CINCINNATI (Jeff Hirsh)-- And now, ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages. Presenting: Circus Mojo! Just like the Ringmaster always says, this circus indeed does have children, children of all ages. Founder and owner of this circus with a purpose, Paul Miller says,
"All the kids who stayed in school and did the path most people did were bussing tables and bike messengers, and I would balance a chair on my chin at the end of the audition and I'd say, 'Hey, that's my special skill!' and the casting directors were like, 'Wow!'"
Wow indeed. Circus Mojo, in the old Ludlow Theater, is a chance for kids in a summer camp program to see the world differently. Perhaps completely upside down from what they're used to. Miller goes on, "Cincinnati is such a conservative place, and we go to our chili parlor on tuesdays, we go to Jimmy Buffet, we go to one sport and we hit the same condo the same week every year. So I'm really trying to break some of that mold." Break that mold by teaching kids there's a great big world out there and it's all yours to walk on. One of Circus Mojo's young performers, Ian Ward, says of the tricks, "Sometimes it's kind of scary because you never know when you're going to lose your balance and fall off."
Sort of like life. Try to keep things in balance, you'll get it. The oldest kid at Circus Mojo, and the first to admit it, is Paul Miller, Clown in Chief. "I wouldn't know what I would do if I didn't do this. I mean if I got 20 million dollars a year I'd do the same thing." Miller was always the class clown in school, but he took it further. Paul dropped out of the University of Cincinnati's College Conservatory of Music, and was accepted into the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus Clown School. "That was before the internet and before Google. I had to go to the library, the card catalog, and get a microfiche of a USA Today article which said it was more prestigious than Harvard Medical School. That's what I gave to the Dean and gave to my parents and said, 'Hey, I'm going to do this.'" Paul toured with Ringling Brothers for a couple of years in the mid 90s. Also clowned his way around the world in places like Japan, and acted on TV shows in New York.
But eventually, Paul returned home to conservative old Cincinnati and decided to shake things up a bit. In 2009, not long after his daughter was born, Paul bought the Ludlow Theater, and Circus Mojo was born. "I do this work because it's needed." Needed, Paul says, to make people smile when you'd think they would frown. Like performing for the kids at Children's Hospital. "And then we say things like, 'Don't try this at home, try it at school where you have a better audience.' And of course they know we're not being serious, they're not really going to try it at school, but the kids look at their parents and go, 'Ha ha ha, this is good!'" As for the campers, they put on a show for their parents at the end of camp week.
But Circus Mojo is not a circus training program, not Ringling Brothers Junior. Rather, it's a circus with a purpose. Like to meet new people, the counselors are circus performers from Mexico, Europe, and Africa. And by learning to stay on the ball or juggle or stay on the wire, these kids learn about themselves. Conquering fears and building self esteem. Think you can't do it? Think again! And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the "mojo" in this circus. Paul says, "Well that's the mojo, right. You get knocked down and you get back up. That's the mojo." And just like the Ringmaster always says, the circus is for children of all ages
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