A night under the big top with Sissy’s Sircus
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If the UNI LGBT* community were a kingdom, Sissy Allen would be its queen, and there is great news for members and allies of the LGBT* community: she wants you to join her harem and become a part of Sissy’s Sircus.
Sissy’s Sircus is a theatrical group that provides a safe environment for all members, and puts on one big main stage show each school year. It is described on its UNI student organizations webpage as a “full-length, neo-burlesque and drag show.”
Each show is highly stylized, with a theme, costumes, original music and script, in addition to tediously choreographed dance routines.
Allen, a UNI graduate, first started building the foundation for her organization back in 2007. She and her partner would often attend and participate in No Shame Theatre, a no holds barred improv/open mic style performance group.
During a No Shame talent show, Allen was encouraged by friends to get up onstage and lip sync. From there, the Sissy and Sassy show was born, and Allen, along with a fellow performer, would lip sync and dance while dressed in drag.
“I liked lip syncing, but I knew I had a voice and wanted to sing. I’m a tenor- soprano, so I can really get up there,” said Allen. Her first vocal performance? “If You Don’t Do Right” by Jessica Rabbit.
A year later, Allen decided to break away from performing at No Shame to put on her own show.
“We said, ‘Let’s do our own thing, and do whatever the hell we want and show people we can do that, and they’ll love it’,” said Allen. Allen and her friends comprised the Sircus’s cast in its first year. The night of their first performance, they were still learning their last song an hour before curtain.
“Needless to say, the show was a hit,” said Allen. “But we pretty much improvised everything out of it.”
After the success of the first show, Allen began holding auditions for performers. Auditions take place around August or September and rehearsals begin a week later. While each main stage show has about 25 cast members, Sissy’s Sircus currently has 122 members overall, with no cap on that number.
“The only thing that we ask you to do is buy your own undergarments,” said Allen. “Costumes and stuff are dealt with; you don’t have to worry about that.”
But if dancing isn’t your forte, don’t worry. According to Allen, they are looking for people to design sets, create costumes, style hair/makeup, run videography and more. Everyone, both backstage and onstage members, are welcomed.
For many, the group is much more than just theatre. Luke Hansen, active member and Publicity Chair for Sissy’s Sircus, found more than he initially expected.
“I have had the pleasure of working with Sissy’s Sircus for three years,” said Hansen. “The relationships I have made grew beyond what I could have ever imagined. I have not only been able to learn about others through dance but I have also learned a lot about myself as well. Without Sissy’s Sircus, I don’t know where I would be today.”
“It’s been great to see all of these people who I’ve seen grown within Sissy’s Sircus become great and wonderful people […] and keep that mentality of no judging, and accepting anybody.”
When people first hear of the Sircus, it can be a bit intimidating, especially after seeing a performance. For those who worry they won’t measure up or be what the Sircus is looking for, fear not.
“Sissy’s Sircus is an organization that allows one to embrace themselves in a form of dance that truly lets them express their uniqueness,” said Hansen. “The organization builds relationships with others through acting and theatre workshops, along with a main stage performance that gives you an experience of a lifetime. The organization not only promotes the LGBT* community, but it promotes the beauty in all people. No matter what race, religion, sexual orientation or body size.”
Allen makes it well known that Sissy’s Sircus is a safe place for everyone, and can become a home to anyone.
“All [are] welcome. We don’t judge people; we just accept all. Come as you are…we’re all about love. That’s always our motto.”