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Move over, P.T. Barnum; see ya, Shrine

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The circus is coming! The circus is coming... along?

"We're getting there," says Grant Guy, the ringmaster in the middle of a two-year development project of The Circus of Objects.

Wednesday at 7 p.m. Guy is presenting the sixth workshop performance of The Circus of Objects, this time at Pop Soda's Coffeehouse and Gallery, 625 Portage Ave. He will introduce scores of locals who are developing their circus acts in expectation of performing in the full version next year. Guy promises to surprise spectators with what they will witness.

The lineup is again intriguing, with playwright Carolyn Gray continuing her foray into ventriloquism with her kneepal Nikitushka. The contortionist Samantha Halas will be in the house, along with Miss Lyndsay Ladobruk, a performance artist who will be working with balloons this time, and Minor, the human pincushion.

"He won't be pincushioning at this one," says Guy, the longtime artistic director of the alternative theatre company Adhere and Deny. "He will be doing other wacky stuff from the sideshow world. He could be eating grubs or putting things up his nose."

Guy's idea is to develop a hybrid between circus arts and cabaret, so Gerry Atwell is contributing some musical bits, Ken Gregory will be introducing his stage persona, Coycet La Mort, while actors Graham Ashmore and Chris Sabel are creating archetypal characters who will appear regularly at future circuses.

That the show will take place in a restaurant serving about 100 people will be a deliberate challenge for the acts.

"By doing it there, we are also playing around with the idea of a cabaret," says Guy, who will be diminishing his personal role for this latest workshop. "Food will be served during the show. We want to create the environment where performers have to fight to keep audience attention in a very busy environment.

"This audience will give us an idea how we should shape the circus show next year."

Admission is by donation.

-- -- --

Strike! The Musical is hitting the road again for a run in Edmonton next spring.

The Danny Schur/Rick Chafe musical, set during the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, will be part of the Workshop West Theatre's 2012-13 season. The seven-show April 24-28 run coincides with the end of the Alberta Federation of Labour centennial convention. It is expected that two of the performances at the 315-seat Timm's Centre for the Performing Arts will be sold out owing to the attendance of conventioneers.

AFL president Gil McGowan saw Strike! in Winnipeg in 2010 and approached Schur in the Manitoba Theatre for Young People lobby.

"He was extremely enthused about the show and asked, 'What would it take to get this show to Edmonton in 2012?'" says Schur. "I said, 'A theatre that is willing to co-produce it with me.'"

Shur was able to find that theatre through a connection at Workshop West Theatre, but couldn't find an available stage to present Strike at the start of the AFL's centennial celebrations; he had to settle for the back end next April.

"I'm ecstatic," says Schur, "The show is its own best promoter, and putting an audience in front of it is still the best way to gain some converts. That we are even doing an Edmonton production is proof of the principle at work; an Edmontonian (McGowan) saw it in Winnipeg and became the impetus for its Edmonton première. In as theatre-savvy a town as Edmonton, putting up the show can only make for more opportunities."

He is hoping history will repeat itself, since Jillian Keiley, the newly appointed head of English theatre at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, as well as Bob Baker, artistic director of Edmonton's Citadel Theatre, are scheduled to see it.

Strike! premièred in 2005 and was revived in Saskatoon a year later.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 16, 2012 D4

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