The Zoppé Family Circus has been entertaining audiences around the world for 175 years. But Tosca Zoppé and her husband, Jay Walther, find comfort in coming to Chandler each holiday season.
“It’s our favorite spot,” Zoppé says. “We’ve been coming there for so long that we feel like we’re part of the community.
“We usually come in around the 20th. We get the tent and everything set up. On Christmas Eve, we decorate the tree in the center of the ring. We hang stockings in the tent, then we have a big Christmas dinner in the circus tent.”
Zoppé: An Italian Family Circus returns to its 500-seat tent on the Chandler Center for the Arts’ lawn Wednesday, December 27, to Sunday, December 31, and Tuesday, January 2, to Sunday, January 7.
The circus was founded in 1842 in Budapest, Hungary, when French street performer Napoline Zoppé wandered into a plaza, where he met an equestrian ballerina, Ermenegilda. The two ran away to Venice Italy and founded the circus.
Starring Nino the clown, the circus is propelled by a central story that features acrobatic feats, equestrian showmanship, canine capers, clowning and audience participation. Nino is played by Giovanni Zoppé, a sixth-generation circus performer.
Giovanni is returning, as is Tosca, an equestrian performer, while Walther is Papino, the white-faced clown. New this year is Chiques Sanchez, a bicyclist in a vintage act called the Black Hole.
“It’s a bottomless cone, basically, made out of wood,” Zoppé says. “One of our artists, Chiques, starts riding the bicycle, circles it and is then lifted into the air. That’s a really interesting act we have this year.
“We also have Owen Sanchez, doing a hand-balancing act, and a beautiful artist, Elena Sanders, who does a strap act, an aerial act. She has a strap on each arm and circles the tent.”
The Zoppés love to share the family’s tradition.
“It’s our life,” she says. “It’s our heritage. It’s who we are. It’s just embedded in us. We love our tradition and we’re grateful that we can share it with everyone else.
“Being able to talk in that ring and know that our ancestors did the same thing we’re doing is something to be really proud of.”
Zoppé: An Italian Family Circus, Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Avenue, Chandler, 480.782.2680, chandlercenter.org, various times Wednesday, December 27, to Sunday, December 31, and Tuesday, January 2, to Sunday, January 7, $15-$40.