The Big Apple Circus, the one-ring circus under the air-conditioned big top, is coming to the Dulles Town Center, Sept. 22 through Oct. 10.
This year’s show, Grandma Goes to Hollywood, features Richmond native, Kathy Halenda.
Halenda, a Virginia Tech graduate and Broadway star, was intrigued when Big Apple Circus director Steve Smith asked her to be the show’s singing hostess.
"It’s something different," Halenda said. "It’s in the same realm, but something different."
When Grandma the Clown decides to broaden her horizons and pursue a career in acting, Halenda, along with ringmaster, Paul Binder, lead Granny around Hollywood.
"I’ve already learned so much from being a part of this show," Halenda said. "Like how to live in a trailer."
Halenda had to leave her husband in North Carolina to take part in the 11-month, 11-city tour, but said she appreciates the family-oriented atmosphere of the Big Apple Circus.
"The dogs are there, the kids are there," Halenda said. "It’s a warm, loving, giving community. Artists in general are that way."
THE BIG APPLE Circus also does a lot for the community.
The not-for-profit performing arts institution is dedicated to children and their families. All proceeds go toward the circus and other community programs, which include hospital visits, school visits and discounted tickets for shows.
The Clown Care hospital clowning program brings clowns to the bedsides of children who are acutely and chronically ill. Clown Care doctors are professional performers trained to work in a hospital environment. The goal is to make patients laugh.
For example, clowns plant cream pies in the faces of their patients’ favorite counselors.
"I think when you’re sick, being able to laugh is a huge relief," Halenda said.
More than 90 clown doctors make 250,000 one-on-one bedside visits each year in cities including Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Miami, New Haven, New York, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
The Big Apple Circus not only works at hospitals, but in neighborhoods. Circus for All is a program that distributes more than 50,000 free and discounted tickets to organizations serving children who are economically disadvantaged.
The Big Apple Circus is also doing its part in schools, with its two-part program, Beyond the Ring. The Beyond the Ring Study Guide offers ideas for in-class discussion and projects. Its goal is to focus students’ attention on reading comprehension, research skills or creative writing through the excitement of learning about the circus.
At the end of the day, students can participate in the Circus After School pilot initiative, a 10-week instructional program. At the end of the program, students perform a professionally produced circus production.
IN ADDITION, the Big Apple Circus performs a Circus of the Senses, which meets the needs of children who are blind or visually-impaired and/or deaf or hearing-impaired. A narrator gives a detailed description of what is happening throughout the show, while American Sign Language interpreters help convey tone of music and sound effects. Braille and large-type programs are available at the show and to bring back to classrooms.
The Circus of the Senses originated in New York City in 1987, and has expanded to Washington, D.C.; Atlanta, Ga.; Somerset County, N.J. and Boston, Mass. Tickets are complimentary to attending groups.
Tickets for the world premiere of Grandma Goes to Hollywood went on sale Aug. 14. For more information on prices and show times, visit www.bigapplecircus.org.