Some thoughts on 'RIDICULOSITY' | Clown Conservatory




the 1st semester showcase Circus Center | ClownCon Class of 2018


Clown Conservatory students pass on hats during a sketch in 'Ridiculosity' | Circus Center | 2017 

Dreams on the nature of clowns and joy


I’ve had the most wonderful weekend, watching and laughing and dancing and playing with clowns. To be specific, the Circus Center’s Clown Conservatory, Class of 2018, performing in their first Semester Showcase entitled Ridiculosity. It was the culmination of 10 weeks of rigorous training in Physical Comedy, Puppetry, Mask, Mime, Music, Circus Skills, Character Development and Performance Technique for the circus ring, the street, the stage & the screen. Our small but mighty class of 7 worked tirelessly to transform themselves into Human Cartoons.


In performance this past weekend their hard work, talent & tenacity were evident in every aspect of their craft.

From the waves of laughter & applause that washed over everyone in the theatre it was apparent that this core group of fledgling funsters take their silliness very seriously. It was also a moment that cemented certainty of purpose, a defining moment of assurance that the decision to put the rest of their lives on hold and take up the study of clowning was exactly the right choice, at the right time and in the right place.


Clown Conservatory student performing in Ridiculosity | Circus Center | 2017


For those of us who had the privilege of working with this gifted young group, it was a saturation of satisfaction to see them on stage, fully present, connected to each other, the audience and every moment with skill & authenticity. It was also a testament to the show, directed with a keen eye by Doyle Ott, the incredible performance faculty and the program itself, under the watchful, loving guidance of the amazingly gifted Sara Moore.


This was just the end of the first semester. There’s more to come, and another example of their work will be presented this coming spring. For now, however, this tiny band of fierce, funny & necessary artists takes a brief respite from the classroom and hopefully will have time to process all that has happened to them, and within them, over the past few months.


Clown Conservatory student smiles at the audience in 'Ridiculosity' | Circus Center | 2017 

Personally, I felt a wonderful, dreamlike sense of deja vu, harkening back to my days as the director of another clown training program, long ago and far, far away. It reminded me of how important this work is; how consuming it can be and how much pure joy it brings. Of all the lessons that have been shared here, one of the most profound is the realization that humor has a powerful, transformative effect. An uninhibited belly laugh can scrub the soul clean of despair and lift one’s spirit up & out and into the light of optimism & hope. To experience it is exquisite; to create it is extraordinary. And so - to the students, “The Magnificent 7 of Slapstick”, a genuine Congratulations & Bravo! Thank you for having the courage to let go of what you thought this program was going to be, and for embracing what it is.


I hope that your break offers you some much needed rest and time for you to renew your commitment and enthusiasm for the ancient and honorable art of clowning.


Remember: We are students of life some we are students for life; take deep, cleansing breaths; appreciate this magical time in your lives and enjoy it. Your time as a caterpillar has expired. your wings are ready. Take the next leap of faith - soar and spread joy!


Peace & light,

Steve Smith


"We invent nothing, truly. We borrow and re-create.
We uncover and discover.
All has been given, as the mystics say. We have only to open our eyes and hearts, to become one with that which is.”


~ Henry Miller



Clown Conservatory Class of 2018


Jamella Cross

Sarah Harris

Anne Herholdt

Kara Rivas

Hanna Stangebye

Roxanne Sticks

Keenan Woodson


Click here for more information about the Clown Conservatory.


The Clown Conservatory class of 2017-2018  poses for a picture after their showcase | Ridiculosity | Circus Center 


Only $100 to reach 2017 Winter Giving Drive Goal!

As of right now, your donations to Circus Center's Winter 2017 Giving Drive total $4,900. Amazing!

That's only $100 to go to unlock the full $5,000 match.

Will you give to reach the full match right now, and raise $10,000 for Circus Center this winter?

Will you give a bit more, and help us reach a stretch goal of $11,000 - only $1,000 more - to support the high-quality, accessible circus you love?

