Join the Circus: A Way To Get The Arts Back Onstage


Photo by Laura Louise Grimsley on Unsplash

In Britain, theater companies are learning to cope with the coronavirus by staging plays inside circus tents. The spacious tents allow audiences to space out, and by raising the tent flaps, fresh air circulates healthily.

Meanwhile, Seattle theater and music groups are hunkered down and relying on some video versions. And the warm weather is upon us. Wouldn’t it make sense to go find some circus tents and put them up at, say, Seattle Center or Volunteer Park’s majestic grounds? Perhaps a revolving series of local theater companies, many with already-rehearsed plays, could mount a season.

Theater-under-canvas has various other advantages. Circuses appeal to broad audiences. Putting the big tops in parks means many could walk there. Handicapped seating is easy to accommodate. They have a summertime, family-fun vibe. No need to worry about sunstroke or sudden showers.

As this article about Britain’s trend puts it: “Theatres need to stop worrying about how they can reopen in a reduced form, and look out for other models of production in different spaces and to different audiences. Classical circus holds the clues. Perhaps if Cirque du Soleil had kept to its tented roots, and hadn’t over-expanded into the Royal Albert Hall and other brick-built venues, it would still be hula hooping today.”

David Brewster
David Brewster
David Brewster, a founding member of Post Alley, has a long career in publishing, having founded Seattle Weekly, Sasquatch Books, and His civic ventures have been Town Hall Seattle and FolioSeattle.


  1. Some people are trying to stage small, pop-up shows in public locations. Part of the challenge right now seems to be promoting them, without creating an event too large to be safe. I’ve been to a couple of things, and it’s been lovely to watch live performance, but it’s a trick to get the balance right.

  2. Well, ticket prices are around what we expect at McCaw Hall, and they’re certainly trying to keep the audience safe.

    (“Temperature scans will be done for patrons at their point of entry. No-contact scanning stations for tickets will be placed at point of entry, spaced at least 6 feet from the temperature scan. Free-standing hand sanitizer stations will be placed at various locations throughout the space. Patrons will be required to wear masks. One way traffic patterns will be enforced with arrows and 6 foot markers on the floor, as well as lines down the center of hallways, to and from the tent, restrooms and concessions. The restrooms will have entrance and exits that are separate and one way. Every other stall, urinal and sink will be marked not usable. A doctor/nurse will be on duty for all performances. Additional safeguards will also be in place.”)

    But looking at the difficulties that major league baseball is having, keeping their players healthy, I’m curious to know how they’re planning to stage this work. Fingers crossed for them!


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