by Michael J. Roberts
Michael J. Roberts is theatre editor for the ChicagoPride.com covering Chicago's diverse arts and entertainment scene.
Chicago is getting its very own circus! "The Windy City Circus: A Circus With A Purpose", is a new non-for-profit event put together by David and Diana Maas, best known for their world famous Quick Change routine, which has been showcased on numerous television shows including America's Got Talent and The Oprah Winfrey Show. The performances will benefit different charities and for their premier, will be located at Navy Pier. I talked with David Maas about the how this idea came to fruition and the challenges of putting together a production of this size.
MJR: (Michael J. Roberts) The Windy City Circus sounds like it is going to be amazing. What made you decide that you wanted to produce a circus?
DM: (David Maas) Well Michael, my wife and I were born on a truck so they say and have the circus running through our veins. We were born and raised with a background of entertainment. My father was a musician and my mother was a singer and dancer. My wife, Diana, came from the Moscow State Circus, where her brother to this very day is still a director. When my wife and met we put together the Quick Change act and became so popular all over the world, we decided we needed to be centrally located. We signed a long term contract with the M.B.A. and we decided to make Chicago our base. We spent many years in New York City with the Big Apple Circus but we thought this was a marvelous opportunity to start some like this that has never, ever been done and do it in the Chicagoland area. Of course Ringling Bros. and Cirque du Solei
comes through but there has been nothing with a concept of ‘Chicago'. Then added to the fact that it could be a non-for-profit that will give back to the community, it will be something that will belong to Chicago itself.
MJR: That is what is so interesting about the Windy City Circus is the non-for-profit aspect. What is the mission of the Circus and who did you choose as beneficiaries?
DM: It will benefit different organizations from time to time. Our first production is going to benefit the Chicago Special Olympics and Ronald McDonald House. The full mission statement is on-line for all to you see but in brief we are dedicated to families and children. This particular program is more a prelude of things to come. It is not a fundraiser but it kind of is because we need to get established. Ultimately, our program belongs under the big-top and that is where we want it to be. We decided after much searching for properties for an project that is built from the ground up, that Navy Pier would fit in nicely for the ten days of our performances to get us launched.
MJR: That sounds like quite an ambitious undertaking.
DM: That is why we are counting on outlets like yours go get us known. We really want the community to come out and support us and get to know us and see how unique we are. We are just not an everyday circus program. We want to become part of the fabric of Chicago and give back. We also feature and educate children from the Chicagoland area.
MJR: I heard you got a message from Mayor Emanuel as well?
DM: Oh, yes. As part of the 175h birthday celebration of Chicago, via proclamation by the Mayor's office, we have been given the dubious task to kick off the 175th birthday celebration of Chicago. It is a great honor and our talented acts are looking forward to the opportunity.
MJR: How do you go about picking your acts for the show?
DM: I come from a background of entertainment and have worked with many of these entertainers on different occasions, so majority of these individuals opened their hearts. They said we know you can pay us a fortune but we will come in and perform because we believe so much in what we are doing. They want to make the Windy City Circus as success as well because they will have another place to work in the future. We have a remarkable line-up;
from daredevils, to animals, which is all on our website. And of course Diana and I will be doing our Quick Change routine.
MJR: What has been your biggest challenge in marketing the Windy City Circus?
DM: The biggest challenge is that we are relatively unknown. They know me and Diana from America's Got Talent, Oprah, etc., and we have gotten some wonderful attention from outlets such as yours, but this in many ways in uncharted territory. So the challenge in just getting our name known and becoming part of the fabric of Chicago.
MJR: David, I think the idea is marvelous. We in Chicago love to have something that we can all our own, and I think a circus that gives back is something that will be embraced.
DM: Thank you Michael, I am reaching out to your readers and hope they all check out the event. It is going to be exciting and groundbreaking. We are desperately asking everybody in the community to come out and help us out. We are incredibly affordable, quite unique and is only a prelude of great things to come.
Performances begin February 17th and run through February 26th at Navy Pier Festival Hall. For more information, including performance times and tickets, please visit www.windycitycircus.org. Special offers are also available on Facebook.