Santa Barbara will soon experience a jolt of wonder and excitement as the Wanderlust Circus makes its way to our Marjorie Luke Theatre on June 25. Ringmaster William Batty (real name: Noah Mickens) explained to me how Wanderlust is different from a traditional circus. There will be no animals and no tent, rather Wanderlust is a “more theatrical show” that is generally performed onstage, although it is sometimes done under the sky at raves and other outdoor events. In terms of story, each show is connected to the last, so “the more shows you see, the more you start to understand who all the characters are and how they relate,” explained Mickens, “but at the same time, each show is self-contained so you can definitely still enjoy it and have a good time even if you’re seeing it for the first and perhaps only time.” This particular Wanderlust show is set in 1984, and the plot revolves around two Muscle Beach boys who fall in love with some circus aerialists and end up join the immortal, 200-year-old traveling troupe.
In terms of its theatrical style, Mickens claimed that “this show wouldn’t be out of place if you were to see it back in the 1920s.” He feels that Wanderlust maintains a good balance of vintage and modern, with “one foot in the past, and one foot in the future.” Mickens elaborated on this idea by saying how the grouptries “to harken back to an era before modernism and to include this old world style of performance.” Wanderlust is part of what Mickens perceives to be “a real burgeoning movement, a new wave of circus performances that is getting really big in the United States right now.” He feels that sometime in the mid-20th century, many unique aspects of entertainment were lost, and thus his goal with Wanderlust Circus is to “bring it all back together” in a “very modern scene of performers.”
Along with fellow producer Nick the Creature, Mickens has been traveling as Wanderlust Circus for about seven years with essentially the same group of performers, but this show that they are bringing to Santa Barbara includes two newcomers: the Duo Rendezvous. They specialize in “Icarian” or foot juggling, and also in “Risley,” which is a similar form in which people are juggled instead of objects like barrels.
The goal of the performance, Mickens reveals, is to give “a way to the audience to see the potential in themselves.” He hopes that the exotic spectacle onstage will encourage spectators to break free from the humdrum aspects of their lives. Mickens put it well by saying that, “if anybody is feeling a little worn down by a constant life of staring at glass screens and sitting in chairs—from their cubicle with their computer to their windshield of their car to the television back at home—and always being a passive recipient of this culture…I want to make sure that everyone knows that if that’s not working for them that they can step out of that world, just like we have, and follow their dreams and become the person that they hope to be.”