Sarasota, Florida - Sarasota’s Sailor Circus celebrates its 65th anniversary when the legendary show presents nine performances from Thursday, March 27, through Saturday, April 5, at the Sailor Circus Arena near downtown Sarasota.
President Truman held office; Volkswagen made its American debut. It was 1949, when three pennies would get you a first-class stamp, and seventeen cents would buy a gallon of gas. People sang Gene Autry’s new song, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”; and, they could listen to it at home using the latest high-tech phenomenon: the 45 RPM record.
Here in Sarasota, by 1949 we had earned our “Circus Capital of the World” moniker, having been home to The Greatest Show on Earth® for over two decades; and, our town was already recognized as “an arts community.” Three events in 1949 enhanced that reputation. One was the first public performance by the Sarasota Symphony. A second milestone was the opening of the Sarasota Art Center; and, a third cultural institution took its first breath: Sailor Circus.
Originally part of Sarasota High School’s physical education program, Sailor Circus has evolved over sixty-five years into an internationally-recognized circus arts training program. Boasting thousands of alumni who have distinguished themselves in the trades, the professions, and the arts, Sailor Circus continues to offer a unique curriculum that melds athletics with performing arts, and molds spirited youngsters into disciplined and skilled young adults.
Over the decades it has garnered national acclaim as America’s longest-running youth circus: a legacy of the talented elementary, junior high and high school students who comprise the cast and crew of “The Greatest Little Show on Earth!”
“The public will be treated to a masterful, exceptionally entertaining circus,” comments Pedro Reis, CEO of The Circus Arts Conservatory, the non-profit organization that oversees the Sailor Circus. “Our students are not just learning circus arts: they are also learning discipline and teamwork while engaging in important confidence-building activities. At the same time, they’re continuing their academic studies and maintaining their grades: a daunting challenge. Their reward? Applause from the thousands of local residents and visitors who fill each performance to capacity every year.”
Meanwhile, the 100+ students featured in Sailor Circus, from 8 to 18 years of age and representing Sarasota and Manatee Counties, are trained and coached by another group of people unique to the area: the professional circus performers whose families have called Sarasota “home” for decades. One such individual is Steve Smith, Sailor Circus Academy Director. His 40-year career includes a 10-year stint as Director of the fabled Ringling Clown College; a producer of shows for Walt Disney World and Royal Caribbean Cruises; and, guest director of New York’s Big Apple
Circus. His academic gravitas is the result of a fine arts degree from Chicago’s Goodman School of Drama. “Performing is my passion; but, so is teaching,” explains Smith; “and these dedicated young circus entertainers share my appetite for performing. They often train 20 to 30 hours a week, after school and on week-ends, honing their skills on unicycles, learning the art of clowning, flying on the trapeze or walking the high wire.”
This season’s engagement of Sailor Circus, entitled “LEGACY,” reflects the confluence of two celebrations. The 65th Anniversary of Sailor Circus is one such celebration, representing Sarasota’s distinctive eight-decade circus heritage of which The Sailor Circus is a part. The other celebration is the Patterson Foundation’s “Legacy of Valor” Campaign, for which The Circus Arts Conservatory is a partner. As a result, the patriotic red, white and blue Sailor Circus “LEGACY” theme pays tribute to the U.S. Military and to our nation’s veterans.
Tickets for Sailor Circus are available now at the Sailor Circus Box Office (2075 Bahia Vista Street in Sarasota); seats can also be reserved by calling 941-355-9805 or logging-on to www.circusarts.org. Ticket prices are $16.00, with discounts for children under 12 and for groups.