them. As soon as they had the trick down, they asked for more. What I also loved was realizing that I could capture the boys’ attention without raising my voice. They respected me because I listened to them, rather than making assumptions about them. At CHNK and in other classes, I learned my own style of handling situations.

This was vital for the two years I spent as Mojo’s summer camp director. I was the pe11824950_10153451811503758_971320043211185359_nrson who was planning each week’s day-to-day events, as well as the go-to whenever we needed to deviate from any plan. Before summer camp began, we had contingency plans for various situations: where kids could go if they needed a break, what to do if it was too hot to have groups outside, etc. But of course, not every [situation] can be planned for. When those unexpected wrenches were thrown into our plans the Mojo staff became able to deal with them flawlessly. The most difficult days to navigate were when we needed to split our team to cover summer camp, work at the hospital, and various gigs…Sometimes all at the same time!  During those hectic times we’d have to ask Ginny (our fearless manager and roustabout) or Joe (her cousin who’s worked with us in the past) to step in at summer camp to lend a helping hand.

When I came to Mojo, I already had many of the basic skills that I used in shows; I could already juggle, perform with fire, and other object manipulation. Although these skills certainly improved over the past two and a half years, what sticks with me is the idea that being a performer is about being able to deal with whatever is being thrown at me. It’s about all of the heavy lifting that goes into making a show. It’s about preparing an act and performing it in front of an audience…and then changing it on the spot if something isn’t working. It’s about meeting new people and meeting ever-changing expectations. And rolling with all of it (on a big red ball). And in doing this, I have brought some joy through circus.

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Federal Jobs and the Circus- Sam Hartung

A few weeks ago I was invited to a drum circle in Ludlow, Kentucky. I went expecting to have a good time but was blown away by the amazing aerial feats, and energetic circus atmosphere. Owner and operator of Circus Mojo, Paul Miller, stood up near the end of the night and announced that they were looking for interns between the ages of 18 and 22 to work as part of a federal program. Meeting all the qualifications for the program, I helped Paul pack away the stages at the end of the night, introduced myself and pronounced my interest.

The next week I took the Anderson Ferry across the river and walked into the door at Circus Mojo ready to work, only to find out that Paul was taking everyone to see Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey that night! I had been to the circus before as a kid several times; one of the times time I think Paul was even performing. He was a Ringling clown in 1996 and 1997.
The show we saw this year was an especially good one. They had some new things I had never seen before, like ladies hanging from inside glass spheres doing acrobatics. The very next night, the clowns we just saw came to an event at the Ludlow Theatre and had a parade. Afterward, we all danced to bluegrass and tribal drumming. So much fun!
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In the less than a month that I have worked here, I have met so many people, such as Bobby Maverick the magician, international performers from Mexico, South America, and Africa, and local street performers such as Forealism Tribe. I have performed at such places as the Special Arts Festival, STARS (for those who have recently lost loved ones), and Newport on the Levee. All kinds of opportunities have opened wide before me. It is scary and exciting.
I am learning so many new things, in addition to circus skills, such as plumbing, operating spotlights and soundboards, and professionalism. The circus is not all fun and games, it is really hard work. It takes discipline and stamina. But it is intensely rewarding, and everyone is pushing me to push myself beyond my limits. I am so thankful to Paul and everyone at Circus Mojo for really helping me out, and to everyone whose taxes are paying me to be here. It is a tremendous privilege, and not only I, but especially the entire Circus Mojo culture is just beginning to blossom. Really inspirational, innovative, and exciting things are happening here. Come on down and have some fun, take a class or enjoy a show. Support the local community!
I look forward to working with the Circus Mojo team on into the future, during my paid internship and beyond. I hope to expand my own creative endeavors, such as performing live music and theater through the connections I make. Eventually I would like to not only perform, but direct and produce both theatrical performances and motion pictures. The skills I am learning and the people I am meeting now are applicable to this end. I am so glad that I have been given the opportunity to do this with my life. At this time I feel it is very helpful to my development and I can only do my best to be helpful to the development of Circus Mojo and the community.
Being paid to do something creative and valuable to myself and to so many others is an ideal situation, one that I am very blessed to find myself in. I believe in the vision and the practical application, both of the paid internship program, as well as Circus Mojo. Right now our taxes are paying to train people like me in the practices of arts with beneficial effects on society. Paul has proven through CircEsteem and now Circus Mojo that circus skills keep troubled youth from violence and drug use by giving them something productive to work on. His programs have helped prison inmates develop themselves during their time behind bars, as well as children in hospitals to stay positive during their illnesses and operations. They have shown that anyone of any age or ability can learn a creative skill that someone with seemingly more ability in other life areas cannot perform. This gives them confidence.
To be a part of this government by-the-people, for-the-people initiative is a privilege. I hope to see this program expand across the country, so that real people like you and me, can live our lives, and make our livings, in new and exciting ways which are beneficial to everyone.

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