“I came to Mendocino as a marketing manager for a jewelry company. I found my home in Albion. Shortly thereafter, I ended up abandoning all the other projects in my life. I ran away from my marketing job and joined the circus,” smiles Birge, co-founder of the Flynn Creek Circus.
To perfect her skills, Birge spent a considerable amount of time in Europe, where she was trained by a fifth-generation Romanian circus family. “I got started in the circus learning flying trapeze and tight wire, and was accepted in a show in England,” she says.
Despite the allure of living and working abroad, Birge craved Mendocino’s beauty and peace. “It was 2002. There wasn’t much work for aerialists in California, so I formed Flynn Creek Circus to present shows in our area. Then we procured our own circus tent. We still tour abroad most of the year, but with our tent, we’re able to do more shows for our community.”
Flynn Creek Circus harkens back to the hair-raising, vaudevillian circuses of old. Every year, Birge brings together a team of unparalleled circus artists who perform in the county and in nearby communities.
“We change our artists every season,” says Birge, who is putting the finishing touches on this year’s show. Because Birge and her husband and trapeze partner David Jones perform with circuses around the world, they are able to entice an exceptional group of performers to spend a season in Mendocino County. “This year we’re featuring an amazing foot juggling act from France. We’re bringing in a top-notch, award-winning contortionist and amazing local aerialists.”
Birge is leaving a few surprises for this year’s visitors, but in past seasons, knife-throwers, extreme jugglers, unicyclists, barrel balancers and of course, a clown or three has graced the ring, along with the nail-biting high wire acts performed by Birge and her colleagues.
“The entire concept of this year’s show is based on improvisational theater, which is very exciting and challenging. The audience will have a say in what the performers do.” The shows are infused with just enough G-rated, risqué humor and spellbinding feats of strength, balance and beauty that even your family curmudgeon will exit the Big Top feeling amazed, amused and inspired.
“We approach our performances from an artistic perspective, not as a gymnastic sport. We respect traditional shows. Our aerialists and acrobats have a history of great showmanship, and we love bringing something new and artistic to our audiences.”
Birge stresses that though safety is always first, Flynn Creek performers are boundary pushers. When you enter the tent, expect your jaw to drop—numerous times. “We’re kind of a ‘dance meets monster truck’ production,” she laughs. “It’s very real, and that’s one defining element that we are committed to keeping alive. We take risks, but when you look at old circus videos from the 70’s, it’s mind-blowing what those performers attempted.”
“In today’s circuses, we see wonderful acrobatic accomplishments, but you don’t have as many ‘edge-of-your-seat’ moments. It’s very important for us to preserve some of that magic. There is risk, but that’s part of what makes us so authentic. Our aerialists are taking calculated, secure risks. It’s real. There’s no cloak and daggers. Our performers are trained, confident and have practiced relentlessly.”
This winter, Birge performed in Russia, China, Germany and many cities throughout the US. “My husband and I have our trapeze act, which is what we’re hired for. When we go out of the country, we’re incorporating our act into larger productions. In Europe, there’s a circuit of international circus festivals—an age-old circus tradition. Most European shows are much bigger and a little more traditional. It’s very different from what we do at home.”
This summer, visitors and locals can expect to see the remarkable talents of the Flynn Creek Circus team throughout the county and beyond. “We are so grateful to be able to share these incredible artists with our community,” says Birge. This year, she is offering a pop-up tent to local organizations interested in furthering their cause. She encourages interested groups to contact her.
“Thank you to our community for their long support, and to our exceptional audiences,” Birge concludes.
For information on Flynn Creek’s 2017 schedule visit: www.flynncreekcircus.com