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The Circus Project:  Getting Homeless Youth Off the Ground's video poster

"CircOddyssey," is the culmination of the Circus Project's yearlong performance workshop in circus arts for homeless and at-risk youth. Read more

Portland, OR Theater
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This project was successfully funded on October 1, 2011.

"CircOddyssey," is the culmination of the Circus Project's yearlong performance workshop in circus arts for homeless and at-risk youth.

Portland, OR Theater
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About this project

What do you get when you take a group of street kids, match them with some of the world's most accomplished coaches in aerial, acrobatic, and theatre arts, and bring them together for 9 months of intensive training to co-create an original production?  

You get a groundbreaking show that challenges our stereotypes of homeless youth and our assumptions about human potential.  On December 1, 2011, the Circus Project's Intensive Training Company will premiere their original show, CircOddyssey, at the Circus Project Community Showcase in the Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon.  

CircOddyssey is the result of a yearlong intensive training program designed specifically for homeless and at-risk youth. The purpose of the Intensive Training Company is to utilize circus arts to give homeless, underprivileged, and otherwise disengaged youth the skills and motivation to transform their lives.

Directed by Jenn Cohen and Tracy Broyles, "CircOddyssey," draws from ancient Greece with a modern spin to convey the timeless story of discovery, triumph, and homecoming.  Guest artists including NANDA will augment the showcase with epic performances.  Sliding scale ticket prices ensure equal accessibility to audience members regardless of economic status.

With your help, we can get homeless youth off of the streets and into the air! 


  • Jenn Cohen: Artistic Director, Aerial Coach

    Jenn has worked as a professional circus performer and coach for over 20 years. Her training includes: The Circus Space in London, Dell’ Arte International School of Physical Theatre, sacred clown & buffoon with Sue Morrison, and Chinese acrobatics with Master Lu Yi at the San Francisco Circus Center. Jenn has performed extensively in ensemble theaters throughout the United States, and as a solo aerial artist in Europe. She has coached children and adults in aerial and acrobatic work, from very beginners to advanced and professional students. In addition, she has worked as a choreography consultant for companies including Teatro Zin Zanni (San Francisco) and UMO Ensemble (Seattle). Jenn was a tenured instructor at the San Francisco Circus Center from 2001 to 2004. Prior to founding the Circus Project, Jenn worked with both Do Jump! and Pendulum Aerial Dance in Portland. In addition to her work with the Circus Project, Jenn hold a master’s degree in Process Oriented Psychology and worked as a therapist in the sliding scale, community clinic, River’s Way. She teaches workshops and seminars around the world for circus professionals in both choreography and coaching.

    Tracy Broyles: Assistant Director & Dance Coach

    Tracy Broyles is a teacher, dance-maker and performer. Her psychologically driven choreography often employs archetype and myth, with special attention given to intense physical dancing, visual setting and music/sound integration. As a teacher, Tracy draws on over 20 years of technical and anatomical training in movement and delivers it to clients in a relaxed and approachable manner. For over a decade, she has been training groups and individuals of all sizes, shapes and backgrounds. Tracy is a fully certified Pilates Instructor, holds a BA in Dance, and is a second degree Reiki Initiate. Additional education includes recent workshops with Robyn Avalon in the Alexander technique. For the performance and development of her work Tracy has received project grants from the Regional Arts and Culture Council (2007, 2009), a Lila Jewel Award for Women Artists (2006), and a Caldera Residency (2007) as well as being chosen to participate in the National Dance Project’s Dancelab (2006). Tracy recently attended workshops with Butoh artist Diego Pinion, and travelled to Scotland to participate in Deborah Hay's Solo Commissioning Project.

