Kevin Venardos

Kevin Venardos

A good circus performance can bring out the kid in almost anyone, with its bright colors, pratfalling clowns, and thrilling acrobats and jugglers.

Behind the scenes, though, there's the different, just as enthralling world of the folks who labor long and hard to put together the seemingly lighthearted fare on display.

"Circus," a six-part documentary airing over three weeks (Wednesday night at 9 on WNET/ 13; Saturday at 8:30 p.m. on WLIW/21), gives viewers an all-access pass into that shadowy (and quite a bit more adult) behind-the-scenes world, where performers and crew from around the world form a makeshift, dysfunctional family as they hit the road with the acclaimed Big Apple Circus.

HIGH-STAKES AURA "'Circus' really has everything that, as filmmakers, we look for in a story," says Maro Chermayeff, who created and directed the miniseries with fellow executive producer Jeff Dupre. " a high-stakes environment where human drama and challenges are inherent to the experience, a world within a world with its own upstairs and downstairs, so that we could capture the high level of performance and artistry but also reveal the grit and substance of the hardworking crew that makes the circus possible every day."

AN INTIMATE TROUPE Dupre notes that Big Apple got the nod partly because it had many artists who hail from "circus families," but more than that, this performing troupe is an intimate, one-ring production that forges a close connection with its audience, an experience vividly captured here in state-of-the-art video technology.

"Our goal was to put viewers right smack in the middle of the ring," Dupre explains. "Our high-definition cameras reveal the circus like you've never seen it before."

WHO'S IN IT? Among the performers spotlighted in the miniseries are Sarah Schwarz, the dazzling German-born, Paris-trained wire-walk artist; teenage acrobat Christian Stoinev, who is mulling the notion of giving up his wildly popular act with his Chihuahua, Scooby, to have a more normal life in college; and Marty and Jake LaSalle, twin jugglers who face the prospect of separating as each decides to follow a new career path.

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