The Florida Times-Union
In 2009, Bryce “The Govna” Graves, ringmaster of “Hellzapoppin Circus SideShow Revue,” moved to Jacksonville.
For his first two years in Jacksonville, Graves lived in his tour bus, parked outside of various Jacksonville businesses.
“It took a little time to get off the ground,” Graves said.
But as “Hellzapoppin” began enjoying some real success, he moved into an apartment in Mandarin.
He attributes a lot of that success to “massive support” from people in Jacksonville. A couple of years ago, when the tour bus broke down, he posted an appeal to his Facebook supporters, many of them Jacksonville residents. They donated $3,800 in a day, enabling him to buy a new engine.
Having started on the stages of small nightclubs and bars, the show has recently had 19 consecutive sold-out shows despite performing in increasing large venues. Friday, “Hellzapoppin” will be at Mavericks at the Landing, the largest venue in Jacksonville at which they will have performed.
In addition to Graves, performers will be Chelsea Rammer, who performs under the name Chelsea NoPants; Aaron Wollin, who performs under the name Short E. Dangerously; and Mr. Buggles, a French bulldog who is Graves’ constant companion.
Graves not only serves as emcee, he also breathes and eats fire, eats glass and performs physical stunts. Rammer swallows swords and other unusual objects, climbs a ladder made of machetes and reclines on a bed of nails. Wollin does lots of physical stunts. Since he has no legs — he was born with a spinal defect that caused his legs to atrophy until they were amputated when he was 2 — he walks on his hands, not just during the show but in daily life. He doesn’t like to use a wheelchair.
Graves said he has “been accused of exploitation” by using Wollin in the show. But Wollin isn’t in the show because of his physical deformity, Graves said: “He’s a performer.”
They are all trained stunt people who have put a lot of time into learning their often dangerous craft, they emphasized. “It’s fun, it’s a blast,” Graves said. “But we literally torture ourselves.”
“That’s why it’s very important to be trained,” Rammer said. “… Everything we do is based on a knowledge of physical anatomy and physics.”
Wollin said that anyone attempting the stunts without proper training “should do it in a hospital parking lot so you don’t have far to go.”
Graves said this core group performs at most of the indoor venues. “Hellzapoppin” also plays outdoor festivals. For those, he’ll bring in additional performers, billing it as “Hellzapoppin Circus SideShow Revue Presents Congregation of Sinner Incorporated.”
Read more at Jacksonville.com: http://jacksonville.com/entertainment/arts/2014-03-20/story/hellzapoppin-brings-circus-side-show-mavericks-landing#ixzz2xPta5QsF
Will Dickey-Bryce Graves breathes fire during a Jacksonville performance in 2012. The Hellzapoppin SideShow Revue will perform at Mavericks at the Landing Friday.
[Photo by Laurie Creamer] Hellzapoppin Circus SideShow Revue, a locally based group that are playing Mavericks at the Landing Friday. Left to right in the photo are Chelsea NoPants, Bryce "The Govna" Graves, Mr. Buggles and Short E. Dangerously.