Learning to Trust and Discover Through a Fourth Grade Circus
Adults think of childhood monsters as frightening elements of the external world—the monster under the bed, something lurking in the closet that can be banished by daylight or the warmth of a cuddly blanket. Believe!, this year’s circus from Plymouth Meeting Friends School’s Fourth Grade, explores the idea that sometimes, the things that we are most afraid of are part of ourselves.
Every year since 2003, PMFS’ Fourth Grade class, under the direction of Will Starr, has performed in a Circus. From unicycles and silks to tight-rope walking and juggling, the performance is filled with all sorts of traditional circus acts, but the skits go far beyond the basics of that. This year’s production, Believe! tells the story of The Sailor, who is unsure of her own abilities, and lacks the confidence to take risks or stand up for herself. She and her companions embark on a sailing voyage, finding themselves on an island which they slowly realize might not be deserted after all.
The audience becomes aware that there is a mysterious creature who may be experiencing a struggle of its own. The creature reflects The Sailor’s own ambivalence, and is almost the manifestation of her feelings about her own potential. Is the creature something to fear, or is it something to embrace? Should The Sailor steer clear of risk, or push herself to see what she is capable of?
This tension between safety on the edges or immersing oneself in something unknown mirrors the students’ own path to the Fourth Grade Circus. For fifteen years, teacher Will Starr, now joined by Isa Hahmann, has understood that learning to believe in one’s self is essential to creating a circus. As part of this beloved PMFS rite of passage, Fourth Graders learn unicycle, aerials, and a variety of other challenging circus skills and are also tasked with preparing the stage, spotting each other, and learning to craft a cohesive production.
A performance of high caliber, the Fourth Graders are challenged both physically and creatively to stretch beyond their own imaginings, and to banish any fears and doubts about their own abilities. The result is a spectacular show that highlights not only their newly-found skills, but also their journey to the stage. At the heart of Believe! lies a fundamental truth: that the artistry and self-expression of children has a high value, and that this faith in their achievements can be transformative for performers and audience alike.
Evening performances run Friday, March 16 and Saturday, March 17, 7:00 – 8:15 pm. To purchase tickets ($7), click here to download a copy of the order form.