We had the good fortune of connecting with Morgan Barbour and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Morgan, how do you think about risk?
I once had a very wise teacher in the form of the clown Drew the Dramatic Fool, who would start classes with a quotes du jour from famous fools and circus artists. So many of these focused on failure. Embracing failure, expecting failure, relishing in it. I’m someone who craves control, so I bucked at this ethos, but it’s ultimately shaped my professional practice and personal approach to life.

So much of my work (circus) is about controlled risk. I spend so much of my time hanging upside down holding up another human being that I need to be able to assess safety continuously. If I wasn’t open to risk I would never jump off a 7 meter platform or pick up another aerialist with just my teeth. But all of these things are the product of lots of training and heavy risk assessment.

My career has been defined by risk. Not just the risks I take on stage, or the risks I have made by opening up about deeply personal things in my writing. Immediately after university I moved to Dublin to stage a brand new play, with no savings and no backup plan. That summer I spent living with part of my cast in a basement studio, three of us to a bed, drinking wine from soup bowls and coffee mugs in some sort of bohemian poverty slapstick. The sort of risk that youth affords. But it served as a catalyst for the rest of my life. Risk is what took me to Los Angeles, what got me on a trapeze for the very first time despite a fear of heights.

I think anything worth doing involves risk, but you can be intelligent and pragmatic about how you approach it. I do not regret going to Dublin, but I’m not sure if I’d do it the same away again if I had a choice (I would definitely make sure I had some accommodation upon arrival at the very least!). But I think risk on a smaller scale is still so important to life. You shouldn’t be reckless, but trial and error is such a huge part of being human.

The controlled risk one finds in circus has been therapeutic for me. In order to perform a stunt at height there are so many factors one has to consider: is your rigging safe? are you in a good headspace? how is your grip? When you perform with a partner, that is doubled. Humans are prone to error. Whenever I perform doubles hoop, so much of the act is built on counterbalance; if one of us falls, we’re both going down. Not only does this build visually stunning imagery, it has built a strong sense of trust in the air by intelligently engaging in such risk. I’m not afraid when I perform because I know in my heart we both have one another’s backs, figuratively and often literally.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m a multidisciplinary artist. I started off as an actor, but have largely moved on from acting professionally. I now perform circus full time (I specialise in flying trapeze, doubles hoop, and iron jaw), and continue to work as a movement director, writer, and artists’ model.

When the world locked down in 2020, I turned to my writing for sanity. Up until then writing had been something I visited sporadically; I would board a long haul flight between Los Angeles and London with the intention of writing my heart out, only to find I’d fallen asleep with my face unceremoniously pressed against the inflight screen. When lockdowns came I, like so many of us, was forced to slow down in a way I’ve never had to in my adult life. There’s only so many bedroom push ups you can do before the creeping insanity starts to set in. So I turned to writing — my first true passion as a child — and the rest was history. When the world reopened and I could begin performing and directing again I did so eagerly, but I had also built up a writing portfolio that included Business Insider, Al Jazeera English, and Springer Nature. It was a different sort of risk. There were countless draft emails pitching ideas to editors for years in. my inbox, but I had become a master at convincing myself that my failure to hit send was due to how busy I was as a performer, not due to crippling fear that I would be rejected.

In a post lockdown world I find that my career is far better balanced. Circus is still the epicentre, and I would not have that any other way. I love circus more than most other things; it’s at the heart of what fills me with joy, and it’s where so much of the community I consider my chosen family resides. Directing and modelling go hand in hand with that. I am a performer at heart — please look at me, please applaud me, please validate me, please please please. But it’s also been very refreshing, mentally and physically, to be able to feel like in quiet moments I can turn to a quieter discipline in writing. I’m a more well rounded artist and human because of it.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’m a Santa Monica girl through and through. If we’re just staying local, a trip to Original Muscle Beach is a must (especially on a Sunday, when everyone is out training!). Food wise, trips to Cha Cha Chicken, Bay Cities (their Godmother sub reigns supreme), Ex Texate, Urth Cafe, and Library Ale House would absolutely need to happen (bonus points for the best taco truck in LA outside of the Whole Foods on Lincoln and Rose and Wurstküche for some incredible sausages). If there’s energy to leave the coast, a trip to Hollywood Cemetery for a good film is a great way to round out the evening. I am incredibly food driven, if you cannot tell!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
High Fly Trapeze and my brilliant flyer Tash Hutchinson, beyond a shadow of a doubt.

High Fly Trapeze is a trapeze school over in the UK, but its founder James Long and his partner Carleen Betteridge have spent a lot of time flying in Los Angeles with Richie Gaona. HFT is like a family. They’ve pushed me to become a stronger and better circus artist and all around person.

Tash Hutchinson started as my student at High Fly Trapeze and quickly morphed into an amazing duo partner and surrogate little sister. I genuinely want to be her when I grow up. I’ve never met someone with a better work ethic and professional / artistic drive. It’s an honor whenever I get to share a stage with her.

Website: www.morganbarbour.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/morganbarbour

Twitter: www.twitter.com/morganbarbour

Facebook: www.facebook.com/morganashleybarbour

Image Credits
Main image: Pluck Photography Additional images (In order of appearance): 1. Ashley Keer 2. Stevie Ella Keen 3. Jasper Johal 4. Philipe Hernandez 5. Josh Rose 6. Retro Photostudio 7. PR Brown 8. Gershon Kreimer

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.