    Mizu Desierto: Theatrical Coach

    Mizu is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Portland’s Water in the Desert and the Headwaters Theatre. She is a performer, choreographer and educator whose work explores themes of personal truth, ecological sensitivity and transformation. Mizu has worked with Human Nature Dance Theatre (AZ) for 14 years and was a founding member of The Carpetbag Brigade Physical Theatre (S.F.). She has performed with Harupin-Ha Butoh (S.F.), Yoshito and Kazuo Ohno (Japan), & Diego Piñon (Mexico) and her solo work has been presented internationally. She is a frequent collaborator with Portland State University’s foremost expert on Japanese Performance, Laurenz Kominz, PhD. She has also been a recipient of grants from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Oregon’s Regional Arts & Culture Council, Oregon Arts Commission, The Multnomah County Cultural Coalition & The Oregon Cultural Trust. In 2010, she worked as a choreographer for Classic Greek Theatre of Oregon and The Circus Project. Mizu has taught butoh for over a decade and served as adjunct faculty member at Prescott College (Arizona). In July of 2011, she initiated and co-taught a course in Permaculture and Butoh at Portland State University.

    Stefan Furst: Acrobatics Coach

    Stefan's intimate knowledge of anatomy and physiology, coupled with his 30 + years of experience as an acrobatic champion and coach, have enabled him to develop a unique training methodology for partner and sports acrobatics, tailored to both children and adults, beginning through professional levels. Stefan began competing in gymnastics at an early age in Vienna, Austria, where he was born and raised. He attended the Coaching School for Gymnastics while simultaneously embarking on a carrier as a massage therapist. After competing in several National Championships as part of the Austrian National team, Stefan moved on to Sports-Acrobatics. Stefan was a National champion in men's pair and men's four, placing at many international sports-acrobatics competitions. He made it to the top twelve at World Championships (1988) in Men's Pair, after placing 6th at European championships in 1987. He is a co-founder of the Austrian Sports-Acrobatics Federation, and coached the Austrian national team from 1987-1989. His experience teaching and performing for the National Theaters in Vienna, Austria, and the ATTIC Circus School eventually led him to the field of circus arts. 
Stefan brought his acrobatic mastery to the U.S. in 1989, coaching gymnastics and sports acrobatics at Gymnastics Plus in Maryland until moving the Pacific Northwest in 1996. Currently, Stefan coaches gymnastics and acrobatics at VEGA Gymnastics (Camas, WA), Do Jump!, and the Circus Project, in addition to practicing massage therapy at Back in Motion, a chiropractic clinic in Beaverton.

    Kate Jobe: Group Therapist & Conflict Resolution Coach

    Kate is a trainer in Process Oriented Psychology and uses that work’s psycho-spiritual orientation to explore the fluid range of human experience to extend the artistic experience beyond the expected. Kate is a dancer, choreographer, artist, and Process Worker. She studied dance in New York, Seattle and St. Petersburg, Russia. She taught Modern Dance, Ballet, Improvisation, Composition, and Laban Movement Analysis at Western Washington University, Tanzwerkstatt in Zurich and The Academy of Performing Arts in Bellingham WA, to name a few. Many of her students perform in dance companies in the United States. She studied at the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movements Studies in New York and went on to teach Laban Movement Analysis at the West Coast Certification program at the University of Washington and directed and choreographed for the dance company Western Ordered and Random Movement.

    Sue Morrison: Clown Coach

    Sue Morrison has been teaching, directing and collaborating on Clown and Bouffon across the globe for more than 25 years. Her students are currently featured in Cirque de Soleil, Slava’s Snow Show, Blue Man Group, the Second City and on other international stages. Sue trained with Second City and Keith Johnstone and performed improvisation throughout Canada, and later became a Second City main stage writer/performer. On a quest ‘to work from her heart’, she met Clown Through Mask visionary, Richard Pochinko, and after studying with him for years, he chose her to become his apprentice. An accomplished Clown and Bouffon in her own right, Sue also studied and facilitated with Master Teacher, Philippe Gaulier.

Today, Morrison’s unique and powerful work brings together the diverse elements of Native American Clowning, Clown Through Mask, Bouffon, le Jeu and Improvisation, ultimately creating dynamic performance spectacles. Sue has been Artistic Director of Toronto’s Theatre Resource Centre since 1993. She has taught at the Dell’ Arte School of Physical Theatre and works regularly with the LUME company of Brazil. Recently, she has been a presenter at International Theatre Conferences in Brazil and Argentina, and the New York Clown Theatre Festival, taught in Boston, Portland Oregon, and the Escola de Clown in Barcelona, co created and directed, ‘Party of One’, and ‘Moving Target’, debuting at the NY Clown Theatre Festival and she is working on a book on clown. Sue is increasingly sought after as a director and co-creator both in Canada and Internationally, and her work is the focus of several documentaries. Her clown shows have risen to the top of the festival scene and have been produced in theatres around the world.

