Of the many gratifying discoveries to be found in the quiet St. Paul neighborhood of Highland Park, few are as likely to surprise visitors as much as the 21,000-square-foot big top tucked away amid park space, surrounded by sleepy residential streets and a golf course. Since 2001 this anomalous structure has been home to Circus Juventas, a nonprofit youth organization devoted to the circus arts. Inspired by the form-expanding possibilities of Cirque du Soleil, Circus Juventas has become a popular option for young people seeking an extracurricular alternative that encourages creative expression through acrobatics and theater while instilling confidence and camaraderie. Such elements are prolifically displayed in the organization's annual summer showcase, which highlights the abilities of the group's most advanced performers. In selecting The Wizard of Oz as the source material for this summer's show, Circus Juventas has found a narrative replete with fantastical worlds and magical figures. Loosely adapted from L. Frank Baum's original story and the 1939 film, OZ! re-imagines the travels of Dorothy and company from the dusty plains of Kansas to the effervescent wonders of Emerald City with aerial artistry, flawless dexterity, and an immersive creative design. Whether twirling along the yellow brick road or soaring to the sky on the flying trapeze, the students of Circus Juventas are bound to have audiences believing they're not in Minnesota anymore.
Thursdays-Sundays, 7 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 1 p.m.; Wednesdays, 7 p.m. Starts: Aug. 2. Continues through Aug. 18, 2013