What do bearded ladies, stilt-walkers, and social and political issues have in common?
They are all part of “Circus Amok,” an annual production on Coney Island’s “Sideshow by the Seashore.” Jennifer Miller runs this show (and still stars in it) to promote issues such as gender and social status within her community. Though she is now a tenured professor at Pratt Institute, her love of circus and uniting the outcasts of society- self-proclaimed and otherwise- has carried on for over 30 years.
Performances take a lean toward causes for social justice since the spectacle started up in 1989. Acrobats, singers, dancers, and a proverbial rainbow of performers all appear on the roster.
But one thing can be agreed upon by all members of the show. It is not the gravity-defying antics, or fire-blowing, or even growing a beard that is the most challenging aspect of the show: It’s paying for it.
The circus vies for governmental funding to ensure its spot year after year. And while the show has grown in popularity over the years— springing up occasionally in parks and other outdoor venues during summer for impromptu performances— the money just isn’t there. In response to being just another non-profit overlooked for support, one of the performers, Jenny Romaine says: “If (Miller) were in Montreal…this would not happen.”
Featured Image by Sam Teigen