By Lacy Gragg
Earlier this year in February and March, my friend Eliot and I decided to compete in the St. Louis Teen Talent Competition performing a unicycle act. The Fox theater in St. Louis has presented this contest for 10 years. The competition has three rounds and finalists can win scholarships in multiple categories. The first two rounds are private with a panel of four judges. The final round will take place on stage at the Fabulous Fox theater open to the public. Eliot and I and made it all the way to the semi-finals. This year over 100 people participated in 85 acts. Semi-Finals were narrowed down to 42 acts and the finals will showcase 16 acts. My circus, Circus Harmony, initially entered six acts and has two acts with three performers in the final round, a juggler and a lyra/contortion act. Two Circus Harmony students have won in previous years. The majority of the other performers were dancers, singers, and musicians. It was really awesome to meet other people from different styles of performing. And to learn a little bit about dancing, singing, and performing music and how it contrasted to circus performing.
Eliot and I created a Dirty Dancing themed unicycle act to the song, Time of my Life, by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes. We tried to make our act more about the story instead of the tricks; some tricks can be harder to learn but less impressive to an audience. This is something that you have to consider since you are performing for people who do not have much circus experience. We had giraffe unicycles halfway through the act which you may know are rather similar to riding regular unicycles but because they are taller they are more impressive to an audience.
The biggest feedback we received was that our act did not have a big finish. It ended with Eliot and I leaving an empty stage. This can work fine in a show with multiple acts but for a single act that is supposed to stand alone it does not work as well; it left the act feeling incomplete. If you are putting together an act that is not part of a bigger show, make sure to have a strong finish. It was very interesting having judges who were not familiar judging circus and were not really aware of what was harder or easier in circus. When I messed up a unicycle mount, a judge told us that she was not sure if it was an intentional of part of the show. Your acting has a lot to do with what the audience thinks is happening when you are presenting a story. When you let your face fall someone will pick up on it but if you act like everything is going as planed its harder to tell something is amiss.
The finals have been postponed due to the pandemic, but I am excited to cheer on my friends! I learned some great lessons from this experience and made a lot of new friends. My big take-aways are what elements are needed in an act outside of a show, how to add acting to my unicycle act, and how to take feedback and adjust my act. This was a great experience and I think it made me a better performer.