Midnight Circus in the Parks performers. Credit: Provided

CHICAGO — Post-pandemic, many performing arts groups are paring down. Last month, the Lookingglass Theater announced it was pausing productions for a year and laying off staff, and other performance companies have made similar cutbacks.

Fans of Chicago’s Midnight Circus In The Parks may have been hopefully watching for date announcements for the 2023 circus season, as it usually holds performances throughout September and October. 

But Thursday, Midnight Circus founders Jeff and Julie Jenkins announced they were joining this unfortunate theatric trend, telling subscribers in an email “it is with a heavy heart that we announce we will not be able to produce a full-scale, city-wide Midnight Circus in the Parks Tour for the 2023 season.“

In previous years, the acrobatic, inventive, and mostly animal-free circus — save for a few extremely talented rescued pit bulls that are the Jenkins family pets — travelled around to different parks within the Chicago Park District system, aided by a multitude of volunteers. It starred a tight-knit group of aerial-dancing, tightrope-walking and bowling-pin-juggling performers.

Over the years, ticket sales have raised nearly $2 million for “community groups, play-lot renovations, and park programs,” according to the Midnight Circus website. The group, founded in 2007 by the Jenkins, was also able to offer free performances and benefits for various communities across the city. Their two children, Maxwell and Samantha, performed in the circus, too.

Even during COVID, Midnight Circus got rid of its big top to be able to offer open-air performances to live-performance-starved local crowds.

But now, the founders said in a statement, “Regretfully, our ability to defy gravity while battling bureaucracy has proved to be our toughest challenge yet. We are facing a post-pandemic shift in how Midnight Circus is supported, funded, and allowed to operate in Chicago.”

Fortunately for fans of this much-anticipated annual tour, which features astounding acrobatic and musical performances to the delight of all ages, all may not be lost in the Midnight Circus world. The statement, which is also available on the Midnight Circus website, concludes with a call for donations and a promise that “an official announcement outlining our 2023 program” will come next week.

“We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the communities we have served since 2007,” Julie Jenkins told Block Club Chicago. “This is a difficult time for all arts organizations and we are currently figuring out what is possible for Midnight Circus in 2023 and look forward to updating everyone within the next week.”

That announcement could include at least a few pared-down performances for longtime fans of the Midnight Circus’ acrobatic artistry and end-of-summer fun.


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Arts & Culture Editor Twitter @gwenemarie