A ‘magical moment’

Cinema Circus returns with a new ringmaster who is ready for a fun-filled summer.


The M.V. Film Festival/Circuit Arts’ Cinema Circus is finally back this year, after a two-year hiatus due to the ongoing pandemic. The program is a free, educational event on the Island for families and children of all ages, with a new ringmaster who is looking forward to a summer of circus fun. 

Jenna Robichau, education director at TMVFF, is the new ringmaster this season, and is bringing a new twist. During the pandemic, the previous ringmaster put the circus on hold, and although It has been a few years since the last performance, Robichau is looking toward the Island community to help her bring back the beloved circus and all of the characters — from Roary the Lion to Ellie the Elephant. Robichau explained, “We really wanted to bring everyone together in this community-building experience to help us create Cinema Circus. We are in a new location, and it’s a new ringmaster. We want to build new memories.” A new generation of kids will be enjoying the circus this summer, and Robichau stated that she wants the theme of rebuilding her lost circus to be interactive, inviting, and fun. The kids will be involved in building the characters, as well as the look and feel of the circus. 

The afternoon is full of exciting events. The first hour includes different filmmaking activities. Kids will be able to use a green screen, use an animation station, and walk around with cameras and microphones, interviewing folks with questions provided by the circus crew. There are educational filmmaking activities each week, including arts and crafts tables, coloring, puppet making, and face painting. The circus-specific activities include plate spinning, scarf juggling, bubble wands, and more. There is popcorn to munch on, and many other yummy treats. Robichau will be running around during this time, spreading joy and entertainment to all. The show will begin on the first floor of the Grange Hall, with everyone in attendance gathering to watch. Look out for the lucky circusgoers who get called up to perform, as new characters join the circus this season and old ones are welcomed back with open arms. 

Following the performance, the ringmaster will parade the kids to the movie theater upstairs for a showing of short kids’ films. Robichau says, “We are stopping and we are talking about what we see, what it made us feel, what we wanted to happen, and what didn’t happen.” This experience is meant to be exciting and whimsical, but it also allows the kids to learn fundamental film education. 

The first Cinema Circus took place on Wednesday, July 13. Brian Ditchfield — artistic and executive director at TMVFF, and the previous ringmaster — was in the performance to pass the reins to Robichau. “It is nice to be able to have Brian there and his expertise, and hand off to us as we build this new circus,” Robichau stated.

Cinema Circus is around 14 years old, and has passed hands many times. Between directors Brian Ditchfield, Sasha London Thompson, and Lindsey Scott, the circus has changed throughout the years. Robichau shared that the previous directors, Ben Durell, who built the famous and beloved Ellie the Elephant puppet, and Scott Barrow, who was the squaremaster for many years, have been wonderful in providing support for the new generation. “It feels really lovely, and all of them have been so supportive. It is nice to have the support of the legacy of creators behind us helping us to pull it off this year,” she continued. 

Robichau is excited to continue old traditions and create those of her own. “What I think is really lovely about the program is that it has always been run by parents with young children, and I am the new generation.” With her son turning 2 in September, and being able to work alongside her husband, John Robichau, managing director of TMVFF, she is excited to be a part of the tradition that creates theater and experiences for this new age of children and their families, especially because there are not many opportunities like this for families with kids under 5, Robichau said. 

Cinema Circus is a culmination of arts, performances, and education, and Robichau expressed, “It is this educational experience. We are working with young children to learn how to consume media. We don’t want viewers who just watch something because it is on a screen. We want them to think about what they are watching. We want them to understand what it means to make a movie.” 

Through all of the magic and the fun that is the circus, the crew is trying to create informed and responsible viewers in an interactive, hands-on way. “Being able to get down and talk with kids one on one and welcome them to the magical circus is my favorite thing to do,” Robichau shared. 

With something for everyone “aged 0 to 100,” Robichau said, Cinema Circus allows the kids to run around, play, and learn, while the families can join in or sit back and relax. If you see Roary or Ellie galloping or stomping around the Grange, be sure to give them a wave and a big smile, welcoming them back to the Island community. 

Cinema Circus is located at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury, on Wednesdays from 4 to 6 pm. For more information, email info@tmvff.org, or call 508-560-2134.