The Paranormal Cirque II takes Eugene OR by frenzied storm.
Perhaps never before have so many people wearing black gathered in one place at the same time in Eugene, Oregon. Yes I know the Eugene/Springfield area is chock full o’ pagans, and the University of Oregon probably contains a fair percentage of post-goth goths in its student population, but wow, I was pleasantly surprised by the crowd. Startled by a scare actor just inside the concession tent, I was flooded with a fuzzy warm feeling of belonging: “yes, these are my people…”
While it wasn’t a date-date exactly that I was sharing with my partner in prose, the esteemed science fiction and erotica writer, M. Christian, I’d say our visit to the Paranormal Cirque was one of our very best forays into the “slowly emerging from Covid-land” Eugene scene to date. We’re both ex-pats from the San Francisco Bay Area and we share a hunger for anything that reminds us even remotely of our former haunts. Even the genital-shaped waffles for sale at the concession stand were a ribald reminder of… well, I don’t know of what exactly as they weren’t gluten free (I asked) so could not sample them…but perhaps similar goodies have been sold at the Folsom Street Fair in SF, along with maple-syrup flavored lube.
M. Christian and I attended the 5:30 PM show on Sunday, April 23rd. Paranormal Cirque had set up at the Lane Events Center on 13th Avenue and parking was a breeze (or maybe I should say “a foul wind tainted by the feotid odor of evil” just to set the mood).
As for mood, as we had hoped and expected, the ambiance inside the first black and red tent was classic haunted house: mouldering headstones inscribed with the names of horror actors, iron fences tipped by pointy things, scare actors scaring, loud banging noises, skeletal remains… M. Christian noted that the food prices were reasonable, but as neither of us had cash, we could not indulge. For the same reason we had to pass on the horned masks and other souvenirs. But, hey, the same scare actor screamed at me on two separate occasions. I think he liked me.
And then it was time to enter the larger tent to find our seats. Mine was located directly under a large lighting fixture just inches from the top of my head. (Good thing I’m short.) At one point, one of the ushers, a tall fellow with long dark hair, escorted someone else to a nearby seat, and our eyes met. I was thinking “that young man could easily be cast as an Elf in one of my fantasy novels” and he was most likely thinking, “why’d they seat an old person right under that light? She/they/ze are bound to crack their noggin!” (But hey, what’s a little blood when you’re among fellow horror circus aficionados?)
Actually, someone did take a tumble on the ramp next section over and I was impressed by how quickly two ushers went to her aid. There was no serious harm.
Inside the main tent, we had time to take in the gothic horror castle stage set in the center ring. And there was plenty going on before the show started. For example, one man was taking pictures of audience members with his scary two-headed doll (or ventriloquist dummy?). It happened to me. He shoved the thing into my arms (probably clocking me as someone who would never have grandchildren) and snapped the shot. But not before I asked if there was a charge. (Remember, no cash.) Oddly, having something of that size on my lap did trigger fond memories of my own (single-headed) offspring, ever so long ago. I patted the thing on one of its touseled heads before it was pulled from my clutches.
I think it’s fair to say the audience was psyched. People had dressed in their (Black) Sabbath best and were absolutely determined to enjoy themselves. As were we. You could sense the collective shiver of an-ti-ci-pa-tion!
The entire thing grabbed me from the very first moment of the show. I wish now that I could remember every single thing that happened, in the exact sequence, but I can’t. I seem to remember the opening as vampire vixens crawling seductively on the stage, thirsting for blood and all that, and being thwarted by their master. So, yeah, kinky stuff right off the bat. Or were they preceeded or followed by the three agile zombie acrobats jumping rope? (And they weren’t just jumping rope, they were doing all kinds of things as well as jumping rope.) And just when did the two comics show up, making jokes about social media while their doom was writ large by a giant coffin and its contents?
By this point I already wanted to know who all these people were, but there was no printed program!
And then the sword swallower appeared and never have I seen a more impressive redheaded woman in red rhinestone warrior bikini! She was an exceptionally charismatic performer and probably broke more hearts that evening than I’ve broken in a lifetime. This was a great act! And I liked that she was incredibly sexy but not crawling around on the floor doing anyone’s bidding. That made a nice change. I’d much rather see presumed males writhing at her feet. I imagined she would too.
