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Why the Starfish?

Why the Starfish?
The tide goes out, leaving thousands of starfish stranded on the beach. A little boy walks down the beach, picking up starfish and throwing them into the ocean. A man approaches and says, " Why bother? You'll never get them all. It won't matter." The little boy picks up a starfish, flings it into the water and says, "It matters to that starfish."

At a gathering of circus performers in 2003, a politically-charged actor challenged everyone to say how they created positive change in the world. We said we taught occasional workshops in schools. "Well, what does that do?" asked the challenger. "Maybe you teach them a cartwheel or something, but it doesn't make a real difference."

First we got irritated. Then we started thinking. Does it make a difference to a child to learn a simple skill, maybe even one that 'everyone else' already knows? We say it does. We say, that cartwheel is a gateway to a whole world of things people think they can't do. The kid on the bottom of the pyramid is learning that they're strong enough to support the group--and the kid at the top is learning that she wouldn't be up there without that same group's support.

From a half-serious vow later that night to "Change the world, one cartwheel at a time!", the idea for Starfish Circus grew. Drawing on our previous experience teaching workshops in mask and movement theatre, acting, gymnastics and dance, we created a program that any child can participate in and any school can afford.

In a world where success means never stopping, and theatre is a luxury for the select few, a Starfish Circus experience brings many things to a community. Participants are given an empowering vision of the possibilities of theatre. Audiences enjoy a spectacular and delightful show. The rare pupil with the interest and talent for an acrobatic or aerial career is encouraged and challenged. And over all, the performers develop skills for a healthy lifestyle, including goal-setting, group and solo work, and physical fitness.

We were challenged by a question in Edward Fiske's "Champion's of Change" about youth programs: "What is this place about?" Well, Ed, we're about facing fears and experiencing new things in a safe environment, creating a meaningful performance together, supporting our teammates throughout, exploring an arena of theatre and the arts many students may not have considered before, and encouraging each individual student to appreciate their bodies, abilities, and achievements.

It's a big dream. It's a bit egotistical to undertake it. But we're ready to create big things on a very small scale, and we know you want to do that, too. Let's do it together-

One starfish at a time.