Entertainment for audiences of all ages
In today’s world, we find ourselves absorbed by a multitude of technological distractions. Be it our phone, computer or television, there always seems to be a screen for us to stare at. Escape the draw of the digital world with Zoppé Italian Circus. This small, one-ring circus seats no more than 500 guests and provides an intimate entertainment experience. Seated only 20 feet away from the ring, audience members are able to interact with the protagonist, Nino the Clown. The show features its classic performances as well as two new acts. Audiences will now be able to enjoy the exquisite acrobatic act of the world-famous Black Bear Group as well as the Rolla bolla and hair hanging performances from Jose and Elizabeth Ayala of Mexico. Tosca Zoppé, a sixth generation circus performer and cousin of the high-wire walking Nik Wallenda, provides insight on what it’s like to be inside the ring and the magic that the show provides its audience.
Growing Up Inside the Ring
Zoppé has been a part of the circus world her whole life. She explains that her first performance took place when she was just two years old, balancing on her father’s hands. Although this is a remarkable age to start any career, Zoppé says this is actually how most children start in the circus. In fact, there were many other children that she grew up and performed with. Zoppé explains that a single circus can have up to ten families. Each family has their own special skill that they bring to the show, the Zoppé’s being horse experts. The families teach each other to learn new skills and performances. Zoppé calls the circus a “playground” and explains that circus performers have a “beautiful life” in which they get to travel and try new things, while being protected by the circus environment where “everyone takes care of each other.”
Zoppé says the show will be carried into the next generation, as it has for the past 173 years. The circus was founded in 1842 by a French clown and a Hungarian ballerina who fell in love and immigrated to Italy. Although Zoppé comes from a long line of performers, she says this career was “never forced upon” her and her siblings. Instead, her parents encouraged them to follow their own passions and dreams. However, Zoppé’s passion is for the circus.
“When you grow up in this environment, it is hard to imagine doing anything else,” she says.
Zoppé’s performs in the show with her beautiful horses. With them, she provides an incredible act that consists of horseback ballet and fire jumping. She also has experience performing with other animals, as well as aerial work. As mentioned, the performers teach each other their skills and try different roles in the shows. Although Zoppé “loves the aerial work,” she says “the horses are my passion” and “the root of what we are.”
Aside from performing in the show, Zoppé finds herself behind the scenes. She holds several different responsibilities including directing, programming, music and costuming. She holds all of the performers in high respect. When asked what her favorite performance is, she says, “I love all of them.”
“Being a performer is much more than having a skill,” she says. “Performers need to both connect with and feel the audience.”
A Performance Like No Other
Keeping in line with “Old World” Italian tradition, Zoppé Italian Circus provides its audience with a unique experience. Guests enter the exquisite, European style tents and quickly find themselves interacting with performers and other audience members. They then continue their journey into what Zoppé calls the “most intimate, beautiful performance experience” in a “warm and beautiful atmosphere.”
Zoppé credits the performers’ ability to connect with the guests as what makes the “circus so different and special.” They do not simply roll out acts.
“We give our soul to the audience,” she says. The performers help us break free from a world imbedded with technology and distractions. We are at a point in this world where we are disconnected with reality. This show brings people back to reality and allows them to experience every emotion.”
Audience members find themselves cheering, laughing, crying, and becoming immersed in the show. This is why Zoppé Italian Circus can truly say that guests “come as strangers but leave as family.”
“I wouldn’t trade my life for any other life in the world,” Zoppé says. She not only loves what she does, but the people she is with. Even though not all of the performers are blood related, they are still part of the family.
“It takes a whole company to make [the show] happen,” she explains. “The beauty comes out of everyone, not just one person.”
A Holiday Tradition
This holiday season, allow yourself to escape from the digital world and enjoy the magic of Zoppé Italian Circus. Michelle Mac Lennan, General Manager of Chandler Center for the Arts, is thrilled to have the circus return to Chandler in time for the holidays.
“Having Zoppé return year after year is one of those rare instances where, as a director, you know you have a very special tradition. In this case, Zoppé returning for a seventh straight year indicates how much of an impression they have with our audience and our community. We have several families that plan their holiday festivities around Zoppé, and many who consider themselves a part of the Zoppé family,” she says.
This year’s show features beloved classics including Nino the Clown, Papino the Clown, Tosca Zoppé and her beautiful horses, Rudolf Heinen and his performing canines, and many new performances.
The show runs from December 22 through January 3 at Chandler Center for the Arts. Ticket prices range from $15 to $40. For more information, visit ChandlerCenter.org.