The bigger top

Sydney Blackmore on the growth of The Wonderbolt Circus.

Kat Finck has a strong hold on memories from her early days as alter-ego Zinga Zuma, the Incredible Strong Woman with the Wonderbolt circus troupe.

One of them links back to Corner Brook during her first tour.

“We finished the show in Corner Brook and everyone in the cast was ill and exhausted, and perhaps even a little grumpy,” she says. “We found a bar that was empty, save for a lone piano and plied George Morgan (the incredible Bartokf) with a double Jack and Coke. He played song after song for us, and we sang along to any we knew, and laid back and just listened to any we didn’t. It was a beautiful moment of calm during a tour that was otherwise, unquestionably, rock and roll.”

Kat was just twenty years old when she first met Malone at a St. John’s juggling club. In 2003, Kat became one of six performers to join The Wonderbolt Circus Show. At thetime, getting to a venue meant traveling around in a “ragged old cargo van with a huge clown painted on the side.” It also meant doubling as a cast member and technical crew member.

“We would finish an act onstage and then run from behind the set to trade off for a turn with the spotlight,” she says.

After five years of summertime touring, performing and teaching circus workshops across the province, The Wonderbolt Circus Production company has grown in leaps and bounds. They now have a fully functioning technical crew, a four-man band that performs live at every venue, and an ever-expanding cast of circus folk peppered with local and international artists.

Their hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed. In June 2008, Wonderbolt was one of 18 organizations awarded by the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council with a sustaining grant—receiving $20,000 in funding. The art groups selected were not-for-profit organizations that best demonstrated artistic vision, production and administrative management. It’s official, Wonderbolt isn’t just a ‘bunch of clowns’.

Finck has a strong, positive feeling about Wonderbolt’s future.

“There’s a world of different directions available for Wonderbolt,” she says. “It’s a matter of keeping the bar high and always improving the show while not overstepping our funding. And, of course, getting the word out there and getting bums in the seats. There’s this incredible, home grown circus right here in St John’s and so many people who still haven’t experienced it. But I can see Wonderbolt going far and continuing to grow.”

“Cirque Du Soleil started as a gang of street performers and puppeteers,” she says.

The Wonderbolt Circus Show is a main stage production currently in its tenth season. The St. John’s show takes place from July 16-22 at the CLB Armoury on Harvey Road. Evening performances at 7:30pm July 15th-22nd. Matinees at 2:00pm July 16th, 17th, 18th only. $15 Kids, $20 Adults, $60 Family Pass. For reservations, call the Mile One box office at 576-7657. For more information, check out wonderbolt.ca.