By Matthew Craig, Arts & Culture Editor
Circus Maine, a nascent company located on Thompson’s Point, has been bringing circus art and circus training to Maine since October 2015. Blain Tully, the general manager and part-owner of the organization, formed Circus Maine with Joshua Oliver, the technical director, and Cory Tabino, the artistic director. Tully, a University of Southern Maine alumnus, graduated with a degree in international business and sports management. He, with a few other gymnasts, founded a gymnastics club/sports team, which competed nationally for four straight years. Since a young age, he has practiced gymnastics, and has competed on many occasions. In his teens, upon seeing the similarities between circus and gymnastics, Tully was inspired to “transition to the circus world” and pursued training in contemporary circus arts.
Circus Maine participates in a variety of activities. The organization holds classes for both youths and adults, in addition to putting on original shows. Youth classes are more structured, and those who have undergone significant training (at least one year) are able to participate with the youth performance troupe. Some shows are held at the facility on Thompson’s Point, while others are performed at other locations. One unique type of performance that Circus Maine hosts is called Monthly Cabaret, in which an ever-changing cast of performers perform an eclectic set of “unique, one off performances,” differentiated from other shows by a lack of narrative.
Tully and the other partners find the task of administrating the organization to be quite a challenge, as the company provides a wide variety of services and, at this point, the partners are the administrative team. Tully looks forward to being able to “operate in a way that allows [them] to have some breathing room.” Currently, the partners work something like 60 hours a week, which doesn’t leave much time to “build, rather than just maintain.” In the end, Circus Maine plans to such a level that it rivals contemporary circus schools, such as École Nationale de Cirque in Montreal. Their current facility serves them very well, but the fact that it is their sole property necessitates a transformation from a training environment when putting on a show, which is very time-consuming. Their expansion plans include converting the building into a single-purpose facility, most likely a theater.
Recently, the Ringling Brothers, an ancient circus company, made the decision to dissolve. Ringling and Barnum & Bailey, replete with elephants and big top tents, and which generally featured families of circus performers, represented an older circus tradition than that practiced at Circus Maine. With contemporary circus, performers like Tully and his peers are “more focused on the artistic side of performance… and most of what [they] do is oriented on athletic, artistic expression as it related to circus disciplines.” Another important distinction is the fact that contemporary circus is generally performed in a theater and on a stage rather than in a tent. Though they are very distinct arts, it is true that contemporary circus is just an evolution of the traditional form.
Those interested in training should inquire directly, and more information on the school can be found on Circus Maine’s website ( circusmaine.org ). Experience in gymnastics, dance, parkour, martial arts and other physical disciplines that require a high level of agility translates well to circus arts. The organization offers training programs for people of all ages and levels of experience.
Contemporary circus is a unique art form, and one that should be experienced at least once. A Cupid’s Night Circus will be held at the Thompson’s Point facility on Valentine’s Day weekend, with showings on Friday and Saturday at 7 PM and a 4 PM performance on Sunday. In addition to a variety of acts being performed, there will be food, drink, and live music at the event.