zirka trollop – Circus Trilogy after Kafka

Summary - Information about the piece

The Trapeze Artist

In theater behind the scenes one finds a different world: There are many challenges for the manager to master – not least that the stage hand has desperately fallen in love, and that the trapeze artist will not ever leave her trapeze...
Anja Gessenhardt und Jana Korb are commited to circus theater – in zirka trollop they combine literature and acting with acrobatics and aerialarts. With Kafka's parable of the trapeze artist and her manager they go on a journey through emotions, between theater and circus, between comedy and drama.
Acrobatic lecture, on chinese pole, and on the trapeze.
Free after Kafka - existential and yet humorous.


Trilogy - Duett - Aerial theater, acrobatic lecture and Chinese pole (70min.), in German, English etc.
For theaters or open air with trapeze rig / Chinese pole

All three scenes can also be performed separately:

Aerial theater - Solo on fix trapeze (35min.), in German, Czech, English, Portuguese etc.
For theaters or open air with trapeze rig

Acrobatic lecture - Duett (12min.), in German, English etc.

Chinese pole - Solo (30min.), without words
For theaters or open air with outdoor pole

>> Technical requirements
>> Summary - PDF download
>> Technical rider - PDF download

Erstes Leid, Foto: Nioclás Seeliger

First Sorrow, Foto: Nioclás Seeliger

Erstes Leid, Foto: Nioclás Seeliger

First Sorrow, Foto: Nioclás Seeliger

Erstes Leid/Die Trapezkünstlerin, Foto: Nioclás Seeliger

First Sorrow/The Trapeze Artist, Foto: Nioclás Seeliger

zirka trollop - Circus Trilogy after Kafka

zirka trollop consists of three parts, three times the same story, told from different perspectives. Three times narrative circus, solo or duett - feature-lenght program. Each part is whole in itself and can be performed as a short piece or show.

First act: Circus travels
crobatic lecture
"And so the manager succeeded in reassuring the trapeze artist, little by little, and was able to go back to her corner. But she herself was far from reassured; with deep uneasiness she kept glancing secretly at the trapeze artist over the top of her book."

A grotesque lecture, in which both artists perform both characters of the trapeze artist and the impresaria. Performed without trapeze - but the audience will picture the trapeze nontheless...

Acrobatic lecture, duett with Jana Korb and Anja Gessenhardt (ca. 12min)

Second act: The StageHand. Falling in Love.
Acrobatic theater on Chinese pole

"All her needs, very modest needs at that, were supplied by relays of attendants who watched from below and sent up and hauled down again in specially constructed containers whatever she required."

Acrobatic theater on Chinese pole in the style of old silent movies – an homage to all workers behind the scenes, without whom our artistic work would not be possible.

Chinese pole solo with Anja Gessenhardt (ca. 30min)

The Trapeze Artist - A Monologue from Above
erial theater
“Only this one bar in my hands—how can I live?”

With the circus literature by Franz Kafka and Jean Genet, Jana Korb examines the existential essence of aerial arts, the art of aerial arts. She explores the topic of circus in literature and brings it back as theatric performance into the circus. With narration as the starting point, she develops her own circus body language. It is about dependencies, intransigence, and everlasting temporary – high up on the trapeze.

Aerial theater on solo trapeze (35min.), in German, Czech, English, Portuguese etc.

A long term research project

Not only have I been working with Kafka's story "First Sorrow" for one specific production - the story has been accompanying me and my partner Anja Gessenahrdt since the beginnings of our circus arts career. For us, the story of the trapeze artist, living on her trapeze to become a better artist, has become a symbol for artistic creation - not just circus creation, but artistic creation in general. So I am not only interested in the kafkaesque storyline (existential, dark, and hopeless), but I rather examine the trapeze artist's urge to create.

During our research process we created more than four different productions based on this story. I approach the topic from different sides: from the ground with our acrobalance duett, from the air on the trapeze, with and without text, from different points of view, and in long term performances of up to six hours on the trapeze (this was the most literal adaptation so far).

My most recent production, a trapeze solo of appr. 35min, is situated between choreographed circus performance, improvisation, and work with text. The figure of the trapeze artist is changing between theatrical character (I am acting as Kafkas's trapeze artist), narrator (I am telling the story of Kafka's trapeze artist), and myself (I am a trapeze artist). By this being-in-between I am trying to delicately approach those big topics of art, death, intransigence - without becoming theatrical or kitschy. I seek to create a fragile presence on the trapeze, transcending corporeal peak performance and circus archetype. I try to unhinge contemporary circus from its denotations "Modern Man", "Progress", and "Conquering Nature", thus finding new definitions.

