Originally published January 9, 2016 in The Marietta Times

by Janelle Patterson, Marietta Times

With aerial acrobatics, contortion, juggling and magic, “Cirque-tacular’s World: European Edition” rang in a new era of professional performance and entertainment in Marietta Friday.

As the opening show of the newly resurrected Peoples Bank Theatre on Putnam Street welcomed more than 900 new patrons, local magician Steve Dixon, 57, of Marietta, captured exclamations with card tricks and slights of hand as people waited to be seated.

“I’m creating magic history as the first magician performing on a historic night in a historic theater,” he said as he shocked visitors and volunteers alike. “What a wonderful experience this is to be here and have such a night.”

“I think it’s really cool,” she said. “I have no idea how he did that.”

That awe was merely a precursor to the main event, one for which families, couples and friends all made their way to the theater.

Adele McCombs, 6, of Marietta, said her favorite part of the night was when she was pulled onto the stage by the writer, emcee and magician of Cirque-tacular, Eric Walton, 45, of New York City, for a special trick.

“He pulled the rope through him,” exclaimed McCombs. “It was behind him but then it was in front. I don’t know how it got in his pants.”

Walton said he hoped the audience walked away not only amazed and enthralled but also having learned a smidgen of the historic influences of European cultures to the art of circus performance.

“It’s a global idea that we had to really showcase the heritages and cultures of the world through circus and pay tribute or homage to their contributions,” said Walton.

Also the emcee and a magician in the show, Walton introduced each act with a glance into the European influence.

One other local resident to make his debut that night was Jerry Brock, 77, of Marietta.

“It’s fun,” he said following his part in a magic trick where Walton guessed the location and face of a coin in the hands of five participants.

Brock said the most intriguing piece of the night though was when Jared Rydelek, 30, of New York City, contorted his body into impossible positions.

“I thought it was unbelievable,” he said as he laughed.

Owner of the company and lead acrobat in the show, Tad Emptage, 39, of New York City, spoke before the show about how each piece was conceptualized.

“We start with the performers and try to figure out how we can showcase the things that individual can do through our concept or theme,” he said. “After the concept, it’s written, then the designers build the costumes and I figure out the music and choreography, we rehearse and it all comes together into something I hope the audience enjoys and maybe learns something in a quirky way.”

Emptage and Walton said they both felt honored to be the first to perform on a stage that has been vacant for 30 years.

“What’s beautiful about this is the culmination for those especially around my age, we were the ones who really grew up as the digital age was born and evolved,” said Emptage. “We saw that divide in people as the stage was vacated but now we’re here to bring it back, to bring people back together and enjoy the experience of a live show.”

The pair were joined by fellow performers all living in New York City; Aaron Bonventre, 42, Jared Rydelek, 30, Ellie Steingraeber, 31, and Kelsey Strauch, 33.

Drew Tanner, marketing director for the theater, said having the circus performance on the new stage allowed the theater to showcase all it has to offer both performers and patrons.

“This show is a really cool one to start with because it’s using so much of our stage’s rigging capability,” he said. “What a way to start the season.”