Your gift means so much: Access to incredible circus training at great value. Amazing shows with affordable tickets. Serving you better with building and equipment upgrades, community outreach, and other great circus programs.  

But most of all - your gift means you are a crucial partner in our mission to bring the joy of circus to all. Everything we do is possible because of you. 

Please show your support of Circus Center this winter by helping us raise $11,000 for the high quality and accessible circus programming you love.


Thank you so much for showing your love and supporting our programs. 


Speaking of the high-quality, accessible circus you love - see you at this year's student showcase, Winter of Love, this weekend! Get your tickets here. Then bring more great circus like Winter of Love to your community with a gift today. Thank you!


In Spring 2017, Circus Center ran BUILDING UP, a campaign to raise funds for needed building fixes and equipment purchases to create a new community series: $5 Fridays. This is a regular series of fun, low-barrier events where our greater community can try a variety of circus arts easily and see our students perform (especially on San Francisco's only flying trapeze)!


Together, we raised $25,846 for vital building repairs and improvements to start this new community event series. A thousand thank yous to all our $5 Friday founders! 


We launched the first official $5 Friday event on October 13th, 2017, to a sell-out crowd. Attendees enjoyed flying trapeze swings, an aerial arts intro, juggling and circus ground skills, Clown Conservatory entertainers, and a flying trapeze show by the Circus Center Flyers.


The next $5 Friday is scheduled for January 19, 2018 - see you there! 


Here’s how your contributions to BUILDING UP helped launch $5 Fridays and made Circus Center better for every student and $5 Friday visitor:


 Building Up Total Raised: $25,846 

  • $7385 - The new carpet-bonded foam mats for the Main Gym, replacing the old worn-out mats with new safe and stylish grey ones
  • $2845 - Dimmers and 1500 feet of lighting cable to install permanent performance lighting   in the Main Gym (see it in action at Winter of Love on Dec 9 and 10) to make all performances in the Main Gym cheaper and easier to produce
  • $260 - Repairs to the leak in the roof over the men’s restroom (stay dry!)
  • $4837 - New Crash pads, new foam inserts for other crash mats and a new trampoline throw mat, so you can land in safety
  • $720 - New flooring for the Student Lounge, making the space safer and more comfortable for all our students and visitors
  • $850 - Installation of donated brand-new security cameras to protect our students and $5 Friday visitors
  • $820 - New dressing compartments for the upstairs hallway, to make it easier to change
  • $215 - New pulling rope for the Flying Trapeze

Total: $17,932

Remaining: $7,914


We have a few more projects in the works to make your Circus Center experience even better: lobby improvements, adding electricity upstairs, hot water heaters in the sinks, new paint, expanded internet networks for teachers and students, and not to mention, a reserve fund for tackling future leaks as they arise this winter. Keep an eye on the blog and newsletter for updates!


 Thank you for all you make possible - and see you at $5 Friday in January


P.S. Did you give to BUILDING UP? Thank you! Did you get your swag yet (or you’re not sure)? Contact Sarah at to arrange a pickup. 


Support Circus Center’s Annual Winter Giving Drive by donating here - all donations made this December will be matched up to $5000!


See the impact of SHOW LOVE, the Winter 2016 campaign, here. 


Here are some words on why Circus Center runs fundraising campaigns like SHOW LOVE and BUILDING UP.


 Circus Center’s mission is to spread the joy of circus through performance, training, and community outreach. Our total budget for this fiscal year (2018) is $1.75 million dollars. That includes instructors, administration, and staff for the dozens of classes a week we offer, professional-track and recreational youth programs, the professional training program Clown Conservatory, a production season with 12+ shows a year, our adaptive circus outreach program, and maintenance and repair costs for our building and equipment.

 Most of the revenue to cover these costs – about 85%, in fact – comes from tuition for classes, group events, and summer camps. So why bother raising money at all?


