September 13–15, 2019
On July 6, 1944, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus tent went up in flames during a matinee show in Hartford, CT. Through aerial arts and acrobatic storytelling, Coated asks questions about blame and responsibility, human fragility and resilience, while keeping the memories of the 1944 Circus Fire victims alive.
$25 / 70 minutes
Through acrobatic storytelling and aerial arts, Open Ring Circus brings the story of the 1944 Hartford Circus Fire to the stage. The acrobats delve into the day of the tragedy and its aftermath, tracing the legacy the fire has imparted on the Hartford community, fire safety regulations, and the American circus tradition. Bridging traditions and techniques from contemporary circus and classical circus, Open Ring Circus confronts the risk and responsibility that humans face every day.
Open Ring Company Jack Kavanagh, Emma Luz, Molly Barger, Charles Keidel, Ywanne Chen, Glenna Broderick
Artistic Director/Company Founder Jack Kavanagh
Rehearsal Director Noa Schnitzer
Sound Design Emma Luz and Devon Bate
Lightning Technician Adam Brandt
Acrobatic Coaching Aidan O’Shea
Coated: 1944 Circus Fire Project is made possible with support from the Connecticut Office of the Arts, Fractured Atlas, Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, Lake Placid Center for the Arts, and Dragon’s Egg Studio.
About Open Ring Circus Company:
Open Ring Circus was originally established as a small open mic night based in a loft in Montreal which provided space for circus and experimental performance artists to show works-in-progress and receive feedback in a supportive environment. Though Open Ring Circus later developed into a production company, the original event remains a regular Montreal institution. Open Ring produced the company’s first full-length show, The Canary’s Silence (2014), initially developed and presented in Montreal, with additional performances at the New England Center for Circus Arts (2016) in Brattleboro, VT, and the International Festival of Arts and Ideas (2017) in New Haven, CT. In 2018, Open Ring received a grant from the Connecticut Office of the Arts to develop Coated, a show that explores the Hartford Circus Fire of 1944.
History of the 1944 Circus Fire:
On July 6, 1944, the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus pitched their tents in Hartford, Connecticut. At their matinee show that day, as the Flying Wallendas took their place on the tightwire platform, the tent went up in flames, claiming upwards of 168 lives, and injuring more than 700. During this time, it was commonplace to waterproof the tent with a coating of highly flammable paraffin wax and gasoline and block exits with animal cages during act transitions. It was these circumstances which resulted in the profound amount of fatalities. In response to this tragedy, the United States, led by Connecticut, implemented strict legislation for circuses and circus tents, requiring firefighters on site, clear exits and aisles, and flame-retardant coating, among other preventative measures.