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As symphonies around the country seek ways to reach new audiences, the Missoula Symphony Orchestra is giving a fire and aerial display a try.

With next Thursday's "Symphony Cirque," they're aiming for a "visual-auditory experience," said Shanna Ungate, the MSO's new director of patron services and special events.

Think two electric violinists with an aerialist. Or a fire-spinner accompanied by a percussion ensemble, with touches of African drumming. Or a cellist soloing while a performer displays their skills on lyra, or aerial hoop.

The visual portion of "Symphony Cirque," a new event on Thursday, Aug. 24, comes courtesy of the MASC Studio, short for Moksha Aerial Studio Collective.

Ungate had worked with MASC before and was enamored of the idea of pairing their work with classical music. She reached out to Sally Jo Beck, the MASC owner, about the collaboration.

"We actually have more performers from MASC than we'd anticipated," Ungate said. About 10 MASC artisans signed on, with skills varying from trapeze artists, a dance and fire nunchucks act, duo silk, and a quartet fire act.

In total, the 1920s-circus-themed program will last about 45 minutes, taking place on MASC's specialized studio/performance space they opened on the Westside last year. Beck said MASC is open to community events at the space, and the "Symphony Cirque" offered a unique opportunity.

"It's something that Missoula's never seen before," she said. "This is a novel idea that we hope to create an annual show from."

Ungate said it will be more laid-back in atmosphere than a formal MSO show. Considering the performers are suspended from the ceiling, she noted that there won't be any bad seats. There are 200 spots (with only 40 remaining at press time). So far, the age ranges from pre-kindergartners to patrons in their 80s, and vary from MASC fans, symphony fans and both.

"Symphony Cirque" will take place on Thursday, Aug. 24, at the MASC Studio, 1200 Shakespeare St. Tickets are $35 all ages general admission, available at, 406-721-3194 or the office at 320 E. Main St. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7. Drinks are available for purchase.

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Arts & Entertainment Reporter

Entertainment editor for the Missoulian.