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  • Cirque du Soleil, the Regional Arts & Culture Council, the Templeton Foundation, Oregon Arts Commission, and the National Endowment of the Arts have all given generous grants to support the Circus Project in 2011.

    As of August 2011, our beloved CircOddyssey sponsors include: the Heathman Hotel in Portland, New Seasons, Bank of the Cascades, SellerEngine Software, and SCi 3.2.

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  • "The Circus Project has been THE turning point in my life. It gave me a sense of hope and purpose and wonder again. I've turned everything around in a matter of months - I moved inside for the first time in four years, I quit drinking, I'm quitting smoking. My body is the thing I always felt trapped in. But through the Circus Project, I've learned a new freedom with my body. When I'm on the trapeze, it's the place where all my scattered pieces come together - it's the meeting place of body, mind, and spirit."

    - Jess Coshatt, 2011 Training Company Member

    “I’m grateful to the circus project for igniting a passion in me that I didn’t know I had. Giving me hope for a future better than the streets”.

    - Josh Davis, Drop-In Student, 2010

    “This is my second little family… it’s like I found my little spot in the world – that one spot that makes sense, especially when I’m upside down - that’s when the world makes sense.”

    - Aaron Guerrero, 2010 Graduate

    “At the very least, we've found a productive outlet that is making us into people we never thought we could be. We've grown out of that puny young adult with serious problems mold; we're new and improved... and we're seriously buff.”

    – Petra Delarocha, 2009 Graduate

    “The Circus Project made me who I want to be – which is not to say that I always wanted to be a trapeze artist, but I always wanted to be strong, I wanted to be really capable – and all those qualities are qualities that I got by joining the circus.”

    - Kole Render, 2009 Graduate

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  • “The combination of guts, ambition, and physical strength is entirely real and also perfectly magical.”

    – the Oregonian, 2010

    "The Circus Project is... the light at the end of the tunnel."

    - Just Out, 2010

    "All is takes is one good idea to get something off the ground, and in Cohen's case, it sent kids flying through the air on trapezes... without this kind of crazy, Portland would be a far drearier place."

    - Willamette Week, 2009

    "An outstanding display of talent, hard work, and breathtaking aerial artistry."

    - The Flourish Flash, 2009

    "This program is literally changing people’s lives; making them strong again, both emotionally and physically. [And] it’s not just trapeze work – this is artistic what they’re doing”.

    - Koin 6, Keep it Local, 2009

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  • Your donations enable us to provide elite training to youth in need, free of cost, and sliding-scale tickets for community members who could not otherwise afford to see live theatre by contributing to the following costs:

    •Aerial & Acrobatic Coaches

    •Rehearsal Space



    •Venue rental

    •Sound & lighting

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  • Our ability to contribute to the growing field of circus arts and transform the lives of youth in need depends upon the generosity of friends like you.

    Support the Circus Project through one or more activities:


    Take a class. We offer aerial and acrobatic training for kids & adults seeking an alternative workout and those interested in pursing a professional track in Portland, Oregon.

    Book an Event:

    Our professional troupe performs at public and private events for businesses, nonprofits, and individuals looking to inspire their audience around the world.


    Cash and in-kind donations support outreach to 150 – 200 marginalized youth per year, ages 6-24.


    Your help in our office, studio, or at shows, makes a huge impact on the lives of our participants – plus, the personal gratification is priceless.

    The Circus Project is currently seeking volunteers, board members, and additonal corporate sponsors and grant opportunities. Please contact to find out how you can get involved!

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  • Youth Outreach

    The Circus Project runs the only pre-professional circus training program in the country, specifically designed to meet the needs of homeless and at-risk youth, and partners with other nonprofits serving similar demographics to offer free classes in circus arts with a therapeutic approach. By offering three levels of engagement - drop-in classes, open gym sessions, and an intensive training company - we are uniquely positioned to serve the diverse spectrum of therapeutic needs and physical abilities within the population of homeless and at-risk youth.

