I have always loved theater. I grew up performing regularly and I had a love and appreciation so early on for all types of performance art. I love Broadway shows, I love musicals, I love plays, I love dance… name it and I probably love it. There is a performance space here in Durham called DPAC (Durham Performing Arts Center) and HUGE shows from all over the world come to Durham and are put on at DPAC. I’ve seen dozens over the years, but for the first time, I had the honor and privilege of interviewing a cast member from the fantastic show “Circus 1903”!
Maria Dominguez Pontigo is not only an amazing circus performer and part of the cast of Circus 1903, she is also a mom! What is Circus 1903 about?
The producers of the world’s biggest magic show, The Illusionists have teamed up with the award winning puppeteers from War Horse to present a thrilling turn of the century circus spectacular.
Sensational puppetry puts Elephants back in the ring as never seen before along with a huge cast of the most unique, amazing and dangerous circus acts from all four corners of the world, from strong men to contortionists, acrobats to musicians, high wire and much more!
Discover the golden age of circus this summer as CIRCUS 1903 sets to captivate audiences of all ages.
Check out my interview with Maria Dominguez Pontigo of the Circus 1903 high wire act below:
ME: How did you get started as a circus performer?
MARIA: “My mom is a third generation circus performer and my dad is a fifth generation circus performer, so it runs in the family… I grew up in the city like a normal child going to school every day. When I was younger, my parents got divorced and my mom got out of the circus life and told me, “I don’t want you to become a circus performer.” But, I always dreamed of this as a child… it is my passion. So I went and did other things for awhile, but eventually when I got older, they gave me the option to decide for myself, so I pursued being a circus performer. It’s a pure and beautiful art. We have to be able to have everything perfect… we have to fix mistakes in the moment. It is pure family entertainment… that is what I love the most with my career.
In 2000, I traveled to Mexico and I started with my preparations to become a circus performer. I started training as a high wire walker. My dad taught me what he knew – my grandfather had taught my dad, and my dad taught me, and eventually I hope to teach my son. After I began learning from my father and studying high wire walking, I began working with the Lopez family – 6th generation circus performers – when I saw them perform on the wire, it amazed me and something changed inside me – I knew I was going to be a part of it one day.
In 2002, I met and began dating my [now] husband in 2002 through working with the Lopezes – he also happens to be my coach on the wire. They teach me and every day I learn something new from them. You need to train every day. Being safe is so important, there can be no mistakes on the wire – if you make one wrong step, there can be an accident. We’ve now been working together as the Lopez troupe for 15 years performing with the Wringling Brothers, and more.”
ME: How did you get involved in Circus 1903?
MARIA: “Someone gave a lead to one of the producers of Circus 1903 about our act and the producer contacted us and said, “We saw your act and we are doing auditions for Circus 1903…” – we said yes right away!
We know that the “circus” name is not popular right now and we love that someone took the time to pay tribute to one of the most beautiful and oldest art forms in the world. The circus is still alive and well, no matter what they say and no matter what people hear, the circus is one of the most pure art forms in the world. We love to entertain families! When they showed us about the history and how they’re going to present each act, the music, everything was selected perfectly to match the timing from the year 1903 – every costume, hair design, and more was perfectly selected. It is a beautiful tribute!”
ME: You’re a mom – what is it like being a mom AND traveling to perform around the country?
MARIA: “I am a mom of three amazing boys, ages 10, 12, and 14. They travel with my husband Jonathan Lopez and me! When you are a circus family, you are with your family 24/7, 365 – many people don’t realize circus families have a beautiful connection because we travel together. I have always dreamed for my sons to perform with me, but my older son wants to be part of the circus but not on the stage. He is interested in being an engineer, a circus designer, lighting, sound, etc. No matter what they choose, we will be proud of them! I don’t want my sons to have a job, I want them to choose something that they love so they don’t have to work anymore. I am blessed that I have my dream job and at the same time I have the chance to learn something new every day.”
ME: What is your favorite thing about performing with Circus 1903?
MARIA: “I love seeing families together in the audience. It’s nice to see families enjoying each other and enjoying a show and forgetting about technology like phones and tablets… Seeing families connect and laugh and smile is the best!”
Circus 1903 opens at DPAC today and runs through October 1st (so if you are local to Durham, you should check it out!!) but this is a nationally touring show, so you can always keep an eye out for it to come to a city near you!