Die Trapezkünstlerin, Foto: Vojtech Brtnicky

Die Trapezkünstlerin, Foto: Vojtech Brtnicky



Die Trapezkünstlerin, Foto: Knockaert Fobe



Die Trapezkünstlerin


Die Trapezkünstlerin,

Die Trapezkünstlerin



Die Trapezkünstlerin, Foto: Tobias Stiefel



Previous productions in this cycle

In the course of our almost 20 years of working with the story "First Sorrow" - by Franz Kafka, from his collection "The Hunger Artist" - we created and performed several performances and pieces. Here a selection:

Circus travels
Acrobatic lecture
Idea and performance: Jana Korb and Anja Gessenhardt
Premiere 1999
Acrobalance, ca. 12min
German or English

The Grand Show
Circus theater based on stories by Kafka, Genet, Böll
Idea and performance: Jana Korb and Anja Gessenhardt
Premiere 2000
Acrobalance, physical theater, martial arts, ca. 45min

The Trapeze Artist
Freak show performance
Idea: Friederike Berat und Jana Korb
Performance: Jana Korb
Premiere 2010
Trapeze solo, long term performance (2-6 hours)
no words

The Trapeze Artist - A Monologue from Above
Aerial theater
Performance: Jana Korb
Director: Anja Gessenhardt
Dramaturgical eyes: Julia Christ, Benjamin Richter
Premiere 2013, premiere street theater version 2016
Trapeze solo, ca. 35min
German, Czech, English, French, Portuguese, Dutch or other

zirka trollop - Circus Trilogy after Kafka
Circus theater
Performance: Jana Korb and Anja Gessenhardt
Dramaturgy: Lena Fritschle
Premiere 2017
Trapeze solo, acrobalance, chinese pole, ca. 70min
German or English

HochZuhaus – Stories from a confined space
Aerial performance installation one on one
Performance: Jana Korb
Director: Anja Gessenhardt
Premiere 2021
Trapeze solo with audience interactions, 8 scenes á ca. 10min
German, English, or Russian


First Sorrow - Circus trilogy after Kafka
Circus theater by and with Jana Korb and Anja Gessenhardt
ca. 70min.

Idea, performance: Jana Korb and Anja Gessenhardt
Dramaturgy: Lena Fritschle
First part:
The trapeze artist: Anja Gessenhardt
The impresaria: Jana Korb
Second part:
The stage worker: Anja Gessenhardt
The trapeze artist: Jana Korb

Outside eye: Lionel Menard
Third part:
The trapeze artist: Jana Korb
The impresaria: Anja Gessenhardt

Director: Anja Gessenhardt
Dramaturgic counsel: Julia Christ
Adaptation for street theater: Benjamin Richter
Production: Korb + Stiefel

Stage setup outdoor version

(for indoor version, please talk to us):
Ideally we have three stages around the audience. The audience is sitting on chairs or benches and has to turn their attention to whatever stage we perform on. Other setups are possible after consultation.

Acrobatic Lecture
Elevated Stage: 3m x 5m with appr. 1m elevation
Height: min. 4m
Floor: even floor, ideally black

Chinese Pole
Ground: 6m x 6m, height: min. 5,50m
Floor: even floor
Rigging: 3 rigging points or anchors on the ground (or close to the ground lower than 2m height) min. 5m away from the pole with min. 3,5kN / 350 kg working load per rigging point
Pole: we bring our own pole and rigging material
Safety: round crash mat with hole in the middle for pole, diameter min. 2m, 20cm thick (or we bring our own)

Aerial rig:
Free standing three legged pyramid
Height: 8m
Ground space: ca. 6m x 6m
Ground space for setup: 6m x 16m

Setup by Jana Korb and team.
The ground must be flat and even, free of equipment and obstacles. The aerial space must be free of obstacles, not closer than 2m.

Setup: ca. 3h
Take down: ca. 2h

If performed in dusk or darkness we need:
Basic white light to illuminate the performance spaces, and a follow spot. For the trapeze it is important for most of the scene that there is light on the trapeze, without light on the ground.

We need a sound system, appropriate for the size of the audience, with four speakers to be controlled separately. We bring our own player (to connect by mini jack) and two headset microphones (to connect by XLR).

>> Infos "Trilogy" - PDF download
>> Infos "Trapeze solo" - PDF download
>> Technical rider "Trilogy" - PDF download