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Circus in the forest

Synchronicity Festival
Aerial acrobatics are a big part of the Rainforest Circus.

Clowns, musicians, acrobats, costumiers and set designers were all gathered under a canopy at Deer Crossing the Art Farm last week and all were bristling with creative energy. Sounds like a circus, you say. Indeed, it was a rehearsal for the unique Rainforest Circus that was founded and now flourishes on the Sunshine Coast. A preview of this year’s production takes place this coming weekend, Aug. 15 and 16 in Porpoise Bay Park, Sechelt. (Advance tickets for the Porpoise Bay show can be had at

The Rainforest Circus will perform again at this year’s Synchronicity Festival that takes place in Shirley Macey Park near Gibsons Aug. 21 to 23. The circus is unique in that it allows the forest setting to be centre stage.

“We live in the forest,” said actor Chad Hershler. “Why would we want to upstage it?”

Last year’s theme was the underworld and the audience followed the actors into the dark, deep woods along a path staged as a fantasy world to the tunes of singing, dancing, acrobatic performers. This year’s theme is the cosmos, and it asks not what lurks beneath but what looms in the magnitude of space, inspiring us to consider how small we are.

The performances are hugely popular and always sell out. Each show can take 100 to 125 people on the journey at a time.

“Everyone wants to go where it’s a little bit scary,” Hershler said. But this is no haunted house thrill ride. “We’re not out to frighten people. We face these big themes in a fun, safe way that helps us to understand ourselves.” 

The Art Farm recently held a circus camp for kids, and organizers solicited the children’s perspective. Kids were asked to imagine the smallest particles then move to the largest scale at the farthest end of the cosmos. They quickly invented a name for beyond the cosmos and decided that it was home for the tooth fairy and other mythical creatures.

There are many performers in this year’s show: along with Art Farm founders Hershler and Sandy Buck are dancers Katherine and Alison Denham. Eilis Carpentier brings her dark poetry, and Mark Dombowsky is the backstage technical help. Nothing phases him, says Hershler. You want a piano in a tree? He’s your man.

Kira Schaffer is an aerial acrobat, Rolf Reynolds plays the clown along with actor Jonathan Teague. Sechelt’s Steve Wright, a veteran of the circus, works on sound design and music. (Without giving away any surprises, there will be some interesting things done to a washing machine to turn it into a space age instrument.)

If you can’t catch their act in Porpoise Bay Park this Saturday and Sunday on the gentle, accessible trail, then you can take a journey to the cosmos next week (Aug. 21 to 23) in Gibsons along a less accessible path at the Synchronicity Festival. The festival is a funky, fun celebration of music, art, food and nature. Over the Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday, you can listen to the human jukebox or browse the pop-up shop, enjoy a libation or onsite lunch, take a workshop, make art or dance to the ongoing music. Performing bands include such variety as Five Alarm Funk and the Rakish Angles. Advance tickets and a schedule of events for the festival are at