Former circus performer plans to help train performers for her future career

Megan Brehmer woke up to a 9 a.m. alarm every morning she had a show. She’d been doing this for 10 years, until this year she became a student at University of Indianapolis studying exercise science and physical therapy. Before she got here, she had been a performer for the Peru Amateur Circus. Her day continued by traveling to the circus building. The riggers, the ones who begin setting up the event, received an extra hand from Brehmer on her way to the area where all the acts are practicing. As it got closer to the show time, she started helping other girls put their makeup on and prepare the costumes for the show ahead. Brehmer warmed up and stretched for a few hours. Then, the two hour show began.

“It feels like it flies by really quickly,” Brehmer said.

Freshman exercise science major Megan Brehmer (second from right) and her flight group performed in high-flying stunts. She participated in the circus for ten years with her family and said she enjoyed the thrill. Photo Contributed by Megan Brehmer

Brehmer’s held the position of flying trapeze artist for six years. Flying trapeze artists swing for a designated ‘catcher.’ Even if one were to not catch her, Brehmer would still fall into the net below her. She said that her training was rigorous and most of her injuries occurred as she was serving as a flying trapeze artist.

“I did from the lowest trapeze all the way to flying trapeze, which is 50 feet up in the air. I have probably done over 20 different acts throughout my ten years,” Brehmer said. “It was hard work. I did flying trapeze for six years and it was six days a week for two hours each day, from March all the way to July when we practiced and performed.”

While Brehmer may be doing the acts and practice herself, she said she is not the only one in her family helping to run the show. Brehmer’s mother, Brandi Brehmer, said she has been involved in the circus just as long as her daughter. Brandi first joined the circus as a volunteer a few months after Brehmer became involved with the youth performers in the show. Brandi has moved up and is the only producer listed for Circus City Festival, Inc., creator of the Peru Amateur Circus.

“I did from the lowest trapeze all the way to flying trapeze, which is 50 feet up in the air.”

Brehmer and Brandi both said they had to work to differentiate their relationship their work relationship and their family relationship. Brandi wears the hats of mom and boss, sometimes mingling the two together. According to Brandi, it did not always work well. Brandi said the two built upon the years, strengthening a friendship with one another. Brandi said she watched every step of Brehmer’s journey, from her low-casting roles all the way to flying trapeze. She said she always had trust in the trainers and other general staff. Brandi said that she still worries about a potential injury in the back of her mind.

Injury is not the only potential harm in working in the circus, according to Brehmer. She said that there are times when people mistake Brehmer’s colleagues acts as fake.

The rigging system that Brehmer swings from is suspended 50 ft. in the air with a net underneath in case of a missed trick. According to Brehmer, the net is hard to see so that the trick is more exciting for the audience. Photo Contributed by Megan Brehmer

“Some of the tricks, I feel like, people think they aren’t real,” Brehmer said. “Things like juggling and sword swallowing and they think there’s no way. I have seen those people train and practice.”

Brehmer performed at her last show this summer, winning an award from her colleagues at the circus. She was crowned ‘Circus Performance Queen,’ an award given to the best female performer in the circus. According to Brehmer, it marked the end of her performing for a period of time, but she is planning to return.

Brehmer said her injuries were frequent and it became one of the driving forces for her to pursue an education in exercise science. Brehmer said that her injuries and her love of the circus will, hopefully, cultivate a career. She hopes to take her education back to local circuses and help those, similar to how her trainers helped her. Even though her post-college goals are in the circus, Brehmer said she has still considered getting a taste of her original life at the circus in the Indianapolis area.

“I thought about it really hard last year because at the last show I said ‘Do I really wanna stop this?’ but I wouldn’t have time with school,” Brehmer said. “I could always come back and train. That would be enough for me to be involved.”