Sheep for a Week, A Circus Oz Internship

Third-year NICA students Ian Richardson and Emily Gare had the opportunity to spend a week with the Circus Oz team at the start of July. During the internship, they had the chance to train alongside the cast of Model Citizens and perform their Showcase acts for the Big Top audience. NICA Backstage caught up Ian and Emily to chat about their experiences.

Ian and Emily in their costumes from Model Citizens.

What was the most important thing you took away from the experience?

Emily: The biggest thing that I took away from the Oz internship was that it is so important to look out for other cast members and try and even the load. That it’s important to make life easier for everyone involved and put ideas forward that could benefit the show (to be proactive).

Ian: We get told a lot as young performers that being friendly, cooperative and creative are just as important as being a technically skilled performer and this is 100% true. When you join a company you will be trusted to create an act, or put in your artistic feedback, and you will be expected to contribute. Being able to suggest ideas – and work alongside a director to make an artistic, coherent piece – is just as important as being able to perform skills. It’s best to think, ‘how can I make this work?’ when you are stuck, rather than continuously thinking, ‘I don’t know’. It’s also important to have a variety of physical abilities, not just a single specialty in order to contribute to a range of acts.

What was a challenge you overcame during the internship?

Emily: Honestly there weren’t many major challenges throughout the experience. The entire cast and crew were hugely accommodating, and really willing to help us out throughout the internship. I tried to put myself out there as much as I could by offering to perform my (NICA annual) Showcase act in a variety of different ways, which I did, and it made the experience I had at Oz a lot better.

Ian: It was a challenge performing our acts to a different audience arrangement. Circosis at NICA had been performed to a front-on audience, while in the Big Top the audience sits in a 270 degree ring. A few changes had to be made to the act to make sure the people sitting at the sides wouldn’t be looking at my back the whole time. While performing, I stumbled a little trying to do a dramatic dance move over a greater distance and trying to curve at the same time. I’m sure it looked ridiculous. However, covering mistakes like that is all part of being a clown.

Ian trying out some Model Citizen handstand props.

Did anything unexpected happen over the week?

Emily: The only thing that I thought was unexpected was when the Circus Oz Artistic Director, Rob Tannion, was thinking about putting us into the sheep scene and asked that I learn the choreography from a video. So I went home and looked over the footage and got a handle on what was needed from me. The next day when it was being discussed, there was doubt that I would be able to step in because of rehearsal time, but I was confident that I could do it. I said ‘I’ve got this’ and showed them, and to what I think was their surprise, I was able to be a sheep that night!

Ian: During the Model Citizens juggling act, performed by the amazing Olivia Porter, juggling balls are thrown out onto the stage via trap doors in the floor. To our surprise, Emily and I were asked to do this cue and we were shown two paths under the stage, probably no taller than 50 centimeters high. We had to glide down on our bellies using skateboards about 15 meters to the trap doors, under the guide of performers Jake Silvestro and Rose McGann. The small spaces and overhead lights reminded me of the tunnel in the famous war film The Great Escape.

Did it meet your expectations of what working in the industry would be like?

Emily: The internship definitely met my expectations, in fact it exceeded them.  It gave a realistic taste of the industry, especially one night when one of the performers, unfortunately, got sick and was unable to perform all her roles in the show. Another performer asked me if I had time to step in to be a sheep, and continued by explaining what I needed to do as I got ready and we went on stage to perform. This all happened in a matter of minutes, which is something that can be a real factor when performing in a professional company.

Ian: Definitely. The Model Citizens Big Top was a very professional setting. All the cast and crew were very experienced, and there were high expectations of punctuality, effort and clear communication. The company follows the same timetable of arrival, show notes, warm up, performance and cool down as we have followed during NICA performances. All the cast and crew are well cared for, and you have to be a team player so the show can run as smoothly as possible. To our surprise, the green room also had a small kitchen with free snacks. Amazing!

Emily trying on a contortion costume.

Best memory?

Ian: Getting to perform our Showcase acts alongside Circus Oz was definitely the biggest highlight of the internship. Not only did we get to do our acts three times each, but we also got fitted for special Model Citizens costumes to match the world of the show. We truly got to feel like cast members for a few days, which was super special.

Emily: The best memory from this experience was coming off stage after performing your act and having the cast congratulate you and support you; watching them come out and watch the acts as well. It was something that really showed the character of the cast, of how kind they were.

The Circus Oz Big Top.


Check out more of Ian and Emily’s work on Instagram!

Read more about Model Citizens on the Circus Oz website.



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