Portland's Wanderlust Circus makes its Olympia debut on July 2

Contributing writerJune 27, 2013 

  • WANDERLUST CIRCUS: "THE ENDLESS ROAD"

    What: The Portland-based theatrical circus brings a merry band of acrobats, aerialists, jugglers and dancers to Olympia. Opening the evening are Poki and Ember of Button Wagon along with artists from Lookout Arts Quarry.

    When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 2

    Where: Capitol Theater, 206 Fifth Ave. SE, Olympia

    Tickets: $19.50 general admission, $14.50 for Olympia Film Society members, children, students and seniors. Tickets are available at olympiafilmsociety.org, Rainy Day Records and at the box office the night of the show.

    More information: olympiafilmsociety.org or wanderlustcircus.com

The circus is coming to town. But this isn’t Ringling Brothers – it’s a band of circus artists who create a dazzling theatrical spectacle.

In other words: High-flying feats, yes; elephants, no. A ringmaster, yes; rings, no.

Portland’s Wanderlust Circus — a 7-year-old troupe of acrobats, aerialists, dancers, jugglers and more — makes its Olympia debut Tuesday with its show “The Endless Road.”

The all-ages show features an array of acts tied together by a loose storyline about a pair of 1980s muscle men who fall for a couple of the circus’s lovely acrobats.

“Little by little, they discover the secret of our circus,” said Noah Mickens, Wanderlust’s co-producer. “Then they have a decision to make.”

You see, this circus exists on at least two levels. In the prosaic everyday world, Wanderlust is a group of friends who travel around performing at theaters and festivals. They just finished up a stint at Las Vegas’s Electric Daisy Carnival and will soon head for the Oregon Country Fair.

But in the magical world of the circus, something entirely different is happening. It seems that the whole band is immortal.

“We have been wandering the earth for 200 years under the terms of a blessing and a curse,” Mickens explains.

Adding another level of interest: Mickens’ stage persona, ringmaster William Batty, is not a fictional character but a historical figure.

“He owned the first permanent circus theater in London in the 1850s,” Mickens said. As the story goes, Batty lost the theater and said he’d try his luck in the United States — but he never arrived.

“There are historical accounts of William Batty’s circus showing up in some exotic places like in the South Pacific,” Mickens said. “Then William Batty and his circus really do disappear from the historical record.”

And where history ends is where Mickens and his merry band begin.

“The idea is that I am the historical William Batty and that William Batty didn’t die,” he said. “He made some sort of a mysterious, magical pact that allows him to live forever, but under the terms, he has to always be wandering. If he would ever stop performing, he would age to his actual age of 250. All of the performers with his circus are covered under the same deal.

“What you end up with is a show comprised of characters from different historical periods, depending on when they joined the circus.”

That means shows can be set in — and use music from — any time period, leading to some improbable combinations.

The Olympia show will feature humorous swing music recorded by the circus’s own nine-piece orchestra.

“This show is very vintage and very classical vaudeville style,” Mickens said.

For its Electric Daisy Carnival, though, the circus hurtled through time, landing in the modern era with electronic music.

“That is an entirely different aspect of our circus,” he said.

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