Ingenuity: The tale of the Midnight Circus and its creators


Jeff Jenkins in a 1990s performance


Julie Greenberg also from an early production

Behind the ingenuity, generosity and community building participation of the Circus in the Parks are two people..the actress and the clown. It began in 1995. Julie Greenberg was doing Shakespearean roles on stage and Jeff Jenkins was fresh off the road with the Ringling Brothers Circus.

They wanted to do more intimate venues that blended their individual expertise. While touring with some circuses with a five-minute-act that they created, they met and apprenticed with two former stars of The Moscow Circus. They discovered that they all shared similar ideas and plans for future eclectic acts.


Julie and Jeff are in lower middle during the first "Midnight Circus: When Circus and Theater Collide!"

Their return to Chicago did not, however, culminate in matching a theater company with their vision of meshing traditional theater with circus arts. So, being true entrepreneurs, they created their own show The Midnight Circus: When Circus and Theater Collide! And so, it began.

Opened in January of 1997, in the National Pastime Theater, a tiny Chicago theater on north Broadway, it was a smash hit. After ten weeks of sold out performances, they moved to the Ivanhoe Theatre where it had a year long run. Selected to be part of the "Best of the Year" season at Theatre on the Lake, the show was then licensed to The Big Apple Circus for a three-year national tour.

For three months in 1998 on the Chicago Museum Campus under canvas, The Midnight Circus performed five shows daily with their original The Big Bang and Other Amazing Adventures! The following year their All the World's a Stage! featured William Shakespeare as their ringmaster. It debuted at the Theatre on the Lake and went on to runs at the Ivanhoe Theater and The North Shore Centre for Performing Arts.


Julie jumps rope with the Chicago Boyz

Europe was their next destination where, in February 2000, they were featured performers in the Carnevale 2000 in Venice, Italy. During Carnevale 2001 in the Spiegel Tent in Campo San Polo, they presented The Dream of the Road and were featured daily on the Carnevale main stage.


Jeff puts Junebug thru her paces

The size of The Midnight Circus production ramped up in May 2001 with The Flower Thieves, a rock and roll circus fable. It required a live seven-piece band and fourteen acrobats telling their story in song and dance with people flying through the air. The Metropolis Theater center and the Beverly Arts Center had the show in 2002 and 2003 respectively.

Soul Sonic Circus debuted in 2004 at the Moers Jazz Festival in Germany, a collaboration of The Midnight Circus and creative jazz musicians. A completely improvised theatrical circus and music explosion, it included eighteen musicians including Mars Williams(Liquid Soul, Psychedelic Furs, The Waitresses), Wayne Kramer (MC5), Rob Wasserman (Rat Dog), Hamid Drake, DJ Logic, and many more.

Cabaret Diva and actress Alexandra Billings, jazz hip-hop pioneers Mars Williams and Liquid Soul and the full company of eclectic acrobats and actors of The Midnight Circus took to the Northlight Theatre stage for the world premiere of Stilettos, Circus, & Soul. Critically acclaimed and award winning, it performed to sold out houses.


Max, age 5, in Holstein Park

The next generation of the Jenkins troupe arrived and was named Max. As he turned one and sister Samantha was about to debut, the need for funds for the playground at Welles Park, their local park, became known.

Now of course, there is the Circus in the Parks.

Their client list is long and varied but training the next generation is of high importance to them. Through their work with Gallery 37, The Chicago Public Schools, The Chicago Park District, Chicago Boyz Acrobatic Team, and Circus Smirkus, The Midnight Circus uses the arts of circus and clowning to develop discipline and self-esteem in children between four and nineteen.

On behalf of many Chicago communities, we thank Julie and Jeff and all their many friends and performers which includes their rescued pit bull, Junebug.

Share your experiences with Julie and Jeff and the whole Midnight Circus troupe below.



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