Meet our 2019 Cast

 
 

Eric Allen, Clown
Eric grew up in Massachusetts and currently is a nomad. When he was a kid he saw Circus Smirkus and was inspired to take circus arts seriously. He trained at the New England Center for the Circus Arts, and later auditioned and toured with Circus Smirkus. His specialties in aerial straps, Chinese pole, tightwire, and acrobatics are all infused with his love of clowning. Most recently Eric was a coach at NECCA and in the past has toured with Big Apple Circus and Ringling Brothers. This is his fifth year with Midnight Circus and he keeps coming back because of the fun of the show and being surrounded by his best friends. His favorite memory on tour is “getting pasta bowl burgers with ‘the crispy boyz’ [fellow cast-members] after a hard morning setting up the tent.” When he isn’t in the ring, Eric is hard at work curating music to create top-notch playlists.


Sam Brown, Clown/Musician
This year is Sam’s 13th with Midnight Circus, and keeps coming back for the free popcorn. Originally from Massachusetts, he currently lives in Chicago where he teaches full-time at CircEsteem. Sam got his start in the circus with the summer camp Circus Smirkus. He loves being a clown because he enjoys distracting people with laughter. In true clown fashion, his favorite Midnight Circus memory is when fellow performer Yolanta accidentally tripped on stage and everyone pointed and laughed. When he isn’t teaching or in the ring, you can catch Sam cooking, throwing darts, or hanging out with his son.


David Chervony, Rigger/Juggler
Originally from Evanston, David began his circus journey at the Skokie Park District Circus Camp at age nine. Always attracted to object manipulation, he officially became hooked after the first time he saw someone make a diablo climb it’s string. David graduated from The Actors Gymnasium Professional Training Program, and recently toured New England with Cirque Us. When he’s not juggling, David enjoys board/card games, training his dog, and eating popcorn. But, he really just loves to juggle. This is his first year on the Circus in the Parks tour and he is excited to create some new memories and perform with old and new friends in his favorite circus ring.


Dominic Cruz, Hoop-Diving/Chinese Pole
Dom is from the Bay Area in Northern California and currently lives in Brussels, Belgium. He got his start in circus by following in the footsteps of his brothers at the San Francisco Youth Circus. His love of hoops and pole, apart from being taught by masters in Chinese acrobatics, is because they are “the most fun!” Since graduating from the National Circus School of Montreal, he has worked with 7 Fingers, Cirque Eloize, Midnight Circus, and was a part of the creation and tour of Cirque du Soleil’s Luzia. He is a co-founder of the circus company Back Pocket and has been on tour with their show La Vrille du Chat. His favorite Midnight Circus memory is when the cast all came together to help him complete his final trick in his hoop-diving act. He says, “Everyone helping me do that last trick, that feeling of support and the insane amount of fun we’re all having will stick with me for the rest of my life!” Dom is also looking forward to Midnight Circus’s weekly family dinners.


Amanda Crockett, Clown/Hat-juggling/Trapeze
Amanda was born and raised in Maine and now lives in the great city of Chicago! She began her circus career working with her dad (a clown of 50 years) at the age of nine. Later, like many Midnight Circus veterans, she went on tour with Circus Smirkus and met founders Jeff and Julie Jenkins. She credits the Circus Smirkus tour as the beginning of her love of hat-juggling — when the Jenkins first encouraged her to try it. In 1999, she started working for the Jenkins with the hopes of being able to learn cloud swing, but ended up learning trapeze for the show, which she still performs today.Currently, Amanda teaches at The Actors Gymnasium and runs the business LINKS By Anette with her wife, Annette. Outside of the circus Amanda enjoys hiking, biking, dog-walks, and cookie-baking. This year is her first time back with Midnight Circus since 2003. “I am incredibly excited to be a part of the tour; it’s an awesome group of people and always a great show!”


