Cirque Alcatraz brings adult-themed circus to Mall

Popular Italia show set for 11-day run starting on July 29

By Wesley LeBlanc wesley@opcfla.com
Posted 7/14/21

ORANGE PARK – The circus is coming to town – just don’t bring your children to this one.

That’s because Cirque Alcatraz is a prison-themed circus designed with adult audiences in mind. …

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Cirque Alcatraz brings adult-themed circus to Mall

Popular Italia show set for 11-day run starting on July 29

Posted

ORANGE PARK – The circus is coming to town – just don’t bring your children to this one.

That’s because Cirque Alcatraz is a prison-themed circus designed with adult audiences in mind. From July 29 through Aug. 8, anyone driving by the Orange Park Mall is sure to see the massive white and orange-striped circus tent located in the parking lot. And if you drive by at the right time, you just might hear the last scream of Alcatraz.

“The first thing I want to say about this show is that it is very much for adults,” said Steve Copeland, one of the main characters of the circus who doubles as a comedy department lead and cheekily self-proclaimed “best part of the show. “We urge your readers to keep their children at home or find a babysitter because there is harsh language, violence, and suggestive content throughout the show... but there’s also a lot of fun to be had.”

It’s not that Cirque Alcatraz is a show meant to scare people – the same company’s Paranormal Cirque has that covered – but it was designed with adults in mind and that includes the thrills and laughs adults tend to enjoy. You can, of course, expect the usual lineup of circus fun during the show too: acrobats flipping through the air, a husband-and-wife duo that shoots crossbow bolt at each other, a troupe that prefers walking on high wires to the ground, “sexy dancers” and “unsexy dancers,” too.

“We’re the unsexy dancers,” Copeland said with a chuckle.

“We’ve been touring with different circuses around the world for some time, but what’s unique about this one is that it’s given us an especially fun opportunity to stretch our muscles in a different direction,” Copeland’s circus counterpart and also “best part of the show” Ryan Combs, said. “We’re used to writing for families and the comedy you do there has to hit for ages nine through 99.”

Combs said the struggle there is writing jokes that are funny for all ages and complex enough that older audiences enjoy but not so complex that it goes over the head of younger audiences. He said writing for an adult show was a fun time as it allowed them to pinpoint the smaller demographic of adults and try something new not usually offered in the world of circuses, which often centers on “family-friendly” fun.

In fact, Combs and Copeland wrote themselves into the show because their parts weren’t originally in it.

“We’ve both been in the industry since we were little kids, really,” Copeland said. “We both wanted to be clowns from an early age, but neither of us were from circus families so we had to find a backdoor in, so to speak. We both performed all through childhood and high school...and we’ve been in the business for about 18 years now. We’ve been a duo for about 12 years now, too.”

The two were performing together when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and their contracts were canceled, much like the rest of the circus industry. The two returned home and found work outside of the circus world, but once the world started to open up again, their current director approached them about a new show called Cirque Alcatraz, which is one of four shows under the Cirque Italia company banner.

“We met with him and our director went through all their ideas and decided they wanted us to be a part of the show,” Copeland said. “They explained the story of Cirque Alcatraz to us, though, and it didn’t sound like there was a spot for us so we asked if we could try our hand at writing new parts for the show.”

This pitch was a success because Copeland and Combs are now the two main characters of the show’s story, and they couldn’t be happier.

“Laughter is what keeps us going and our parts allow us to make people laugh...a lot,” Copeland said. “Hearing the audience laugh is like a drug for us, and laughter, in general, is like a drug. The best part about laughter as a drug is that you can’t OD [overdose], but you can try at Cirque Alcatraz.”

Copeland and Combs suggest arriving at the show 40 minutes early to watch the show’s “prisoners” arrive via their Alcatraz prison bus. The prisoners then are placed into their respective cells and there, guests can chat with them, take pictures and see stunts that aren’t in the show.

The first show takes place at 7:30 p.m. on July 29 and there will be shows every night, with the exception of Aug. 3, from then to Aug. 8. More information can be found at cirquealcatraz.com or by calling (941) 704-8572. Tickets cost $10 and can be purchased in advance.

“After a year of the pandemic and people being in lockdown, I think people felt like they were in prison so Cirque Alcatraz will be a cathartic way to lose themselves in a show for a night,” Copeland said. “Come on out. You’ll clap, you’ll yell, you’ll laugh, you’ll smile and most importantly, you’ll have a great time.”

Without your children.

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