“That’s not what circus is really about anymore,” says Noah Dach with a laugh. “It’s about telling a story. And it’s about doing spectacular, amazing things like juggling, aerial acrobatics and magic.”
Dach is the writer and director of “Wild,” a world premiere all-ages circus production opening June 28 at Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre. The hour-long show tells the story of a young boy who runs away on an adventure through the unknown, through acrobatics, clowning, juggling, dance, and magic. The cast of ten (only eight perform in any particular performance) are all Muhlenberg students and alumni, veterans of a growing circus movement on campus.
“Wild” runs June 28 – July 29 in Muhlenberg’s 100-seat Studio Theatre. Showtimes are Wednesday and Thursday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. The show fills a slot in the MSMT schedule typically reserved for a family musical — but Dach emphasizes that, while children will love the show, adults will, too.
“This is truly a show for all ages,” he says. “The story of a kid out on an amazing adventure is one that I think appeals to us at every age. And this incredibly talented cast has so many spectacular tricks up their sleeves. I’m blown away every single day by what they can do.”
Every performance of “Wild” is followed by a free 45-minute activity workshop. Daytime Adventure Workshops will be pitched to children ages 4 to 12, and will feature clowning and juggling alongside creative movement and storytelling activities. Evening workshops are meant for participants of all ages, and will focus on developing some basic circus skills. This is the third season for MSMT’s summer workshop program, with more than 500 participants each year.
“Wild” marks Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre’s first foray into modern circus performance, although interest in circus has been growing rapidly among students in Muhlenberg’s Theatre & Dance Department. The department has offered aerial acrobatics classes since 2011, and Dach, a 2016 graduate, was among a group of theater and dance students who cofounded a Circus Workshop group in 2012. The Workshop’s performances grew more elaborate with time, until the group was producing full-scale sold-out circus productions in the college’s major theater venues.
Dach and two of his collaborators, Henry Evans and Tommy McCarthy, co-founded the Atlas Circus Company, which has been developing performances in and around New York City since the trio graduated. McCarthy serves as assistant director of “Wild.”
“We have a lot of students who are quite talented circus performers,” says Karen Dearborn, chair of the college’s Dance Program. Dearborn choreographed a dance piece incorporating aerial acrobatics for last season’s “Master Choreographers” concert, which featured Dach, Evans and McCarthy in its cast of eight dancers. “They have brought a whole new dimension to the dance program. It’s been very exciting to watch.”
“Wild” is the fourth original world-premiere family production from Muhlenberg’s summer theater series. For each of the past three years, MSMT has produced an original piece by the Doppelskope company — “Gruff!” in 2014, “Grimm!” in 2015, and last season’s “Growl!” “Gruff!” has since been produced in New York City and is headed for an Off-Broadway run at the Vital Theatre Company in August.
Doppelskope co-founder Christopher Scheer — and co-creator of those three productions — is on hand again this summer as clowning director for “Wild.” Scheer, a 2007 graduate, plays one of the denizens of the woods that the young boy meets, and brings his clowning expertise to the show’s several comedic sequences. He and the rest of the cast also juggle, hang from silks, perform magic, and create an elaborate sound machine.
“This is a really demanding show,” Dach says. “The cast goes full-tilt for the entire hour — and they’re doing it 40 times. They’re going to be in the best shape of their lives by the end of the summer.”
“Wild” plays June 28 – July 29 — Wednesday and Thursday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., and Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $11 for the first week and $13 for the rest of the run. Groups of $15 or more are $8 per ticket, and non-profit groups are $6 per ticket.
Relaxed (sensory friendly) performances will be offered Saturday, July 8 at 10 a.m., and Thursday, July 13, at 1 p.m., designed for children with Autism and other sensory processing challenges. Lighting and sound levels will be adapted to minimize sensory impact; patrons will have easy access to the lobby during the performance; and concessions will be available during the show. Patrons are welcome to bring sensory tools, cushions, and quiet manipulatives for use during the performance. Visual guides will be available for download by June 22. Event sponsored by ARCH of Lehigh Valley (Autism Resource Community Hub).
Audio Description for patrons who are blind or low vision will be offered Thursday, July 20, at 1 p.m. Patrons who utilize this service will wear headphones, and will be able to hear a description of the action on stage as it takes place.
Tickets and information are available at muhlenberg.edu/smt and 484-664.3333.