Circus Flora brings the game of chess to life with “The Pawn”
The Flying Wallendas return to Circus Flora in “The Pawn”
By: Sheila Frayne Rhoades
Every year Circus Flora presents St. Louis with a great performance captured within a story. This year is no exception. The 2014 production, entitled “The Pawn,” literally brings the game of chess to life. It’s a clever basis for a circus theme.
The show’s storyline is based on the history of chess, steeped in the myths of Persia and India. Circus Flora performers take audiences on a journey back in time to these ancient lands where the game began. The entire cast transforms themselves into chess pieces, wearing elaborate masks and dressing in geometric costumes.
With true Circus Flora flair, the pawn (a clown) confronts an imaginative world of curious creatures. Those creatures include knights mounted on steeds (horse and camel riders), rooks tumbling across a checkered board and other chess pieces soaring through the air.
The World Chess Hall of Fame (WCHOF), the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis partnered with Circus Flora in developing the exciting new show.
Jack Marsh, artist director of Circus Flora, explained the chess theme choice.
“When we first viewed the ‘Chess Masterpieces’ exhibition at the WCHOF, we were struck by numerous dramatic possibilities,” he said. “Chess artfully blends the physical elements of battle with mental acumen.
“This blend of performance and strategy resonated with us as circus artists and became the inspiration for this year’s production. Through working with our terrific partners at WCHOF, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, we learned more about the rich history of the game and how we can best use circus to interpret the vast world of chess.”
Susan Barrett, WCHOF executive director, was equally enthusiastic.
“We are thrilled to collaborate with Circus Flora using chess as the inspiration for their 2014 show.,” she said. “Our mission is to explore the creativity that art and chess share.
“We truly believe these performances will expose the fun and excitement of chess to new audiences.”
Beyond the on-stage collaboration, the WCHOF features displays of artifacts from the permanent collection, and temporary exhibitions highlighting the great players, historic games, and rich cultural history of chess. It is the only institution of its kind to explore the dynamic relationship between art and chess.
Founded in 1984, it is run by the United States Chess Trust, a charitable arm of the United States Chess Federation. Formerly located in New York, Washington D.C., and Florida, it relocated to Saint Louis’ Central West End in September, 2011. Saint Louis is now known as the Chess Capital of the U.S. and labeled as one of the top chess cities in the world.
“The Pawn” runs May 29 – June 22 under the big top next to Powell Hall. Call 314-289-4040 or visit www.circusflora.org for tickets and more information.