Circus Flora readies its next move, 'The Pawn'
The Flying Wallendas, performing with Circus Flora in 2011. Handout photo
By Calvin Wilson
May 22, 2014
Circus Flora will return to Grand Center next week with a chess-inspired show called “The Pawn.” The circus’ 28th season will feature some promising new acts along with some old favorites. But a familiar face will be missing under the Big Top: co-founder and longtime artistic director Ivor David Balding, who died May 9.
Balding had already passed the baton to Jack Marsh, 29, who was named his successor in 2012. The move was very much in keeping with the family spirit of the one-ring circus: Marsh’s mother is Cecil MacKinnon, its theater director. Audiences know her as the circus’ colorful narrator, Yo-Yo.
MacKinnon has been with the popular, nationally recognized circus since its beginnings.
“What kept me in Circus Flora was David’s vision, which was very much my vision — of what we wanted circus to be, and what we wanted to create,” she says.
Yo-Yo the clown, in Circus Flora's production of "A Trip to the Moon" in 2013. Handout photo
Like last year’s Circus Flora show, “A Trip to the Moon” (which was based on a 1902 silent film about astronomers and their lunar adventures), “The Pawn” is the kind of concept that lends itself to being explored circus-style, MacKinnon says.
The game of chess serves as a passageway to a story evoking the atmosphere of ancient India and Persia — with a pawn taking center stage. Circus Flora partnered with the World Chess Hall of Fame and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis in bringing the show to life.
Circus Flora's tent behind Powell Hall. Handout photo
“As opposed to the queen, the pawn is kind of out there and very vulnerable to the world, which makes for a dramatic situation,” MacKinnon says.
Also, Marsh says, chess is ideal for telling a story with a large cast.