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COURTESY OF UMBRELLA FESTIVAL - The fourth annual Umbrella Festival of circus, comedy and vaudeville acts features the likes of Rubberboy Daniel Browning Smith, April 2-5 at Alberta Rose Theatre.The Umbrella Festival, now in its fourth year, was created to allow the circus, comedy and vaudeville acts among us to find employment and to show off their unique talents, says co-director Noah Mickens.


After all, what better venue for Portland’s David Lichtenstein to twirl a rope of beer cans and “Rubberboy” Daniel Browning Smith to turn himself into a pretzel for our enjoyment?

“There’s such a huge renaissance in the circus arts, but there’s a lack of solid paying high-profile gigs that you can offer to the people,” says Mickens, who heads the accompanying 10-piece Wanderlust Circus Orchestra. “You can sign up to do a big show in Las Vegas or tour or fend for yourself. We’re trying to create this infrastructure to show off their incredible skills. I’ve encountered so many wonderful artists over the years. There’s so much wonderful talent and innovation happening in this field.”

The Umbrella Festival wants to continue to associate itself with the more famous Moisture Festival in Seattle, and a soon-to-be-inaugurated event in San Francisco, and be a pillar for such entertainment on the West Coast. Mickens says bringing in Lichtenstein, aka Leapin’ Louie, to serve as co-director has helped attract other acts.

The festival takes place Thursday through Sunday, April 2-5, at Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 N.E. Alberta St. (http://www.albertarosetheatre.com). Lichtenstein helps start things on Thursday night (the show starts at 8 p.m.) with his roping, riding (unicycle) and joking. He agrees: The more acts and more events, the better.

“It’s a worldwide movement, and there’s no agreement on whether circus or physical comedy or vaudeville is at the center of it,” Lichtenstein says. “People usually say circus. So, we call it circus and comedy.

“There are hundreds of big festivals in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, a fair amount in South America. That’s why I travel all over the world. Now they’re popping up here. The big one is the (concurrent) Moisture Festival in Seattle, and most of the top headliners that Moisture Festival flew in we transport from Seattle to Portland.”

The Rubberboy, tabbed as the world’s most flexible man by the Guinness World Records, recently moved to Portland, Lichtenstein says. “He’s an old friend,” he says. “I did a national tour with Brooks and Dunn with him about eight years ago, and his career was exploding. It was almost annoying being with him,” because of the fame.

Rubberboy still commutes to Los Angeles to do the TV show “Stan Lee’s Superhumans.”

He’ll entertain the masses on Thursday, as will Artis the Spoonman, legendary Seattle spoons virtuoso.

There’ll be nine traveling circus troupes, five bands and four performers who used to be in Cirque du Soleil: juggler Patrick McGuire (Friday), juggler/physical comedian Steven Ragatz (Saturday night), cellist/singer Ashia Bison Rouge (Sunday night) and jump roper Rene Bibaud (Sunday afternoon).

Another top act is martial arts acrobats Nanda (Sunday night), a four-man acrobatic ninja theater troupe.

He says that Brittany Walsh (Friday, Saturday matinee), hand-balancer and contortionist, shouldn’t be missed. A Saturday matinee features Girl Circus, a 40-person troupe from Eugene, including Walsh. “I saw their production at another festival and loved it so much that I invited them to bring the whole show,” Mickens says. “Their entire show is themed on witches, a witch-based show (with aerial dance, acrobatics, contortion, juggling, dance), not only for mythological and folklore, but as an empowered female architect.”

The schedule and theme:

• 8 p.m. Thursday, “Strike up the band” — Rubberboy, Leapin’ Louie, Artis the Spoonman, The Wanderlust Circus, Rosecity Acro Devils (acrobats), Shoehorn (tap-dancing saxophone maestro), Indigo Sky (hula hoop), Zenith (flow artist, fire dancer).

• 8 p.m. Friday, “Bring on the dancers” — McGuire, Night Flight (aerial innovators), Michael Trautman (mime, magician), Tempos (acrobatic dance ensemble), Walsh, Pink Lady and the John Bennett Jazz Band (vintage swing music).

• 3 p.m. Saturday, Girl Circus matinee — Girl Circus, starring Walsh, Aliza Wise (silks, contortion), Shireen Press (poi, acro) and Morgan Goldberg (object manipulation).

• 8 p.m. Saturday, Dirty Cabaret adult show — Burlesque, drag, bawdy comedy and adult circus with Ecdysiast pole dance studio (pole dance prodigies), Ragatz, Artemis Chase (avant-garde outlaw), Layne Fawkes (mistress of mournography), The Deadlurk Dollymops (sideshow sweathearts, living cartoons), Vera Mysteria (burlesque) and Ochestra L’Pow (music).

• 3 p.m. Sunday, Family Vaudeville matinee — Company Cirque En Deroute (circus trio), Bibaud, Jeff Evans (magic), Trautman, Stefano Iaboni (physical comedy).

• 8 p.m. Sunday, Grand Finale — Nanda, Cirque En Deroute, Evans, The Smut City Jellyroll Society (music).

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