 The basic answer is, like any non-profit, we run fundraising campaigns so we can better serve our community and pursue our mission. More specifically, we raise funds to keep producing the high-quality, accessible circus that you love. Fundraising helps us make major investments in our operation and to do what makes us a non-profit center for the circus arts - more than just another gym.

 Fundraising efforts, like our annual Winter Giving Drive, enable us to do important things that don’t cover their own costs, like community productions, outreach programs, and more. Fundraising for these programs ensures that the high-quality circus that we’re known for remains accessible to all. Your support is crucial to helping us maintain the quality and accessibility of the programs you love.

 When it comes to investments, we look at two kinds: new and deferred. For example, if we hadn’t run a capital campaign like the New Net and Equipment campaign, we still would have replaced the flying trapeze net. After all, it was time for it to be replaced. But without your support, we might not have been able to do everything else for months, maybe years, while we saved up: upgrade all the toilets, or purchase new stilts, or replace the lights in the lobby, or make other vital purchases and repairs. What’s more, our facility is almost 100 years old, and has had many of its maintenance and repair needs deferred over the years. Your support gives us the freedom and flexibility to begin to catch up on 20 years of much-needed repairs, purchase more equipment, and fix more things, faster, to give you a better circus training experience.

 With your donations, partnership, and advocacy, we can bring the same professional quality shows, training, and outreach to the community we have loved and served for over 30 years. Thank you for your support, past and present, and for being part of the Circus Center family.

 Support Circus Center’s Annual Winter Giving Drive by donating here - all donations made this December will be matched up to $5000!




In Winter 2016, we ran the SHOW LOVE fundraiser to support our community production fund. The costs of putting on community shows, like the Winter and Spring Showcases, are not covered by class tuition or by ticket sales. Your contributions helped us raise over $17,000 to produce at least 5 original circus shows in 2017, starring our talented community: professional-track youth, Clown Conservatory trainees, and advanced adult students. Sharing the magic of live circus, and creating valuable opportunities for our talented community to perform and share their art is a vital part of our mission, and you’ve made a big impact. Thank you!

 Your donations have enabled Circus Center to make very specific and strategic purchases that affect everyone who performs in or attends a community production here.

 This post is to show exactly how much your contributions to SHOW LOVE accomplished. (See Part 1 here)

 Show Love Total Raised: $17,409

  • $3,200 - An amazing new light board, the ETC Colorsource 40 AV. This is an incredible upgrade that will produce beautiful, easy to use, and professional lighting for all of Circus Center’s community shows.
  • $1,575 - New speakers for Theater, used for all theater shows, including The Supers, Circus Fracas, and the current season of the Cabaret.
  • $3,680 - Lighting equipment, fogger, 3 microphones, and dimmers. Now the majority of our show lighting can run on normal extension cords, saving a lot of money on cabling, and we have four microphones for our performers, instead of one, for all of our shows.
  • $500 - Riggers adjusting middle point in the Theater so it’s exactly center stage.
  • $6,000 - Part of the Technical Director’s salary. A huge and important step for our organization, SHOW LOVE helped us hire a Technical Director, to help take the quality and professionalism of our productions to the next level, and keep you looking and sounding beautiful onstage.
  • $450 - Installing new electrical sockets in the Theater so we can use more lights and speakers
  • $672 - New curtains for the arch and side panels in Theater, replacing the old flats and keeping us looking sharp and professional
  • $850- Building and painting of Theater Arch, a large and versatile scenery prop
  • $495 - Backstage improvements, stanchions for guiding lines, and cones for loading

 Total: $17,422

In addition to all this, we received over $10,000 in donations of new and gently used sound equipment and stage lights, which (literally!) lit up our lives. Thanks to you, your community shows are looking and sounding better than ever!

Thank you for your support, and see you at the next show, our annual all-community winter showcase: Winter of Love, December 9 and 10.

Support Circus Center’s Annual Winter Giving Drive by donating here - all donations made this December will be matched up to $5000!