Circus arts in ballfield bring back August childhood memories

Circus Arts Ballfield


PROVICNETOWN BANNER – North Truro’s Payomet Performing Arts Center tries out circus without the big tent.
By Susan Blood, Banner Correspondent

NORTH TRURO — I knew things would be different this summer the evening my husband and I went to the beach to watch the sunset and discovered it was already sold out. Not only was there not a single parking space available, the beach itself was standing room only. It was May and there were no restaurants, no movies, no theater and no live music. The sunset was the only game in town.

Since then I have virtually toured art exhibits, tuned into impromptu concerts and attended book launches without ever leaving my couch. I also sprouted vegetables from trimmings, relearned how to sew and forgot a jar of sourdough starter for so long it turned magenta.

By the time Payomet Performing Arts Center announced live events it was way past time to get out of the house. Plus, I had never been to a drive-in circus before and was desperately curious. I mean, in what dimension can you park in a ball field in the middle of nowhere and find a stage with a trapeze suspended above it?

On the evening of July 22, just as it dawned on me I didn’t know where I was going, I came to a roadblock on Old Dewline Road where an attendant checked my name off the list of ticket holders and pointed me in the right direction. From there I was ushered to a parking space in the wide open field a stone’s throw from where the big Payomet tent would normally be, with cars staggered in checkerboard rows. Each car has its own space in front for lawn chairs or picnicking — just like the drive-in. The family parked kitty-corner from my space had it all figured out and was sitting in beach chairs in front of their car, tucked into a pizza when I arrived.

Payomet’s Cirque by the Sea productions are original works of circus theater, commissioned, incubated and created by Payomet’s circus team. Payomet has presented Cirque by the Sea for years but, thinking it was for circus camp participants or families with young children, I had never thought to go. This is the summer to do things that never occurred to us and in some cases it’s really working out.

“Sandman” opens with an old time radio announcement that acts as a curtain speech and sets the stage. Two girls in summer pajamas, hair in matching braids, make their way onto a trapeze where they fight over TV shows and get ready for bed. From there a story unfolds as aerial performers Teddy Ment and Eleanor Getz weave their way through trapeze, silks and a hoop while the Sandman, juggler Trevor Pearson, looks on. They are accompanied by Roberto Acosta on piano, with Pearson stepping in on bass when he’s not busy defying gravity. Even socially distant, you hear the audience gasp throughout the performance.

The sun is low, turning the field golden and casting long shadows. It smells like sun-baked grass and bug spray.

While my sister and I never had a TV to fight over in our cottage, the evening, with its vintage radio and “I Love Lucy” sound bites, put me right back into childhood summers — when the grass in August was a little crunchy, the driveway was dirt and we spent all day and most of the evening outside.

I had arrived in the ball field with my head still at work, thinking about what I had to get done, the changes we’re all making and what the future may look like. As Ment and Getz wound their way through the silks, the day fell away. A giant dragonfly landed on my open window.

At the end of the evening beach chairs were folded, Happy Birthday was sung to an audience member, and people chatted distantly as they packed up their cars.

I suspect there’s a small window of opportunity when things like this are offered. Currently, Payomet is limited to one hundred people in the field, including performers and staff. If everyone follows the health and safety guidelines the hope is they will get the green light for more events. These things don’t happen everyday. Or everywhere.

When I look back to the summer of 2020, I hope these nights are part of the story. We’ve gone through a lot to get here.

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