The show just kept getting better. There wasn’t one moment where I was bored. There were all kinds of comic routines, a two-man tight rope act, more tumbling acrobats tossing each other around, two matching “dolly” contortionists, and a well-choreographed Master vampire and willing victim acrobat duo. But aside from the sword swallower, my two favorite acts were the strange stalking demon on stilts who menaced an aerialist (this was very hot!) and the Wheel of Death.
The press release describes this as “jaw-dropping” and it truly was.
This act required so many feats of agility and precision proprioception that I was completely agog. Now, I’ve been to several different circuses or circus arts performances in my lifetime: Ringling Bros. (once or twice), Pickle Family Circus (several times), Acrobats of Canton, and several Cirque du Soleil incarnations. I’ve enjoyed them all. But never have I ever been so astonished as I was by what these men (not the ones pictured above) did on that twirling device without a pad or a net beneath them. Holy shit, how does one even train for such stunts? Leaping and jumping within the open-sided cylindars with coordination that must surely have taken at least a dozen vampire lifetimes to master. I was watching the miraculous made to look effortless. I could have sobbed with joy but was too struck with wonder for tears.
This. This was what I came for. Not the sexy vampires, or the ribald comic routines–even though those were fun. I came because I wanted to be amazed. I got so much more than my money’s worth.
After the show, as M. Christian and I walked down the ramp to the exit, I saw one of the two men standing at the side of the ramp, dripping with sweat. I applauded him as we passed by. And to think, he was going to have to do that all over again during the 8:30 show!
It’s not enough for me to appreciate this artist as an anoymous cog in the Wheel of Death. I do want to know about him and his performance partner. Who are they? How long have they been doing this? How did they train?
I have so many questions. So I called Cirque Italia’s corporate office.
As a fantasy author and witchy blogger, I knew I needed to write about this experience. So today I called the corporate office of Cirque Italia, the parent company of Paranormal Cirque. Because there was no printed program, and nothing on the Paranormal Cirque website about the performers, I wanted to ask more about the performers and a little something about the circus itself. I spoke to a very kind marketing rep who provided me with a copy of the press release as well as some of the pictures that I’ve used in this blog. She has passed my number on to Steve and Ryan, who are the managers as well as the ribald comics. Here are the questions I emailed to the marketing rep to pass along to the managers:
1) Was this the Paranormal Cirque’s first visit to Eugene? (I thought I heard that somewhere.)
2) Is Paranormal Cirque II usually the West Coast/Pacific Northwest company?
3) Why don’t we know more about the various performers? It seems like an online program could be available as a download from the website and easily edited as performers change. Knowing who they are, how they train, and what kinds of acts they do now and have done in the past, is always interesting for audience members. And it gives the press something to work with also!
4) Who are the performers in the current Paranormal Cirque II traveling through Oregon?
–Who are the Wheel of Death performers? THEY WERE AMAZING!!!
–I’d like to know a little about all of them really–the sword swallower (very good), the demon on stilts (amazing body language) and the aerialist (also good!), the group of three acrobats, the two men on the tightrope, the “twin dolly” contortionists, the singer…I know I’m leaving out a lot of the acts…
–And Steve and Ryan, very funny! What’s their story?
–I am also curious about where many of your performers have trained in circus arts.
5) I also wonder about the decision to create an adult humor/horror themed cirque? I loved it, and obviously others do as well, but I notice that you also have other Paranormal Cirque companies touring in conservative midwestern states and Florida (yes, I know your corporate office is there). Is there any push-back from communities that are visited? Do you have to adjust your material slightly depending on whether the tour is West Coast/PNW or not, or is it all the same?
6) Finally, are the genital-shaped waffle makers always with the company? Or are they local? What about the other vendors?
I just heard (via email) that Steve will call me back when he can. But I am publishing this before I talk with him in the hopes that people in Eugene/Springfield will see this and catch the last performance in Eugene, which is tonight. Once I do talk with Steve, I’ll update this blog posts with the answers.
For tickets, go to ParanormalCirque.com or call 941-704-8041. Their next stop will be in Corvallis, OR, from Aug. 27 through May 1. If you missed them in Eugene, Corvallis is only 48 minutes away. And you can see their discount promo code in the image below, bottom left.
As for those waffles…
It’s not that I’m obsessed, I have a sexological interest. I once wrote an encyclopedia entry on “Penile Gastronomy” for the Cultural Encyclopedia of the Penis.