5 things you should know about Fern Street Circus
This weekend, the nonprofit social circus kicks off its Spring Neighborhood Tour at the Outdoor Circus Community Center in City Heights.
Acrobatics, juggling and trapeze — oh my! Get ready for Fern Street Circus, a nonprofit social circus based in City Heights, which debuts its Spring Neighborhood Tour on Saturday.
The circus, which is the principal project of Fern Street Community Arts, has been around for more than three decades. It aims to use circus performance as a channel to explore social issues in an approachable and compassionate way, connecting community members and transforming neighborhoods in the process.
This year’s show — called “Come Out! Come Out! … Sal de Ahi” — stars circus artists, musicians and clowns. The cast ranges from professional performers to City Heights students. All performances will take place at public parks and recreation centers in mid-city neighborhoods.
Here are five things you should know about Fern Street Circus and its upcoming Spring Neighborhood Tour.
1. Fern Street Circus’ origin story starts at Big Kitchen Cafe in South Park. In the 1990s, the eatery hosted “diner theater” — intimate shows from Equity actors performing shows created by playwrights Bertolt Brecht, Vaclav Havel, David Mamet and others.
2. Fern Street Circus draws on elements from traditional circus and blends them with different theater styles. These include street theater, Brecht’s epic theater, and Commedia dell'Arte (also called “Italian Comedy”). Fun fact: Before starting Fern Street Circus, co-founder and executive director John Highkin studied at Berliner Ensemble, Bertolt Brecht’s theater in East Berlin.
3. The show switches up its venue for every performance. After kicking off at its new Outdoor Circus Community Center, it will bounce around town to neighborhoods like Mount Hope, North Park and Golden Hill. There will be a total of 10 shows, with two falling on spring holidays: Easter (April 17) and Mother’s Day (May 8). Here’s a look at the Spring Neighborhood Tour dates and locations.
- Saturday and Sunday: Outdoor Circus Community Center, 4108 University Ave.
- April 16: Dennis V. Allen Park, 850 Boundary St.
- April 17: Golden Hill Recreation Center, 2600 Golf Course Drive
- April 30: Colina del Sol Park, 5319 Orange Ave.
- May 1: Azalea Park, 2596 Violet St.
- May 7: North Park Recreation Center, 4044 Idaho St.
- May 8: Wightman Street Neighborhood Park, 5024 Wightman St.
- May 14: Memorial Park, 2975 Ocean View Blvd.
- May 15: Gompers Park, 4926 Hilltop Drive
4. In addition to its public shows, the nonprofit offers an after-school program that teaches kids circus skills. Called Level Up SD, the outdoor instruction from professional artists is open to students in City Heights. Most of the classes are school-specific and take place either on campus or at the Outdoor Circus Community Center. (Learn more fernstreetcircus.com/level-up-sd.)
5. All of the shows — and the after-school circus program — are completely free. The organization receives most of its funding from San Diego Community Enhancement Program, City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, the City of San Diego CPPS Program and the National Endowment for the Arts. However, the organization also accepts one-time or monthly monetary donations, which can be made online. And for those wanting to lend their time, there are various volunteer opportunities including office work, prop building and show set up/tear down.
2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through May 15. (Note: there are no shows on April 23 or 24.) Before the show, there will be community health fair starting at 1:30 p.m. For details, visit fernstreetcircus.com.
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