Tanya Taylor Productions’ "Circus of Hope" will feature bright costumes, music and dance that will honor the Lost Boys of Sudan. (Photo
Tanya Taylor Productions' "Circus of Hope" will feature bright costumes, music and dance that will honor the Lost Boys of Sudan. (Photo courtesy of Tanya Taylor)
Tanya Taylor loves circuses.

The president of Park City's Taylor Productions is fascinated by the mystical visuals of Cirque du Soleil and the acrobatic nature of the big top in general.

She is also an optimist who likes to see performances that bring joy to audiences.

"I try to get an element of creativity with dance, but also try to include something that is important to humanity," Taylor said during an interview with The Park Record. "I combine those things together to not only teach the kids about music and dance, but also teach them about important and relevant things in life."

These are the reasons why she created a new production called "Circus of Hope," which will be performed at the Jim Santy Auditorium on Dec. 9 and 10.

Taylor's performers, comprised in part of students from her classes at Park City Day School, will perform an array of dances and songs that pay tribute to the Lost Boys of Sudan, a group of more than 20,000 boys between the ages of 7 and 17 who were orphaned during the Sudanese Civil War in South Sudan that lasted from 1983 to 2005.

The concert on Dec. 9 will begin at 7 p.m.

The concert on Dec. 10 will begin at 6 p.m., and feature additional performances by vocalist Jarrett Burns, an appearance by Santa Claus, and an extended tribute to one of the Lost Boys, Solomon Awan, who lives in Salt Lake City.

"I met Solomon in a restaurant one Sunday afternoon through a friend of mine, who was one of his professors at Westminster College," Taylor said. "His mom had tuberculosis and he was born with some health challenges and witnessed a cataclysm of events that were foreign to me."

During the war, Awan, who will be asked onto the stage Tuesday night, saw many of his brothers perish as they crossed a river at gunpoint, Taylor said.

"He was able to come to the United States as a refugee and attended college and got his masters degree," Taylor said. "The more I talked with Solomon, the more I realized how extraordinary he was.

Solomon Awan is one of the 20,000 Lost Boys of Sudan. He came to the United States as a refugee and graduated from Westminster College. "Circus of
Solomon Awan is one of the 20,000 Lost Boys of Sudan. He came to the United States as a refugee and graduated from Westminster College. "Circus of Hope" will honor him and his fellow Lost Boys. (Photo courtesy of Tanya Taylor)
"

The two talked about his story, his goals, family and hopes for the future, which touched Taylor.

Before meeting Awan, Taylor had heard Greg Holden's song, "The Lost Boy," which was written to raise awareness of the Lost Boys.

"I wanted to learn more about the Lost Boys of Sudan and about south Sudan as a whole," she said. "I also wanted to make my students aware of what went on there. Even though it happened on the other side of the world, it's important for them to know about it, because it's easy to live inside our own little bubble."

Taylor thought it would be nice to include a Sudanese children's choir in the production, so she began reaching out to churches.

"There are two Sudanese churches in Salt Lake and I visited both of them," she said. "One has a direct tie with the Lost Boys, and the other is more of a community church of refugees from South Sudan."

The choir that will perform in "Circus of Hope" came from the second church.

"It was interesting because when I approached the church, they wanted to know what I was doing and why I was doing it," Taylor said. "Over the past few months, we have since developed a relationship that will last for a long time."

The show, which will feature Park City-based actress Ally Ioannides as the Circus Master, will also include four of Taylor's groups — Petite Divas, Dancing Divas, Superstarz and Megastarz.

They will perform to songs such as OneRepublic's "Au Revoire," Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive," Florence and the Machine's "Drumming Song," Janelle Monae's "Tightrope" and Michael Jackson's "Thriller."

"The night will end with Katy Perry's 'Roar,'" Taylor said. "So it will be very touching."

Choosing the songs was a tricky procedure. Not only did Taylor have to find songs that sounded good together, she had to make sure they appealed to her students' levels of performing.

"You need to go with what the kids will enjoy, but they also have to learn to respect my role as a director," she said.

For about 12 years, Taylor Productions has used the Jim Santy stage for these performances.

" I like the way it's built," Taylor said. "It's the perfect size because it's still intimate, but the house does hold a good-sized audience."

Taylor Productions will present "Circus of Hope," an evening of song and dance that will pay tribute to the Lost Boys of Sudan, on Monday, Dec. 9, and Tuesday, Dec. 10, at the Jim Santy Auditorium in the Park City Library and Education Center, 1255 Park Ave. Monday's performances will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday's performance will begin with a special performance by Jarrett Burns at 6 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.tanyataylorproductions.com.