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  • Info
  • Performance Description
  • Plot Synopsis
  • Content Advisories
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  • 2019 – 2020 Ticket Prices
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Co-Created and produced by Mehari "Bibi" Tesfamariam
Co-Created and directed by Binyam "Bichu" Tesfamariam
Written by Cal McCrystal
Choreography by Kate Smyth
UnitedHealth Group Stage

A whole new kind of circus is coming to town! The rhythm of Ethiopia comes alive as this internationally acclaimed, dream-filled adventure makes its daring Minneapolis debut. Jaws will drop as one amazing feat after another defies gravity and awakens possibility; oh, to be part of the spectacle! It’s an incredible range of high-flying hilarity, hula hooping, death-defying tricks, and ridiculously joy-filled juggling with the music and movement of East Africa.

Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams is a performed by a large cast of adult and students. Featuring death-defying stunts and acrobatics, this performance tells the story of brothers Bibi and Bichu, who dream of joining the circus. Their dream is turned reality while exploring the rhythms and roots of Ethiopia’s rich musical and artistic tradition.

This production takes place on our UnitedHealth Group Stage which seats up to 745 people per performance.

We know that teachers are the best judge to determine the right fit for their unique group of students. We recommend Circus Abyssinia: Ethiopian Dreams for students in grades 1-12 due to the length and non-verbal nature of this circus performance. Check out the synopsis and content advisories for full information.

Approximate run time: 1 hour 45 minutes including intermission

Run time and other details are subject to change during rehearsal process.

Plot synopsis 
Caution: this is a complete synopsis of the play, so it is full of spoilers. Some content is still in development. Content subject to change until script is solidified.

The show opens with young Bibi and Bichu juggling back and forth in their bedroom. The man in the moon appears and explains that the two boys dreamed of joining the circus. Every night, they make plans to run away with the circus. The boys fall asleep and the man in the moon makes their dream come alive.

The full company of performers walk onstage while calming Ethiopian music fills the space. The music becomes upbeat, and the company showcases traditional Ethiopian dances intermixed with circus tricks. Bibi and Bichu are thrown into the air by the ensemble and perform a variety of jumps and flips including a hand-vaulting act with performers standing on top of each other. The boys are swung and thrown through the air by the ensemble.

The ensemble leaves the stage to make room for two contortionists who twist their bodies into unbelievable shapes. The contortionists leave the stage, and a group of jump-roping gymnasts take over the stage. 

Five women join and perform scarf juggling. They spin the scarfs on their hands and feet while dancing. They spin the scarves while performing acrobatic tricks. After they are finished, an artist impresses the crowd with foot juggling. 

One ensemble member comes out and clears the stage. He attempts to perform the scarf juggling trick but is mostly unsuccessful. When he is unsuccessful with one scarf, he decides to try two scarves but turns around to find that they have cleared their props offstage. He finds a mystery bag of objects and decides to create a trick out of those. He finds another scarf but is still unsuccessful. He finds a rope and has a brilliant idea. He decides to try tightrope walking. He stretches the rope across the ground and stretches his body to get ready for his trick. He walks across the rope and the audience can feel that the stakes are high (even though the rope never leaves the ground). He completes the trick and the audience cheers. He has another idea. He ties the scarf around his eyes and attempts to walk across the rope blindfolded. Again, the audience can sense that the stakes are high. He accidently walks off-course and finds himself off of the rope. He takes off the blindfold, moves the rope, and completes the trick. He tries to heighten the stakes further and hang the rope from either side of the stage but it isn’t long enough. He asks for two volunteers who are strong and they are brought onstage. Each is handed an end of the rope and instructed to hold it taunt. The performer attempts to walk across it but falls and injures his groin. The audience sees how much it hurts. He tries again with the same result. Next plan, he tries jump roping with the two volunteers spinning the rope. He decides it is time for his volunteers to try. He spins the rope while one volunteer tries to jump rope. He lets the other volunteer try, but blindfolds them with a bag over their head. He plays a joke on the volunteer by making the noise of jump roping to make them jump but really just hits the rope against the floor. There is large applause for the volunteers as they are ushered back to their seats.

An artist shows off her hula-hooping skills then a group of artists perform their hoop-diving tricks. 

After intermission, the aerial silks are brought onstage for an act. Then Little Bibi & Bichu impress the crowd with their juggling skills. They are quickly joined by Adult Bibi and Bichu who kick the boys offstage and show everyone how it is really done. They juggle clubs between them. The boys rejoin and the four juggle together. They clear the stage to make room for an Icarian games act which is a type of human juggling. 

A man and a woman join the stage and dance while performing a variety of lifts and acrobatics. It is clear they are in love. The moon lights up and we see four women play with shadows. They come onstage and dance while performing acrobatics and contortion tricks. They balance using their mouths on tripods. They return to the moon.

The ensemble installs two large poles onstage. The music transitions from calming to upbeat and the lights begin to flash. The ensemble performs acrobatic tricks on the poles by climbing all the way up and sliding down in a variety of ways. All eight ensemble members climb the pole and the same time. They slide down and perform a dance. Individuals begin climbing the pole and flipping off.

The show ends with the full company onstage performing a dance.

Content Advisories

Language: 0 out of 5 stars
Very little English is used. The performance features Ethiopian music and is primarily non-verbal.

Themes and Situations: 1 out of 5 stars
A performer “falls” while trying to walk across a tight rope and injures his groin.

Violence & Scariness: 1 out of 5 stars
Professional acrobats perform death-defying stunts. While it might be nerve-racking, they are trained professionals.

Sensory Advisories: 2 out of 5 stars
Two audience members are brought onto the stage to help perform a circus trick. One of these volunteers is blindfolded. Music can be loud and audience cheering is often encouraged. Lighting moves quickly from dark to bright and lights are flashed.

Potentially Anxious Moments: 1 out of 5 stars
Professional acrobats perform death-defying stunts. While it might be nerve-racking, they are trained professionals.

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