true tales from the clown in charge

The Circus Freaks Blog


The Creatives

Recently I was invited by Dallas photographer Kent Barker to become a part of his personal project, a photo series called called The Creatives, which he describes as…

…an aesthetic document of a wide swath of creative people within the DFW metroplex.

It’s a fascinating look at both his amazing work, and how people can play together at the highest level in order to create something wonderful.

It was an absolute pleasure to spend a rainy afternoon with Kent, swapping stories and making silly faces for his lens. Here’s his final selection from the shoot, which will soon be gorgeously printed and join the other Creatives in his collection.

"The Creatives: Russ Sharek" photo by Kent Barker

Texas Furry Fiesta 2017

Texas Furry Fiesta 2017

The troupe and I will be teaching and performing all weekend at Texas Furry Fiesta!

Friday, March 24


Saturday, March 25

4:30pm – WORKSHOP: THE DROP-STUFF ACADEMY – Circus Arts For Beginners

Sunday, March 26

4:30pm – The Circus Freaks’ Great Big Really Awesome Circus Show Involving Surprisingly Few Freaks

For more information:

The Clown (and then) Gym

Starting next week, we’re moving our “Clown Gym” open practice sessions to an exciting new location!

More on that development in a couple of paragraphs…

Last night we took down the ropes and packed away our final night at Valley View Center. We’ve been a proud part of the Gallery at Midtown project for more than four years, and we’re incredibly grateful for the stable home they’ve provided for us. We’ve used the time well to evolve our skills, troupe, and community in ways I never dreamed possible.

I have to personally thank all of the artists there for tolerating our shenanigans, and especially Doug and Kiki Winters for convincing me to bring Circus Freaks to become a part of the vibrant madness they created in that space.

Their completely insane idea of using a mall this way thrived for a long while, and for our part in the aforementioned insanty we trained a circus. Right there, in the middle of an art gallery embedded in the heart of a dying shopping mall with an audience of people riding escalators on their way to the movies. That unforgiving tile floor, and the unforgiving concrete below it, knows every mistake we made while learning to be the performers we are now.

And I feel ridiculously lucky to have had a safe place to fail so spectacularly so many times.

Back before all of this, we got our start as a highly (if somewhat awkwardly) social juggling club. Being a group of friends with a shared passion steeped the idea of community and open sharing deeply into our DNA. Our gym sessions have always been open to the public, both to share our progress transparently and to encourage interested friends and passers-by towards giving the silly human tricks we obsess over a try.

When we arrived at Valley View Center, we knew our time there was limited. After many delays, the building is finally scheduled for demolition. We’ve been on the hunt for a new home that would allow us to both continue to train, and have the opportunity to offer a similar open-to-the-public chance to explore the world of circus with us.

Which of course brings us back to the beginning, and the exciting news that we’ve found a new home.

I’m pleased to announce that we’re officially partnering up with Soar Creative, LLC at their gorgeous new training facility in the Dallas design district. They have incredible plans for their new space, and we’re excited to be a part of those developments.

In the short term, we’ll be moving our “Clown Gym” sessions there on Monday and Wednesday nights from 7pm to 10pm. In benefit to our more theatrically minded friends, the new earlier start time will allow us the first hour of each session to focus our attention on theater games, guided improvisations, and group experiments.

Come see us at the newly re-minted “The Clown (and then) Gym” next week, and I’ll post again soon with updates about new projects at the Chemical Street site once we’re get settled.

Russ Sharek
Director, Circus Freaks

The Clown Gym

The Clown (and then) Gym

A twice-weekly open gym opportunity for circus, physical theater, flow arts, and variety performance skills.

Monday and Wednesday evenings

  • 7pm – 8pm: Theater Games, Guided Improvisations, and Group Experiments
  • 8pm – 10pm: Open Gym Session

Hosted in Partnership with Soar Creative, LLC

1337 Chemical Street
Dallas, TX 75207

Remembering Julie Goell

Julie Goell

Goell always said that humor was “intrinsic to my survival,” and she maintained her sense of humor. Last week, Avner heard “gales of laughter” coming from the bedroom and went running to check on the situation. He found Goell and a caregiver laughing so hard, they were crying. Using her letter board, Goell managed to spell — painstakingly, one letter at a time, “Quick, Look behind you.”

Portland Press Herald

That was Julie Goell, who I was lucky to meet and have as one of my teachers. I came to know her only briefly, and only after a tragically unfair medical condition had robbed her of much of her ability to move and speak.

I'm told despite taking her life at the end, it never took her mind or her heart. The fighter in me is proud to know that.

At the time we connected, every word was clearly an exhausting and frustrating struggle.

She chose each one carefully, and for maximum effect. Despite it clearly taking a lot out of her, she took the time to have a one-on-one talk with each of the students in my class for critical notes about our work.

I don't remember which exercise we spoke about. What I will always remember vividly was our narrowing down to a specific moment she wanted to tell me about, and then I received exactly one sentence worth of commentary from the legendary Julie Goell:

"For that moment, you were not quite so full of shit."

It was hilarious. It was also the thing I needed to hear most.

For all of the teachers who have busted my chops about being too clever or hiding behind too much shtick, Julie was the first mentor to show me a moment where I was actually being real. For all the "No" I have heard about my work as a clown, Julie gave me my first "Yes" and in doing so showed me the path to follow to find more of them.

I'm still too clever, and sometimes I still hide, but I want to be as brave as Julie someday.


Less than a week until I start the #IdiotRoadTrip!

I’ll see you in the following cities on the following dates:

workshop schedule, with links to sign up:

Space is limited at all stops. Register now and let’s play!

A Juggling Feast!

This wacky passing pattern, and it’s variations, are known as feasts.

This was one of our first attempts at the ‘vanilla’ feast with five jugglers:

We’re working on the ‘chocolate’ and ‘strawberry’ variations next. 🙂

Jugglers: Russ Sharek, Alan Blakely, Avalon Woodard, Jonathan Rogers and Frank LeCoq

Circus Music!

Musical clown Marie Martin and I spent an evening in the recording studio with her trusty toy piano, creating a brand new version of the song we use for my “La Belle et la Bête” contact juggling performance.

Sadly you can’t see all the wonderful faces she makes when she sings this fairytale of love gone awry, but you can absolutely hear them:

I’m absolutely spoiled by the talent in my troupe.

Special thanks to The Kitchen Studios, HitRecord, and Peppina for making this possible.