Everything Under the Big Top

Tucson Variety Society

8 p.m., Saturday, May 10

Cirque Roots

17 E. Toole Ave.



The dedication that comes with being an acrobat, a juggler or a comedian can prompt people to go to great lengths to perfect their craft.

But there's one thing no amount of effort can help with, and that's a place to test new acts.

Sensing that void in the local performance art scene, the Tucson Variety Society aims to fill it. Since March, it has held monthly shows where performers can try out their material before a live audience.

Call it an open-mic test kitchen for performance art—pretty much anything goes.

"The only rules are that I try to keep it pretty quick, with acts limited to five minutes each," organizer Zack Armstrong said. "And they can never do the same act. That way, people are guaranteed to see something new every time."

Previous gatherings have featured from eight to 10 acts, including jugglers, clowns, poets, comedians and acrobats. Armstrong, a juggler and clown himself, said the events have been well received by both performers and attendees.

"It seems like, at the beginning, people don't know what to expect, but by the end they're really enjoying it," he said.

Performers do not have to pay to get time on stage, but advance registration online is necessary so Armstrong can get an idea of what types of acts will be part of the lineup.

Admission is free, but after the show Variety Society members will pass the hat for donations to help cover the rent for the Cirque Roots venue and other expenses.