Aerial Emery, Hula Hoops
Aerial grew up in Minnesota as a second-generation circus artist — her mother an aerialist (her namesake) and father a juggler. She grew up backstage or plopped in the middle of their circus shows. She gravitated away from her parents’ concentrations and towards hula hoops because of her aversion to heights and the lack of inspiration she found in juggling. Most recently she has worked on the national tour of Pippin the Musical, Strut ‘n Fret’s Love Riot, GOP variete theatre, and as a coach at Circus Smirkus. Aerial has been a part of Midnight Circus since 2013 and keeps returning because she says it feeds her soul. “It reminds me why circus is so important and how it is so much more than a job or performing for people of means — performing for children who don’t have access to the arts or who have never seen circus before means everything.” Outside of the circus Aerial is knitting, chowing down on some vegan snacks, and taking care of her perfect dog Bean.


Nancy Luna Gutiérrez, Aerial Hoop/ Hand to Hand
Nancy grew up in Mexico and started her circus career at the age of 14 with a small circus company called Circo Dragón. She performed with Circo Dragón for a number of years before she got her first big contract to perform in China for six months. Most recently she graduated from a circus school in Quebec, where she currently resides. To Nancy, aerial hoop allows her to add her own style, movement, and feelings to traditional acrobatics. This is Nancy’s first tour with Midnight Circus and she is excited to meet amazing people, have fun, and share her passion. Outside of Circus she loves photography, dance, cinema, and cooking. 


Devin Henderson, Hoop-Diving/Chinese Pole
Devin is a co-founder of the circus company Back Pocket and has been on tour performing their show La Vrille du Chat. He is currently living in Brussels, Belgium, but originally hails from San Francisco. He got involved with the circus after following in the footsteps of his siblings, Brad, Sadie, and Marta to San Francisco’s Circus Center. Later, he graduated from The National Circus School in Montreal, and then toured with 7 Fingers for four years before being scooped up by Cirque du Soleil for the creation and tour of the show Luzia. Devin loves hoop diving because it elevates normal tumbling, “You have to use your acrobatic knowledge to pass through a threshold without touching the object,” he says. “The excitement you get when you pass through, untouched, is incomparable.” His love for Chinese Pole is simple: It’s death-defying. This is Devin’s first year on the Circus in the Parks Tour, and he is most excited to perform in the tent for kids and to see all the different parks in Chicago.


Michaël Hottier, Hoop Diving/Chinese Pole
Michael is from Paris, France and currently lives in Brussels with the other members of his circus company, Back Pocket. He started out as a gymnast, but ultimately moved to circus arts because he didn’t like the competing aspect. His love of floor acrobatics is apparent in his concentrations — hoop-diving, acrobatics, and acro-dance. As a new challenge, he added aerial straps to his resume four years ago. Michaël has kept busy since graduating from the Circus School of Brussels. He has been a part of Circus Monti, Festival mondial du cirque de demain - Paris 2013 (gold medal), Young Stage Festival (silver medal), Moscow Nikulin Festival (special Nikulin prize), Cirque du Soleil event Andorra Mater Natura, the creation and tour of Cirque du Soleil show Luzia. Most recently has been on tour with his company Back Pocket with their show La Vrille du Chat. This is his first Circus in the Parks Tour and he is excited to create with new people and to be in Chicago. “I am happy to be a part of a project that is very generous and involved in the life of its own city.”


Maxwell Jenkins, Rolla Bolla/Musician
2019 marks Max’s eleventh tour with Midnight Circus. As a second generation circus artist, he grew up surrounded by acrobats and jugglers — which is how he started mastering rolla bolla. “I was drawn to it because an acrobat that came through our tour started teaching me backstage ” he says. “It felt natural.” Max is an accomplished musician and actor. He has spent the last three years playing Will Robinson on the Netflix Original Series Lost in Space, and performs around Chicago with his band Cowboy Jesus and the Sugar Bums. When he’s not balancing on his rolla bolla or exploring the corners of outer space, Max is busy practicing any of the five instruments he plays, running track/cross country, and studying history.


