My Nose Turns Red (MNTR), is the only non-profit organization in the Greater Cincinnati area dedicated to the rich clown traditions that cross cultural boundaries and connect audiences across all ages. Every year MNTR provides training and performance opportunities for over 300 youth (and sometimes adults) in the art of the one-ring circus and the theatrical clown.
We believe that youth circus is a magical blend of theatre, movement, physical fitness, imagination and childlike wonder. Our instructors blend the ability to play with the precision of circus arts to create programs where youth learn teamwork and trust in a non-competitive environment. From beginners' classes to advanced performance programs, MNTR provides a safe arena for young people to take risks and challenge themselves.
My Nose Turns Red was founded in 1984 when co-founders Jean St. John and Steve Roenker began touring as theatrical clowns Juice and Shootang, bringing their art form to thousands of children through school performances, workshops and residencies. In 1997, MNTR created a circus program designed to give youth the opportunity to experience the challenge of circus training with the joy of performing.
"My Nose Turns Red is a wonderful addition to our daughter's life. She has
developed physical strength, balance and poise, in addition to self-confidence,
all while having fun. Never one for team sports, becoming a member of the MNTR
youth circus allows her to work both individually and in groups, without the focus on "winning" and "competition."
Nancy C. Elder, MD, MSPH
Associate Professor and Director of Research
Department of Family and Community Medicine
"MNTR provides a community of creative people with whom Tony feels free to try new styles or exchange creative thoughts. The co-founders often collaborate with specialty performers to teach skills such as trapeze and German Wheel. Tony has learned the responsibility of preparing his materials and supplies. He can adapt confidently to different venues and audiences. Most important to me is that he gives himself permission to fail, even in front of audiences, when he knows that he is pushing himself to master a new skill."
Steve Roenker, co-founder and director of My Nose Turns Red Theatre Company, has 30+ years of experience as a performer and arts educator. The great clowns and physical comedians of his childhood sparked Steve's interest in the theatrical clown and youth circus. The list includes Lucille Ball, Desi Arnez, Red Skelton, Sid Caesar and the entire cast of Your Show of Shows. In his tween and early teen years, he discovered the great clowns of the silent movie era: Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd. Eventually this love of physical comedy became Steve's career path. Steve studied clowning from John Towsen and mime from E. Reid Gilbert. In 2006, Steve had the opportunity to study with Cirque du Soleil's Cirque du Monde focusing on teaching circus skills for at-risk youth. Since 1997, Steve has been directing My Nose Turns Red youth circus program.
Jean St. John, co-founder, volunteer and board member, began working with Steve Roenker in Lexington, Kentucky in 1980. By 1984, they moved to Cincinnati and officially incorporated as My Nose Turns Red Theatre Company. Jean studied mime from E. Reid Gilbert and clowning with Avner Eisenberg. Together Jean and Steve toured for 15 years performing as Juice and Shootang, their clown characters, for schools, libraries, special events, performing arts series, and conferences. Their work included in-school residencies with the Kentucky Arts Council and professional development for teachers. Now Jean continues to coach the advanced students and seeks additional training and performing opportunities for the company. Jean also serves board vice president of the American Youth Circus Organization and chair of its advocacy committee. She continues to be inspired by the youth as they learn new skills, become team members and share their talents with others. Having worked in youth circus long enough to see many students graduate high school, attend college and start their own careers, she is impressed with the values it instills by challenging physical skills, developing leadership and teamwork, and demanding dedication—all through the joy of performance.
Circus Teen Apprentices:
Emily is a volunteer coach that works with the advanced circus youth. She helps with unicycling, German Wheel, juggling, rola bola, diabolo, etc. She learned how to juggle in high school, and has performed at Cincinnati Music Hall, the Cincinnati Museum Center, and festivals around the tri-state. She is currently a clinical researcher at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, where on occasion she juggles knives and passes clubs with orthopedic surgeons.
Jesse AlFord a circus performer from Redlands, California, where he grew up with The Great All American Youth Circus. He is a graduate of Washington State Univerrsity with a degree in Theatre Arts, and has also studied at The San Franciso Circus Center. He has also enjoyed performing with Circus Bella and The Zoppe Family Circus. Jesse is employed as an electrician for Actor's Theatre of Louisville.
photos by Matt Steffen
Board of Directors
My Nose Turns Red is a non-profit 501(c)3 arts organization governed by a Board of Directors:
Kristie Pudlock (President)
Designer, Champlin Architecture
Russ Slone (Vice President)
Match Support Specialist, Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati
Rose Marie Luking (Treasurer)
Accountant, Life Enriching Communities
John P. Bruggen
Budget Director, Hamilton County, OH
Director of Operations, Supply Dynamics
Jean St. John
Co-founder, My Nose Turns Red Theatre Company