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Apr 5, 2024

Here come the clowns!

Here come the clowns!

And the jugglers, trapeze artists, acrobats, unicyclists, stilt walkers, and many other circus arts performers. Close to 100 of them will be demonstrating their skills at the 51st Annual Triton Troupers Circus April 11-13 in Triton College’s R Building Gymnasium in River Grove.

About half of this year’s performers are returnees from previous shows; the rest are brand new to the circus.

Performances are 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, plus a 1 p.m. Saturday performance that will be interpreted for the hearing impaired.

Overseeing every aspect of this thrilling spectacle for the second year is Director Hannah Jeselski of Bolingbrook. “I’m the liaison between our group and the school and I facilitate the entire learning environment,” she said.

That includes selecting the instructors who will be in charge of the different acts in the circus. Anyone who is interested in learning circus arts and being in the show can register on the group’s website,, for training.

Jeselski has a long connection with the Triton Troupers Circus.

“I always saw the show when I was a kid. My dad used to work at Triton,” Jeselski said. “When I was like four, I used to tell my mom that I wanted to be up on the trapeze. So when I was old enough to join, which was in 2011, I walked in and that was the first thing I did. It’s been a fun time since and I’ve come back every year. I actually met my husband at the circus.”

Jeselski said that she has done almost every circus art performed at the circus. Two of her favorites are partner acrobatics and stacking chairs. The latter skill involves stacking six wooden chairs on top of a wooden table and doing partner acrobatics on top of that.

This year, for the first time since she joined the circus, Jeselski will only be doing partner acrobatics with her husband, David Jeselski. That’s because she will be busy coordinating the 15 acts in the show, the theme of which is Area 51, in celebration of the 51st year of the circus.

“They’re going to see a lot of really creative and diverse acts,” Jeselski said, adding that it is an opportunity “to really get to showcase the creativity of all of our act leaders and how they interpreted that theme.”

“I was looking for something interesting and new,” said Jena Watson of Melrose Park about joining the circus. “I came back from an internship from Disney and wanted something exciting.”

In 2006, Watson became a Triton Trouper. “It was a completely new skill set to learn,” she said. “I started out deathly afraid of heights and I challenged myself. I went right up on the swinging trapeze.”

She also learned teeterboard, partner stunting, juggling, human statue, and many other circus skills.

This year, Watson will be working behind the scenes as the new production manager of the circus. “I am responsible for the entirety of the production,” she said. “My responsibility is to review the acts alongside Hannah (Jeselski) and give the act leaders and the performers the critical feedback that they need to clean up their acts.”

Watson is also responsible for making sure that the lighting and sound are right for each act in the show. “And making sure the show flows very well,” she said. “It is a lot of work and a lot of dedication,” Watson said of her new position. “But it’s a passion of mine and I love it.”

The production manager praised the performers’ response to this year’s theme, Area 51.

“There’s going to be a lot of exciting and new scenes that play into the Area 51 theme that’s going to be both fun and funny,” Watson said. “It’s going to pull on people’s heartstrings and it’s going to make people laugh. It’s going to bring them back to their childhood stories. It’s going to be a fun show.”

This is the first year that Anna Villanyi of Oak Park has been a Triton Trouper but she has been interested in the circus arts for a long time.

“I grew up in Indiana,” she said. “My grandfather is from Peru, Indiana, which is home to the International Circus Hall of Fame. So he grew up with a lot of circus activity in his childhood. He would drive us up there in the summer to see circuses.”

Villanyi’s interest in circus arts grew when she acquired a unicycle. She decided that she needed to learn to ride it so she joined the Triton Troupers.

At this year’s circus, Villanyi will be riding a unicycle, juggling, and stilt walking.

“I am really enjoying the Area 51 theme,” Villanyi said. “The creativity of how different acts interpret it is delightful.”

Additionally, there will be a pancake breakfast fundraiser by Triton College’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program from 8 a.m. to noon April 13 for $5 at the door. Get tickets at

Myrna Petlicki is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.

51st Annual Triton Troupers Circus

When: April 11-13

Where: Triton College’s R Building Gymnasium, 2000 Fifth Ave., River Grove

Tickets: $10 cash only

Information: 708-456-0300, ext. 3599;

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