An issue of "Place": Circus WOW, women of Wollongong's Community Circus
Circus WOW, Women of Wollongong's Community circus, is a community-based women's performance group which, until 2007 operated out of a disused industrial facility provided by the Wollongong City Council. in one of the more working class suburbs of Wollongong in the IIIawarra district of New South Wales. Established in 2001 by Penny Lowther. a Churchill fellowship recipient, puppeteer and performer, Circus WOW is principally self-funded. The company provides a range of circo-arts workshops to women in the IIlawarra community at large, as well as performing at events ranging from local festivals, specific women's celebrations, launches, university-run programs, to the company's regular performances by its members in local theater. The focus of this chapter is to establish the performance work of Circus WOW in the context of the place in which it arose, Wollongong. Whereas new circus and women's circus in Australia has been credited with challenging performative norms of gender representation, with political enactments and with a desire for physical and emotional developmental encounters, this paper sets out to locate Circus WOW s performative impact through issues of "place". Notably through Circus WOW's site-based performance work, this paper views Circus WOW as impacting on a city in transition from its past industrial base. By providing a space for the empowerment of groups of women who may not otherwise be heard, Circus WOW opens the possibility for the airing of social change issues often oppressed by mainstream culture, in a landscape that is undergoing rapid urban development.