Anthony Calcari is looking forward to playing a role in Illinois State University history this week as he takes the stage alongside more than 100 other student performers involved in the oldest collegiate circus in North America.
This year’s Gamma Phi Circus presentation has the theme “CELEBRATION! 90 Years of Circus.” Calcari said attendees should be prepared for a remarkable experience.
“Just get ready for honestly one of the most amazing shows you’ll ever see,” he said while inviting people to attend one of three performances by ISU’s renowned circus program. Shows will be in Redbird Arena at 7 p.m. Friday, April 12, and at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, April 13.
This is the junior business student’s first year performing with Gamma Phi Circus.
“Gamma Phi was one of the reasons I actually wanted to come to ISU. I didn’t know there was a circus until my preview day. Starting out at ISU, I really wanted to be a part of the organization, but due to sports and my scholarships I wasn’t able to have the time for it,” shared the junior before explaining that this year’s intensive practice schedule for the circus meshed well with his other commitments.
“Getting involved with it this year I knew it was kind of late, but I’m so glad I got involved with it. I made a lot of new friends and got a part in this great community and organization. They welcomed me with open arms and made me a part of this family,” he said.
Noting that circus skills are not a prerequisite to participate, he explained how he developed the wide range of abilities required for his three acts as part of the rigorous Gamma Phi training process. The Russian Bar act will spotlight his strength, while acrobatics and balance play a role in Bike Built for Ten. He gets to use improv skills as one of the circus clowns.
“All three of the acts I’ve worked so hard for over the course of the year that I’m just so happy to see where I’ve grown and where the act has grown as a whole. I’m going to feel amazing doing it,” he said.
When not performing one of his acts, Calcari assists with stage crew.
“Even if you’re not part of a specific act doing something, you’re still a part of what makes that act good for the audience and good for entertainment. It all just brings us closer together in that way,” he said.
Calcari shared his involvement in Gamma Phi has been “a life-changing experience,” but it has not been without its challenges — the biggest of which is “constantly, constantly working.” He explained how the stunts require physical as well as mental preparation and spoke about how he spent some time in physical therapy due to an injury sustained during practice. He also admitted juggling the time commitment required to be in the circus can be a challenge.
“I’m a game day operation intern for ISU athletics and a student-athlete,” said Calcari. “Basically on the days I don’t do circus, I’m either working, practicing for sports, in the gym doing training and also doing my major as a junior, so it gets pretty hectic. But circus is a big thing I didn’t want to give up.”
He expressed appreciation for the support he has received from his fellow performers.
“They’re just like a big family, so no matter how exhausting life gets, they’re always there,” he said. “That was a big reason I joined. I had this great community to back me up.”
At first glance, performing with the circus may appear to be an odd choice for an integrated marketing communication major, but Calcari noted the decision to participate has been beneficial on several fronts.
“Even though (joining a circus) is not something I would do in my future, it’s still something that will be memorable throughout my adult years,” he said. “Going through circus actually gave me a lot of creative aspects that I can use throughout my major. For me, I’m going into the career of sports operation/sports management because (being an athlete) has been a huge part of my life. Circus doesn’t just allow me to still work on becoming an athlete, but it also gives me that mindset of helping an organization succeed in front of a crowd like most sports organizations do.”
He also noted Gamma Phi has given him unique perspectives he may be able to use to help a sports organization stand out and draw crowds in his future career. The upcoming event is something he is proud to show his family and said he is particularly excited about the show for kids. He is looking forward to seeing “all the smiling faces and creating these memorable experiences for these families.”
“There is so much to look forward to. This is such a great show,” Calcari said. “If you want to see something not only that you’ve never seen before but something that will be memorable for the rest of your life, I would say go to the Gamma Phi Circus shows.”