The Piccolo Zoppé Winter Circus
The Zoppé family has been putting on circus shows since 1842. For over 30 years, Arkansas has been their homebase.
“Our family started in 1842 in Hungary,” said Tosca Zoppé, a sixth generation equestrian circus artist and director of the Piccolo Zoppé circus. “It started with a French clown and a Hungarian equestrian ballerina and they met and they fell in love and they immigrated to Italy and started the Zoppe Circus. Our family has been producing circuses since that time. Our passion and love for our heritage is very important to us. Our show is different in the way that it is steeped in tradition.”
The Piccolo Zoppé circus is performed around the nation and sometimes overseas. Recently, the production has started performing more shows in the state. “The reason we are focused on Arkansas and have been the past couple of years is that we tour all over and rarely perform in our home state,” said Zoppé. “Before two years ago it was probably 25 years since we had performed anywhere in the state of Arkansas. Since it is our home state, we wanted to focus on bringing our art to our local communities because we are here.”
The Piccolo Zoppé Winter Circus was first performed in Greenbrier, their hometown. They tied the focus to the winter season because it was usually a time when they were home in Arkansas and not performing. This will be their third year producing the Winter Circus in Greenbrier and appearances in Springdale and North Little Rock are part of the Winter Circus lineup this year too.
“It’s been a beautiful thing to share the show here at home,” said Zoppé. “It’s been different than being across the country. It’s very special to us … It’s nice to look out into the audience and see faces that I know and have grown up with.”
For those who have never heard of the show, which is a member of the Arts on Tour roster of the Arkansas Arts Council, Zoppé said it is different from what some might typically think of when they hear the term circus. “We are a circus but it is more of a theatrical European-style circus so it is going to be very different than what they might imagine it to be,” she said.
The show is in a one-ring format, enabling a family oriented atmosphere and intimate connection with the audience. “I would encourage people if they are looking for an event where they can enjoy something together as a family, I think this is one of the most wholesome artistic unique experiences that they can find,” Zoppé said. “And I think that they will love it.”
Zoppé is the daughter of Alberto Zoppé, who was also a circus owner, equestrian and member of the Circus Ring of Fame, which has inductees from around the world. Born in Italy, his interesting history includes being a friend of director Orson Welles and performing in Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth, which won the Academy Award in 1952. How the Zoppé family got to Arkansas stemmed from the family producing a lot of shows in the South. For some time Zoppé's father rented a farm in Little Rock and her mom eventually found a home in Greenbrier for the family to stay at. Her father liked that Arkansas was centrally located in the U.S. "As a kid we traveled all over the country,” Zoppé said. “I think Greenbrier was a great base for us.”
Along with the shows, the Zoppé family also puts on a one week Circus Camp in Greenbrier. This will be their third year producing the camp and there are between 30-40 students that partake in it. During the camp, which takes place annually, kids learn how to stand up on horses, roam and ride horses, and perform circus acts like trapeze, clowning and juggling. “They learn a little bit of everything that you would want to learn in the circus,” Zoppé said. As part of the camp finale, kids utilize the circus skills they have learned during the week and put a show together for their friends and family.
For more details on the Piccolo Zoppé Winter Circus and information on tickets and the show’s tour schedule, visit piccolozoppe.com. More details about Circus Camp can also be found there.