THE PAST’S FUTURE
At age 14, Noah Mickens learned to juggle, hoping to earn a few coins to keep his family off of the streets of Los Angeles. "I began to meet other people who were into that sort of thing," he recalls, "and I started to think of myself as a circus performer."
Mickens tells the tale of his early years with the impartial air of one of his fascinations—the Joker of Batman comic fame (who, in zoot suit and white face, he also resembles). Cicuri Curajul, Cabaret Babylon, and Moe are just a few of the tongue-twisting names of Mickens’s early projects. "Now," he says, "when it comes to circus in Portland, I am the guy to come to."
Mickens most recently co-founded and continues to creatively lead the Wanderlust Circus. He emcees variety vaudeville musicals at Bossanova Ballroom with his troupe and recently directed the acclaimed carnival opera Queen of Knives. On September 24 he will present a new Wanderlust work, Summer’s Last Sizzle, with acrobats and aerialists. They’re all just part of what he calls the "greater culture at work" of circus, vaudeville, and cabaret groups like MarchFourth Marching Band, Vagabond Opera, 3 Leg Torso, Gypsy Caravan, Stolen Sweets, and Trashcan Joe. "You could call it by many names," he argues, "but I like to call it the ‘Bohemian culture.’ You’ve gotta call it something, right?"
Indeed. But don’t pin it down. "Vaudeville is a medium that’s very amenable to evolution, because it can encompass any act that can hold people’s attention," Mickens says. "It originated at a time when there was so much performance being done and so much money was being made, but like a quarter at a time." —AA
SHOWS TO KNOW
Sept 21 at 9 p.m. The Arabian Nights ambience that permeates the Fez Ballroom is the optimal setting for this monthly Eastern “nouveau” dance showcase set to live and recorded trance-inducing music—all decked out in dusky gothic trappings. The conclusion of the festivities is like awakening from a particularly exotic and spicy dream. Fez Ballroom, 316 SW 11th Ave. 503-221-7262. fezballroom.com
Sept 24 at 9 p.m. This malleable mélange of vintage-inspired artists—including aerialists, jugglers, musicians, dancers, contortionists, and magicians—aims to combine Old World cabaret charm with elements of 21st-century “extreme” entertainment. For each performance there is a story line set to songs written for the occasion. Bossanova Ballroom, 722 E Burnside St. 503-206-7630. wanderlustcircus.com
October, date TBA Boasting the finest array of circus women in town, this all-female collective swoops, spins, and glides into its fall fundraising. Let the acrobats, aerialists, jugglers, and clowns dazzle you—then make a donation so this high-flying troupe can continue to prepare for its coming circus spectacular, scheduled for March 2011. Visit circusartemis.org for information. —JC