Festival Show Update: THE CIRCUS IN WINTER

This month, we check in with Ben Clark, composer and lyricist of 2012 Festival show The Circus in Winter, as he prepares for its premiere this October at Goodspeed Musicals. 

Meeting an elephant can change a man’s life. The Circus in Winter is a folk/rock musical inspired by the novel by Cathy Day, where legend and lore collide under the big top filled with disheveled hustlers, death-defying acrobats and a dreamer named Wallace Porter searching for redemption and grace. 
A lot has been happening with the show since it was in the Festival. The biggest change is that Hunter Foster (Summer of ’42, Fest ’99) has joined the team as a bookwriter. Why did you bring on a bookwriter and what drew you and the rest of the team to Hunter?
Bringing Hunter on is a huge plus for us. We chose Hunter because we feel he can take the feel and spirit of the score, as well as the language of the source material, to give the piece a unified voice. Within the conversations about our first professional run, he agreed with a lot of feelings we had moving forward in regards to creative team, and was able to open some doors to benefit our creative process.

You’ve also made some changes to the score and story. What changes are you most excited about?
Generally, we’re trying see how thick we can make this story. We don’t want to overload, but experimenting with multiple time frames, seeing the characters in many different lenses is what we’re going for now. We really want the music and scene work to flow, we want the numbers to emerge organically from the action on stage.

You are preparing for a world premiere up at Goodspeed this fall. What are your goals for this production?
The goal, in my mind, is to use the environment at Goodspeed to experiment with, and shape our story. I think actors influence writing in a wonderful way; I start writing with my cast in mind when I have one so I’m excited for those new discoveries. In what little casting we’ve looked at, the possibilities are wide open to use individual strengths to the advantage of the entire show.

What is one thing that you have cut from the show that you miss? 
We’ve yet to cut anything solidly, just exploring options in storytelling. So, no tears yet.

Why should people swing by Connecticut this fall to check out the circus? 
Because tickets are going fast, and it’s going to be too cool for school. An elephant in a folk rock musical in the 1800’s sounds pretty cool in my mind. Personally, I’ve yet to work on any artistic endeavor with the passion I’ve put into this project. It started as a project in class for me and fourteen others, and turned into the launch pad for my career in composition. In my mind, it ensures that art is a study, young artists are doing legitimate work and this needs to be a part of education in this country.

For more information about The Circus in Winter, please visit 

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