Samantha Jenkins, Aerial Hoop/Musician
At soon-to-be-twelve years-old, Samantha has been performing in the Midnight Circus ring for half of her life. She is a second generation circus performer and specializes in aerial hoop and unicycle. “I love hoop because of all the shapes you can make in a simple circle,” she says. “Plus, Midnight Circus always has such amazing aerialists who inspire me.” Her skills in the ring have expanded to taking center-stage and singing original music. On the 2017 tour, with some encouragement from her mother, she pushed herself to sing live while walking across the tightwire. Samantha keeps busy in the off-season — when she’s not making shapes on the hoop, she plays volleyball, basketball, and performs in musicals. In May, she played the lead role of Ariel in Coonley Elementary’s production of The Little Mermaid. This year, Samantha is looking forward to playing at Welles Park and having all of her friends watch her perform.


Rosie Jenkins, Dog/Acrobat

Always a crowd favorite, Rosie is back again this year to showcase her amazing acrobatic skills. Along with her older sister June Bug, she was rescued by Jeff Jenkins & Julie Greenberg and has become an admired performer and ambassador for her breed. She’s excited to get back in the ring and make kids smile all across Chicago. Learn more about Midnight Circus animal activism by visiting our Core Values page.


Rachel Karabenick, Trapeze 
Rachel is from Michigan and resides in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she most recently performed for the show Absinthe and worked on the creation of a major Cirque du Soleil event, One Night for One Drop. Starting out as a dancer, Rachel took an aerial arts class for fun, got hooked, and has been a circus artist ever since. Her main focus is trapeze, hoop, straps, and pole. Rachel’s favorite Midnight Circus memory is from the last show of the 2018 tour — the music cut out during Sam Jenkins’ aerial hoop act. “She was performing to ‘What the World Needs Now is Love’,” Rachel recalls. “A few people in the audience started singing the song and she finished the act with the whole audience singing for her. It was pure magic.” This is Rachel’s second Circus in the Parks Tour, and loves the family that Midnight Circus creates and bringing world-class performance to every corner of Chicago. 


Book Kennison, Juggler/Musician
Book Kennison has worked with Midnight Circus since 2005. In addition to performing around the country, he's the juggling instructor for the pre-professional program at Aloft Circus Arts in Logan Square. Book has written music for Midnight Circus, Hideaway Circus, and most recently for The Circus Music Workshop, a project of Peter Bufano and Berklee College of Music. His most recent endeavor is Zobot, a genre-bending art and music collective he founded with his sister, Zoë Kennison. Book is happy to call Chicago his home.


Logan Kerr, Rigger 
Logan was born and currently lives in upstate New York. After spending most of her life on the unicycle, she met the Bindlestiff Family Circus who, as she puts it, “stole her away” at 15 to do tightwire. Today, Logan is still on the tightwire and has currently been performing for shows in NYC such as A Night at Niblos Garden, Brooklyn Abridged, and a co-production with Big Apple Circus and Pink Talking Phish. This past summer she was an assistant rigger for Circus Smirkus. She is returning for her fourth season with Midnight Circus, and loves coming back for the circus family, and the communities of Chicago. Her favorite memory on tour happened last year on a tear-down day when the big truck got stuck in the mud. During the pre-show circle-up Sam Brown casually announced that he was going to be a new dad in a few months. She recalls, “The entire cast was so overtaken by joy and surprise that the truck fiasco felt so trivial after that. I know I cried, but it may have been the happiest tear-down we did all season.”


Maya Kesselman, Hoop-Diving/Chinese Pole
Maya began her circus career at the age of ten at San Francisco Circus Center, and later graduated from the Superior School of Circus Arts in Brussels, Belgium where she currently resides. Her passion for Chinese pole and hoop diving are thanks to her master trainers, Lu Yi, Xiao Hong Weng, and XIa Ki Min and her love for group work. “I love working in a group,” she says. “I personally find the shared experience super rewarding.” In 2015 she participated in the creation of the Cirque du Soleil show Luzia and toured with the show for two years. Maya is one of the co-founders of the circus company Back Pocket and has been on tour in Europe since 2018 with their show La Vrille du Chat. This is Maya’s first Circus in the Parks Tour, and she is most excited to see all the kids reactions in the ring. “Performing for kids is the best — they don’t hold anything back, and they love to share in the fun.”


