Big-top fun awaits at ‘Circus Zirkus’ exhibit
By Jennifer Burklow February 1, 2012 3:30PM
Chicago Children's Museum art director Jon Resh prepares a template to paint a sign for the new interactive exhibit "Circus Zirkus" at the Chicago Children's Museum located on Navy Pier. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times Media
‘CIRCUS ZIRKUS: WHERE YOU’RE THE STAR OF
◆ Chicago Children’s Museum on Navy Pier, 700 E. Grand Ave., Chicago
◆ Feb. 3-Aug. 12
◆ Admission, $12
◆ (312) 527-1000;
Updated: March 4, 2012 8:05AM
Have a kid who wants to join the circus? That’s now possible thanks to Chicago Children’s Museum’s “Circus Zirkus: Where You’re the Star of the Show!”
Running from Feb. 3 to Aug. 12, this highly interactive exhibit developed by museum staff (including staffers with professional circus backgrounds) lets children in on big-top action from two perspectives: backstage and center ring.
“This is not a circus where you’re just a spectator,” said Jennifer Farrington, president and chief executive officer of the museum.
“This is a circus where everything from the preparation that practices the skills, the poster making, the behind the scenes to the performing, is all for the children or for the family members.
“There’s nothing to say that Mom or Dad can’t jump in and spin plates. We wanted to give children an environment that really inspired a do-it-yourself circus experience.”
Museum staff wanted to follow the popular “Move” exhibit with another physically immersive exhibit that encourages movement along with dramatic play, Farrington said, and hit upon the circus theme as a way to accomplish those goals.
“We loved the physicality [of “Move”]; we got a lot of great feedback,” she said.
“We wanted to imbue the next experience with a lot of dramatic play and fantasy. … We just thought that circus is such a rich theme in children’s literature.
“It’s such a unique experience for children to go to the circus. It has this magical element to it. We hit upon the topic pretty quickly and decided what we really wanted was a do-it-yourself circus.”
“Circus Zirkus” offers visitors two entrances: one to the “grittier” backstage area and one to the center ring.
While backstage little performers can practice circus skills using a variety of props and costumes, create routines for the spinning hoop or flying trapeze (which can be made wheelchair-accessible) or make circus poster art.
“It is about practicing skills and creating a routine — that backstage feel,” Farrington said.
The center ring offers enough space for multiple acts to be performed simultaneously, just like a real circus.
Once performers have practiced they can move to the center ring and demonstrate their prowess with spinning plates, twirling balls, the trapeze, clown routines and more.
Or visitors can simply sit and enjoy the show, sell tickets or man the (pretend) concession stands.
“It’s much more glitzy and colorful and bright, and really is the under-the-big-top area” Farrington said.
“The great thing about the performance area is that because the circus does lend itself to three-ring multiple acts, you don’t have to wait your turn.
“Anybody can join in because there’s room for multiple things to be happening in the rings at the circus.”
The take-home goal of the exhibit, Farrington said, is to inspire families to find new ways to play.
“We want families to feel empowered to engage in dramatic play all the time,” she said.
“We want to inspire them. And we want kids to test some of their physical skills. I think something unique about this exhibit is the dramatic play and physical play.”
Also coming to CCC
WBEZ-FM (91.5)’s Off-Air Series presents “So Many Ways to Tell a Story!” at 6 p.m. Feb. 8.
Storyteller Oba William King, musician Justin Roberts, puppeteer Noah Ginex and artist David Rocco Facchini join forces to help families write a story and then enjoy a live performance of it.
Tickets are $10 and include dinner. Call (312) 948-4600 or visit wbez.org/event/2012-02-08/so-many-ways-to-tell-a-story.
Jennifer Burklow is a local free-lance writer.