The Seattle circus swings into Chicago for an extended stay.
The Seattle circus swings into Chicago for an extended stay. Teatro ZinZanni

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Back in January of last year, Teatro ZinZanni didn't even know if they'd have a place to pitch their antique spiegeltent in Seattle.

Since then they've relocated to a more permanent location on the grounds of the former Red Hook Brewery in Woodinville, and today the circus announced an expansion to Chicago. Yayyyyy! But also, how the hell did that happen?

Rendering of the new tent inside the Cambria Hotel.
Rendering of the new tent inside the Cambria Hotel. Teatro ZinZanni

Over the phone, ZinZanni founder and creative director Norm Langill told me he'd been looking to set up a shop in Chicago for 10 years, but he was having trouble finding a place with tall enough ceilings. About a year ago, Lou Razin, president of a production company called Broadway in Chicago, contacted an associate of Langill's and said he found a spot that might work.

A crew had removed a dropped ceiling on the 14th floor of the Cambria Hotel, revealing a forgotten space just above above The Oriental Theatre. The room was tall enough for a spiegeltent, so Langill took it.

Langill then bought another tent from the Klessons, the family who made the other tents he has used for shows around Seattle and San Francisco. He plans to install it in the new space, along with a lobby and a kitchen. Most of the tent can fit in the elevator, but some pieces are so big that they have to cut a hole in the roof and bring them in via helicopter. "I'm looking forward to that helicopter ride," Langill says.

By next spring, ZinZanni hopes to mount their flagship show—Love, Chaos, & Dinner—with a cast that would be familiar to Seattleites who frequent the circus. Cabaret singer Lady Rizzo, and comedians Joe De Paul, Tim Tyler, and Frank Ferrante are all slated to perform. "Rock star caterer" Debbie Sharp, who's catered for the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney, will handle the food and beverage menus.

Meanwhile, back in Woodinville, ZinZanni's busy setting up the old tent in preparation for the first show in its new home, Hollywood & Vine, which runs Nov. 1 through April 28, 2019. The Stranger describes the show as a "a vintage and magic-filled tribute to Tinseltown."

The goal is for the Woodinville location to serve as the "world headquarters" for ZinZanni, where they can store tents, work on shows, and teach cirque students in a new aerial studio. Beyond Chicago, the circus also hopes to find more permanent digs in San Francisco. "That idea of expanding to three cities—that's been in our mission for 15 years. It's taken a long time to do it," Langill says.