Adam Kuchler, Clown/Cigar Box Juggling/Musician
Growing up in Milwaukee, Adam was introduced to the circus by his uncle at the age of ten. He has been working in the circus, theater, tv, and on cruise ships for the last 24 years. Most recently he toured with Big Apple Circus. To Adam, circus is about human connection and believes his concentrations — clowning and prop manipulation — are the best tools for him to achieve that. This is Adam’s third Circus in the Parks Tour and says Midnight Circus ticks all the boxes for him. “The tent is perfect size - small enough for an intimate experience, yet big enough to feel a true sense of community. And I get to spend time with some great friends.”


Kellin Hentoff- Killian, Juggler/Acrobat
Kellin is a second-generation circus artist. He began his career with Circus Harmony in St. Louis, where he currently lives. He has been a juggler for most of his life and has been performing in the Circus Harmony ring at the City Museum. This is his second tour with Midnight Circus and is returning for Rosie and June Bug — the rescued pitbull performers. His favorite part about the Circus in the Parks Tour is packing the truck during Sunday’s tear-down. Outside of the ring Kellin enjoys to eat.


Regina Meirmanova, Aerial Silks 
Regina is a second-generation circus performer and has lived in Chicago her entire life. Her family members were traveling circus artists, but decided to settle down in Chicago and open their own circus gym after Regina was born. While she enjoys doing hand-to-hand, Russian bar, and banquine, her real love is aerial work. “I love doing aerial the most because I feel like it’s the best apparatus to express your emotions,” she says. “When I am tangled up in the air I can be whoever and whatever I want. I can write my own story up in the air.” When she is not in school or practicing her circus skills, she is training for her 5th year on a national diving team. This year will be Regina’s 12th Circus in the Parks Tour-- an impressive feat considering she is sixteen years old. “They are basically my second family. I look forward to Midnight because every year the cast is amazing, sweet, and they make me the happiest person on earth.”


Alseny Sylla, Aerial Straps/Acrobatics 
Alseny is from Conakry, Guinea. At the age of nine he began attending circus schools in West Africa. He was too young to tour with the circus, but dedicated himself to learn, practice, and grow as a circus artist. Currently living in Chicago, Alseny works for the renowned company Cavalia with the show Odysseo, Cirque du Soleil, Kalabante Productions, and Compleèment Montreal Cirque. This is Alseny’s first Midnight Circus Tour and is excited for the opportunities the tour brings. “I live for every moment on stage and every smile I put on someone's face.”


P.T., Tightwire
Patrick “P.T.” Tobin is from Boston, Massachusetts and currently lives in New York City. As a kid, he was drawn to the practice of balancing, and finds that dancing on the wire is a meditative and freeing experience. He is in good company with other Midnight Circus alums who began their circus careers with Circus Smirkus in Greensboro, Vermont. P.T. graduated from Circus School in 2015, and currently travels around New York City, Chicago, and New England performing tightwire, as well as teaching tightwire, aerials, handstands, and acrobatics. This is his fifth year on the Circus in the Parks Tour and says performing in the tent is the best part of Midnight Circus. “Some days it’s beautiful out, and other times it rains and your sparkly costume gets splattered with mud,” says P.T. “That is part of the beauty - we get to spend our summer in Chicago parks and we always have fun!” When he isn’t getting mud splattered on his clothes, you can catch P.T. at the theater, dance parties, the ocean, hiking, thrift stores, brunch, the movies, and museums.


