On March 17, thanks to the generosity of Ken and Nancy Kranzberg, some of Circus Harmony students and alumni presented Defying Gravity and Social Injustice: A Tribute to Nat Hentoff. The show combined music that was important to Nat Hentoff with acts from young people who have learned to defy gravity, soar with confidence and leap over social barriers at Circus Harmony.
This was the program for the evening:
Nat Hentoff was my father. He was a man who made a difference. He taught me telling stories was important; saying your truth out loud was imperative; standing up for others had to happen; maintaining integrity was seamless; words that lead to actions matter. His life bridged many interests that intertwined. Bridge is the operative word. He was a bridge between people, between ideas and between ideals. To him it all connected. His life and work also had a profound influence on many people and I am certainly one of them.
I am grateful to the Kranzbergs for giving me this evening at the new .Zack Theater, to Les 7 Doigts de la Main for letting our alums, Sidney ‘Iking’ Bateman and Melvin Diggs, come for the evening while they are on tour with Cuisine & Confessions, to Sidney and Iking for being so successful, to David Lewis for letting me show an excerpt from his documentary about my father, The Pleasures of Being Out of Step, to Circus Harmony’s most amazing volunteer, Jon Krueger for moving people, props and just being there, to Nat Hentoff’s grandchildren, Elliana Grace and Kellin Quinn and all the flying children and adults of Circus Harmony who made this evening the homage I hoped it would be.
“You only have one life,” my father told musician Joe Alterman. “Why do something that doesn’t let you be you?” My job as director of Circus Harmony is to help young people define themselves. Circus Harmony is St. Louis’ only social circus. The way my father used writing, I use circus arts to motivate social change. Circus Harmony builds character in individuals and bridges between communities. At Circus Harmony, we help children to find their strengths, be themselves and not be labelled by their race, religion, neighborhood, school or other external factors. My father’s work was about telling the stories of individuals. My work is about helping individuals write their own stories. This show told some of those stories!
~Jessica Day Hentoff