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West End youth star in Circus Junventas’s “Excalibur”

by Damian Goebel
Three West End residents, Rosie Mickelson (17), Ariana Forsland (16) and Gwendolyn Forsland (16) are set to star in Circus Juventas’ summer production of “Excalibur,”  from July 28 to August 13. 
The production interprets Arthurian legends, with all of its intrigue, romance, chivalrous knights and betrayal. The trio of West Enders are some of the most committed, highly advanced young artists in the troupe.
Rosie Mickelson, a student at the Academy for Science and Agriculture, said she cannot wait to showcase her talent in her first summer production. Mickelson specializes in the Russian swing, used to launch performers into  acrobatic flight, the mini vault and the wall trampoline. 
Sisters Ariana and Gwendolyn Forsland, both 16 of the St. Paul Conservatory for Arts, joined the circus for different reasons. Ariana, who has been with Circus Juventas for eight years, said that, after seeing her first show, she knew she wanted to be an inspiration to other kids. 
“I wanted to be one of the performers on stage with little kids looking up to me,” she said.
Gwendolyn, on the other hand, said that she wanted to be involved to improve her flexibility and to tell people that she was in the circus.
“I stayed because of the community here. If you want to join, the community is one of the best things here,” she said.
Ariana will showcase her skills on the Spanish web, straps and dance while Gwendolyn will be performing dance, contortion and theater scenes in this year’s show.
The production itself promises to be a spectacle. 
Telling the story of a magical quest for peace throughout Medieval London, “Excalibur” is the story of one unsuspecting boy destined to become the once and future king. 
“We will have knights jousting on horses created by puppet artist Christopher Lutter-Gardella, along with dragons and a floating boat transporting Lady of the Lake as she delivers the sword, Excalibur, to Arthur,” said Betty Butler, Circus Juventas Co-founder, and artistic director. “We imagine the medieval forests surrounding Merlin’s cottage may feel so real, people will be reaching for their sweaters to ward off the chill.”
     This year’s production will feature new acts such as fire foot archery and flying pole, as well as old favorites like a dragon-fitted Russian Cradle, duo Russian Swing and stage combat. Rehearsals and special training started last fall, with more than 65 performers rehearsing long, dedicated hours to perfect their acts in preparation for the three-week-long show run.
“We will be showcasing new thrills as our audiences have come to expect from our summer show blockbusters,” said Dan Butler, Circus Juventas co-founder and executive director of Circus Juventas, a 29-year-old nonprofit, is the largest youth performing arts circus school in North America. The year-round program serves more than 2,500 children and youth with a diverse array of circus arts training and performance opportunities in a non-competitive setting. 
Circus Juventas presents “Excalibur” 
July 28 – August 13. Tickets: $25 – $50
Children ages 2 and under on an adult’s lap are free.
Shows are at 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. and are three hours in length, including a 30-minute intermission.  Learn more, check times and purchase tickets at

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