Now in his 27th season with Circus Flora, House Manager and Volunteer Coordinator Harald Boerstler joined the Circus in 1990 when founder David Balding asked him to play bagpipes for a benefit in Forest Park. Boerstler then became a regular volunteer.
“We had eight volunteers [at that time] who took care of everything, and my roster now has 520 volunteers,” he says, adding that four of the original eight are still involved in the Circus, which “melds the best elements of traditional European circus with modern theater techniques and sensibilities … with storylines often rooted in history or literature,” according to its website.
After many years of loyal volunteer work, Boerstler earned in 2002 his paid position as house manager for the Circus.
“I’ve traveled with them to Charleston, S.C., Massachusetts and more, and had a blast over the years,” Boerstler says. “I’ve grown up with the Circus, and it has grown up with me.”
During Boerstler’s first show at the Circus, he says, Alex Wallenda, of the circus act and daredevil stunt performers the Flying Wallendas, was just 6 months old. “A couple of years ago, he carried me across the high wire on his shoulders,” he says.
Boerstler says he can’t imagine life without Circus Flora. Despite being in recovery from a recent surgery, he made it to the opening night of Time Flies so he can say he has never missed an opening night in 27 years.
Time Flies, which premiered at Circus Flora June 1 and runs through June 25, tells multiple love stories taking place in several time periods.
“There’s time travel and some magic involved,” he says. “The love story starts 70 or 80 years ago and continues in the future, but because [a character is] changing the past, it causes some other things to happen, so there are consequences.”
Circus Flora is all about magic, Boerstler explains.
“The whole Big Top is one big magical place; the moment you walk in, you’re in a different world,” he says. “It allows you to escape the realities of the world for a couple hours, and we all need that escape from time to time.”
If someone can’t afford to purchase a ticket, Boerstler says, they should become a volunteer.
“You help people find their seats, then you get to see the show for free,” he says, adding that many of the volunteers are part of the LGBT community. “Come down and enjoy the magic.”
A respected member of the LGBT community, Boerstler has played tuba for BandTogether, the St. Louis LGBT concert and marching band, for the past 17 years. He also designed the St. Louis Pride flag.
“I came up with the idea and had the Pride flags made locally,” he says.
Boerstler says he loves St. Louis — a “big-little town” — because it’s incredibly diverse and full of friendly people.
“It has everything we need except a beach,” he says. “There’s always been a strong LGBT community and a very supportive straight community, which I didn’t see a lot of other places.”
In addition to his work with Circus Flora, Boerstler is an architectural construction administrator for BRS Architects. In his free time, he volunteers at the Missouri Botanical Garden, as well as maintains his own “mini” garden, complete with chickens, a fishpond and a bee apiary.