Luth Wolff is the wonderful creator and performer in Big Tops & Tiny Tots – a silly circus adventure for ages 3-7. Imagination Workshop is delighted to have her performing at our hub this year. We know Luth has had some experience with moulding and adapting her work to new and different (and sometimes unaccommodating) spaces and in a lightbulb moment for us (small pats on our own backs) we thought it would be great to have her write a few words about her experience touring across difficult schools, performing in all different spaces. She is proof that any venue can be your venue – it’s just about getting creative! This blog doesn’t need much more of an introduction, so I’ll let Luth take it from here…
Production values can make a show. A gorgeous venue, comfortable seating, powerful sound and a killer lighting design all come together to make your show sparkle. But what do you do when none of those things are available to you? For the past 9 years, Solid State Circus has been touring circus shows to places that are not designed to present shows. Schools, basketball courts, libraries – we’ve done them all. Say goodbye to your beautiful lighting plan and hello to 6 fluro tubes, an ugly chandelier, and some low-hanging air conditioning ducts.
Creating work that can not only cope with difficult venues, but thrives on them, is where we find one of the most joyous challenges of our craft. Performing large acrobatic shows in schools gave us the grounding we needed. Bringing our own sound equipment (and a full battery system for when all the power points are broken), and learning to perform in huge, echoing school gymnasiums meant we learnt how to control the acoustics of a show without a technician, and without any time to rehearse.
The greatest challenge for us has always been space. There’s nothing quite like trying to climb to the top of a three-person-high tower when there’s only room for two. We learned to play with the spaces we were given, and more than once left a performer literally hanging from the rafters when they ran out of height, to the pure delight of the kids (and terrible resignation from the teacher on playground duty).
When we created Big Tops & Tiny Tots Circus Show, we knew it was destined to be presented in kindergartens and preschools, as well as larger venues. These are often normal sized rooms, filled to the brim with clutter. There’s tables and chairs and bookshelves and ceiling fans and artwork strung across the room, all designed for the comfort of 4 year olds and with no thought given to acrobatics. In one memorable show, an overly enthusiastic hula hoop completely removed Jupiter from a model of the solar system, sending it flying across the room, narrowly avoiding landing on the class fish tank.
Designing elements of the show to work under any conditions is challenging – will you still see clearly if your backdrop is a cluttered bookshelf rather than a curtain? Will the sunlight streaming through the windows hurt the children’s eyes? How do you project your voice when you’re outside in the wind?
Knowing the limitations of your space controls the skills you can present. You might not have the biggest tricks, or the hardest skills, but what you will create is a versatile, bomb-proof show that can cope with a concrete pillar in the centre of the stage; a free-range bunny rabbit who will eat your props and try it’s hardest to be stood on during the show, or a dead bird dropping out of the ceiling, causing 350 children to burst into tears (been there, done that, buried the bird).
What a joy it is to come to Imagination Workshop, where we have the space to spread out a little, a backdrop, lights, sound, and a lack of suicidal animals! When you know your show rocks under fluros, it will shine under lights. While some shows might struggle with the basic production elements of a fringe festival where every nook and cranny is transformed into a venue, I am overjoyed to have such a beautiful space to perform and share the joy of what we do.