Zoppé Family Circus makes a return to Redwood City


Quinn Rolland

Nino the Clown, played by Giovanni Zoppé stands in the audience while telling a story to the crowd.

The laughter of jugglers, contortionists, singers, clowns, and spectators filled the air of the Redwood City library parking lot as a large circus tent shadowed over them. 

The circus consists of acts such as contortion, clowns, dog tricks, balancing, flips, trapeze, horse riding tricks, and so much more.

Throughout the show, Nino the Clown and the Ringmaster have an ongoing act where Nino acts like a “child,” and the Ringmaster disciplines him. 

One act that left the audience in awe was a family that launched themselves off a giant swing into the air one at a time, following it with a flip off the swing. 

The Zoppé family circus has returned for its 14th year and is welcomed with open arms by the Redwood City community. 

One performer at the circus stands on top of two horses and rides around the ring. (Quinn Rolland)

“I just really get a sense of the circus through watching the tent from the library window,” said Savannah Smith, a Redwood City resident. “I can hear the cheers and enjoyment of the crowd, and it’s just very great.”

Established in 1842, the circus has stayed true to its family traditions. Giovanni Zoppé, who plays Nino the Clown, is a 6th generation performer. He is also the son of Alberto Zoppé, who was the founder of the American Zoppé family circus.

“Giovanni goes back so many generations. And a lot of the Mexican artists come from the fifth and sixth generation of circus families. So it’s very special,” said Mace Perlman, the circus’ ringmaster. 

The Zoppé circus sets itself apart from most circuses with its intimate audience experience. In a 500 seat tent, audience members feel closer to the circus while still retaining other conventional circus qualities. But it also raises the bar with each performance.

“We try to touch every emotion during the show,” Giovanni Zoppé said. “They’ll laugh, they’ll cry, and they’ll feel for the characters. It’s more of an event than a show.”

Workers at the circus have a busy schedule. They travel from city to city around the United States and have several performances a week. Their weekly program consists of around two shows a day. 

Unlike people with nine to five jobs, the performers at the circus dedicate their entire lives to the circus. Most of them live in a trailer in the parking lot. This commitment is noteworthy, considering they are on show for only a couple of hours per day. 

Looking ahead, the Zoppé community plans on performing more shows in Redwood City until Nov. 21, where they plan to venture out of state to Arizona.

The community works hard to train for the several shows they put on each week. Each performance is unique because they turn out a bit different from the last one. 

“Every year, it’s different. I joke that if you’re making a minestrone, you can only make it with the ingredients you have on hand. So every time, the recipe is a little different,” said Perlman.