    Classes & Workshops

    The Circus Project offers elite aerial, acrobatic, and performance training for children and adults, beginning through professional levels. We specialize in modern, theatrical circus, which integrates elements of circus, theatre, music, and dance. In addition to small group classes, we offer private instruction, corporate team building workshops, and performance opportunities for students of all ages and abilities.

    Performance Troupe

    The Circus Project Performance Troupe blurs the distinction between tent and stage by infusing circus arts with the artistry of dance and the character-driven, emotionally riveting aspects of theatre. We integrate the newest developments in European and Canadian circus with a distinctly American perspective to create shows that are technically superb, emotionally stirring, and that strengthen a sense of community amongst performers and audiences.

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  • Founded in 2008, the Circus Project was created with the mission of empowering homeless and at-risk youth and young adults - physically, mentally, and emotionally - through the development of highly skilled circus and theatrical performances. We believed that the unique appeal of circus arts would benefit homeless and at-risk youth in unprecedented ways - and that they in turn, would propel the growing field of new circus arts, with their unique perspectives and fervent passion, to new heights.

    The Circus Project has since provided over 400 homeless and at-risk youth with no cost training in circus arts through our drop-in program, which emphasizes personal development, interpersonal, and career skills. The Circus Project has provided scholarships valued at over $186,816 in professional aerial and theatrical training to 18 qualifying youths and young adults in our Intensive Training Company, a yearlong, pre-professional performance workshop.

    In 2009, the Circus Project expanded our outreach to include classes available to the general public and created a Professional Performance Troupe which offers paid performance jobs to graduates of our training programs as well as established performers who support our mission. The Circus Project Performance Troupe has since appeared at the Portland Rose Festival with a three-week run of our original show, “Duende,” Friendly House’s, “Swing into Spring” Benefit, MercyCorps NW, the WVDO Crystal Awards Ceremony, Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon, Northwest Business Council for the Arts, “Breakfast of Champions,” P:earBlossoms, “Light,” the Seattle Moisture Festival, Bradley Angle’s, “Cirque des Courageuses,” and three sold-out benefit shows including “Animare,” and most recently, the Dinner-Circus Extravaganza, “Indulge.”

    In less than four years, the Circus Project has established itself as one of the premiere performance companies and circus training programs in Portland, bringing in internationally acclaimed guest artists, creating new opportunities for collaboration with local performance companies, and running the only circus training company designed for homeless youth in the country.

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  • Tickets to our Community Showcase performance of CircOddyssey on December 1 can be purchased online at:

    Tickets to our Benefit Performance of CircOddyssey on December 2 can be purchased on our website:

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    Our deepest gratitude and the opportunity to be a part of a truly life-changing project.

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    The above, plus a special thank you letter with original art from the members of the 2011 Intensive Training Company and the stars of CircOddyssey.

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    All of the above plus 2 tickets to the Circus Project Community Showcase performance of CircOddyssey on December 1 at the Portland Art Museum.

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    All of the above, plus a copy of the 2011 benefit performance poster for CircOddyssey, autographed by the 2011 Training Company members and Circus Project Director, Jenn Cohen.

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    All of the above, plus a DVD of CircOddyssey, including a question & answer session with the 2011 Training Company.

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    All of the above, plus a backstage rehearsal tour of the making of CircOddyssey in Portland, Oregon.

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    All of the above, plus a hard copy of a Circus Project Memoire, created by a Circus Project Training Company member and Legacy Preservation Society, with an autographed thank you note from the Training Company author.

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    All of the above plus a two hour private aerial class at the Circus Project for up to 5 people (ages 6 - 100) at the Circus Project's training space in Portland, Oregon.

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    All of the above plus 2 tickets to the 2011 benefit performance of CircOddyssey on December 2, 2011, complete with a 3 course dinner and silent & live auction.

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    All of the above plus a table for 10 at the 2011 benefit performance of CircOddyssey on December 2, 2011, complete with a 3 course dinner and silent and live auction.

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Funding period

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