Creative Team & Crew

 

Julie Greenberg and Jeff Jenkins, Founders/Directors
Jeff and Julie met while working on commercial and film sets, and discovered they shared an interest in pushing the boundaries of physical theater. Julie studied theatre in college and Jeff had a background in physical comedy/clowning from Ringingling Brothers. The two worked together to create a comedy hand-balance/knockabout act, and then later toured for several seasons as the creative directors of Circus Smirkus. In 1995 they decided to use their talents to create an intimate circus experience and Midnight Circus was born. The Circus in The Parks Tour kicked-off in 2007 and has raised nearly one million dollars for Chicago Parks. Jeff and Julie look forward to bringing communities together under the Little Big Top and are thankful for what Midnight Circus has done for their children. “I feel so lucky to have my children grow up around such wonderful artists. It has shaped who they are today. It has given them a sense of the importance of community, hard work, and discipline” she says. “I am grateful to share my home and to become an extended family with the wonderful artists of Midnight Circus.”


My Boy Elroy, DJ/Musician 
Elroy has been the resident DJ for Midnight Circus for every Circus in the Parks Tour. Originally from San Diego, he grew up in a musical household and says creating music and performing are etched into his DNA. He has been living in Chicago for fifteen years as a DJ, music director, producer, and performer. Elroy got involved with Midnight Circus over a dozen years ago at the suggestion of his band, Liquid Soul — Midnight Circus started touring and needed a live band, but condensed into a small space. Elroy agreed and has been grooving on his DJ booth ever since. When he isn’t the life of the party in the Midnight Circus ring, he is beatboxing, producing remixes for bands, traveling, playing video games, and spending time with his girlfriend.


Abby Suskin, Choreographer 
Abby is from Vermont and currently lives in New York City. She has always been drawn to expression through movement and translates her specialties in dance and tightwire to work as a choreographer and Pilates teacher. Her circus career began when she was eight years-old at Circus Smirkus summer camp, and at twelve she started going on their annual New England summer tour. Abby toured with Midnight Circus from 2009-2017 as a performer, and now comes back as the choreographer and to assist in the creative process. Her favorite part about Midnight Circus is the weekly family dinners. “We come together and share food and laughs and get to connect with each other outside of the ring. It builds bonds through the company that translate on stage and makes each show even more fun to perform as an ensemble.” 


Mitchell Fain, Artistic Associate 
Mitchell is a Chicago based actor and has been a part of Midnight Circus for nearly two decades. Most recently he was in the Northlight Theatre production of Into The Breeches, and had a recurring role on the NBC show The Red Line.


Jenna Raithel, Stage Manager 
Jenna is a recent St. Louis-to-Chicago transplant. She received her BFA from Lindenwood University in Stage Management. Jenna works as a freelance stage manager in Chicago and in the summers works on tour as the stage/house manager for Circus Smirkus. Outside of circus she enjoys theater and performing arts, coffee, movies, potato chips, and reading. This is her first Circus in the Parks Tour and is excited to spend time with her new circus family and have audiences around Chicago enjoy Midnight Circus.

Peter Sheehy, Assistant Tent Manager
Originally from Radford VA, Peter is a new Chicago resident. His interest in working with the circus began through Circus Smirkus summer camp. He is excited to make new friends with Midnight Circus, and in his spare time he enjoys satisfying his ruthless curiosity, theatre, philology, and Esperanto.

Devan Castle, Audio Engineer 
The 2019 tour marks Devan’s third with Midnight Circus. Originally from Salina, Kansas, he has found his home in Chicago and with the Midnight Circus Family. Devan considers himself a jack of all trades, but mostly focuses on sound engineering. Most recently he has worked with Nightblue Performing Arts, Utah Festival Opera Company, and The Williamstown Theatre Festival. His favorite memory on the Circus in the Parks Tour was during the middle of a show when a storm rolled through. “Everyone was scurrying to keep the show up and running. It was the most hectic, but fun time I’ve had during a show!” When Devan isn’t operating sound under The Little Big Top, he enjoys playing Dungeons and Dragons and exploring the Marvel and DC universes. 

Headshots by Grace Gershenfeld