staff_jean-steveSteve 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 and volunteer, 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. 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. Jean is the Arts Education Director for the Kentucky Arts Council.

Coaching Staff:

 staff_jesse Jesse AlFord began his circus life with the Great Y Circus in Redlands, CA. He has a degree in Theatre Arts from Washington State University, has trained at the San Francisco Circus Center, and has performed with Circus Bella, The Zoppe Family Circus, and others. He is currently also a coach at Suspend Louisville, and CirqueLouis, and works as a freelance Lighting Designer. Jesse serves as the Board President of the American Youth Circus Organization, and the American Circus Educators.
 staff_natalie Natalie Roenker is a graduate of Northern Kentucky University where she has a degree theatre and a minor in dance. Natalie has been studying circus since she was five years old. She likes circus because it is a non-competitive way to stay active. She also likes the opportunity to coach younger children. Natalie is our 4-7 year old coach, beginning circus coach, and wire and hoop coach.
 staff_jessi Jessi Monte has always loved yoga. When she heard about aerial yoga she was intrigued. In her search to study aerial yoga she discovered that she could actually learn how to do aerial silks. She took her first silks workshop at Bella Forza fitness and fell in love. Soon she began silks training 3-4 days a week. She enjoys sharing the joy of aerial silks with young children because she wishes she had the opportunity to study silks at a much younger age. Jessi hopes to instill in her students the confidence and positive body image that aerial silks has instilled in her.
 staff_eli Elijah O. Kirk is 17 years old and is homeschooled. He has been studying circus for five years. He enjoys many challenging disciplines in the circus focusing mainly on the unicycle, tumbling/acrobatics, juggling and gym wheel. Elijah was a member of the U.S. Wheel Gymnastics Junior Team and competed in the World Wheel Gymnastics Championships held this past June. In July Elijah travelled to Montreal to attend the two week circus camp at the National Circus School.
 staff_tony Tony Nelson is 17 years old and is homeschooled. He has been studying circus for eight years. Tony’s favorite circus skills are gym wheel, acrobatics and unicycle. Tony was a member of the U.S. Wheel Gymnastics Junior Team and competed in the World Wheel Gymnastics Championships held this past June. Tony traveled to Japan this summer with a group of U.S. wheel gymnasts as part of an exchange program.
Circus Youth in Action – Teen coaches
Circus Youth in Action (CYA) is My Nose Turns Red’s teen leadership program. Members are a part of MNTR’s Advanced Circus Ensemble. They receive instruction on safety, giving instruction, etc. as well as developing solo and group acts. CYA members are valuable members of MNTR’s teaching staff. Many act as assistant instructors at camps and afterschool programs.

photos by Matt Steffen



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.

Greg Nelson
School Outfitters