Birdhouse Factory

After seeing the 7 fingers circus last year, I said that I would go to the annual holiday circus show by the Circus Center. This year’s show is called Birdhouse Factory. I only convinced Colin and Brad to go with me this year, but next year, I’m dragging more. If you live in the Bay Area, and you don’t go see this show in the next couple weeks, you’re cheating yourself of one of the most amazing shows I’ve seen in a while. The San Francisco Chronicle agrees.

I don’t think I’ve been to another performance that made me go “Whoa” out loud as often. Or “They’re not going to do that, are they?!” It was just plain fun. The Chronicle article does a good job of describing the various acts, and even the unconventional elements. I’ve been to a few Cirque du Soleil shows, and a few other circuses here and there, but this may have been the most enjoyable one I’ve seen. The Cirque shows are fantastic, to be sure, but they sometimes seem inhuman and distant in their pursuit of art. This show was populated by bright human characters, that just happen to be insanely talented. They felt like real people. And that makes all the difference to me.

I think my favorite act was the juggling by Steven Ragatz. He was dressed as a businessman, with a hat, a briefcase, and a cane. A bright red ball is tossed to him. He starts playing with the ball on the briefcase, balancing it on each of the sides of the case, then starting to bounce it back and forth between different sides. Then he took off his hat, bounced the ball on his head for a while, and then started playing with the ball and the hat, doing some contact juggling. He eventually worked his way up to juggling three balls, took off his hat, caught one ball in the hat, juggled two balls and the hat with the ball in it, then popped the ball out of the hat, and juggled three balls and the hat. Then he started juggling while using the cane instead of his hand. Man. Looking at what I’ve written, it doesn’t begin to capture the sheer wonder that informed his act. It was just so much fun. He was a great performer. Check out his essays at, for some insights into his method.

The other spectacular act was a “vertical tango” where two performers (apparently Sandra Feusi and Sam Payne) danced with and around each other up and down a vertical pole. It was fantastic – they did several tricks that I’ve never seen before. And their sheer strength was astounding. When we saw Sam go up the pole using only his hands, his feet held out away from the pole, I think the mouths of everybody in the audience just dropped wide open. The story and choreography was also well integrated into the routine. It starts with Sam flirting with Sandra, and she’s a demure bookworm ignoring his attentions. And she starts off by running away from him, across the stage, up the pole, etc. Then as the routine continues, they get closer and closer until they’re dancing a steamy tango across the stage and then up the pole. Utterly amazing.

The contortionist was also fabulous. And the set design. And the musical selections. And the general tone of whimsy that informed the performance. It was all amazing. And since this year I didn’t go on the last night, I can tell you all: GO SEE THIS SHOW!! For $32, we got dead center seats (Thanks Colin!). It’s an unbelievably good deal when you consider Cirque shows are often $70 or more. You won’t regret it. You have until January 2nd.