In Covington, Ky., Steve Roenker and Jean St. John head a program dedicated to clowns. My Nose Turns Red Theatre Company, a nonprofit organization founded by Roenker and St. John, was formed with the idea of using art to create laughter. Roenker, who is a Kentucky Arts Council roster artist with more than 30 years of experience performing and teaching, began his organization as a mime company in 1980 out of Lexington, Ky., but changed it to center around clown theatrics. He wanted a more interactive show between the audience and performer. That was the draw for both Roenker and St. John. Clown acts enabled them to not only engage the audience but also include them on stage.
Focused specifically on youth, My Nose Turns Red provides educational and entertaining programs where kids learn to juggle, walk on stilts, balance on rolling globes, and develop clown characters. The activities, says Roenker, help the children not only in technique and physical ability, but also give them the self-esteem to perform in front of audiences. “It really is great for the whole child,” he says.
In addition to reaching the Northeast Kentucky and Cincinnati area, Roenker and his team also travel to communities throughout the state, bringing circus performances and workshops to elementary and middle schools.
On Jan. 28, the theater company brings 4-5 young performers to Henderson, Ky., for a fast-paced circus act at the Henderson Fine Arts Center. The performances are a great way for the kids to see what they’re capable of, says Roenker. “What’s most rewarding for me is the look on their faces when they did something they didn’t think they could do.”