Senior theatre major Virginia “V” Scites has a unique background: she was raised in a traveling circus.
Scites grew up traveling and performing historical circus acts with her parents and brother. She is a skilled fire breather and one of only seven or eight people in the world who sword walks. She is also a talented singer, contortionist and fire dancer, among many other things.
Scites originally went to Kentucky Christian University to major in music, but after two years, she switched to Cedarville for its more prestigious music program, she said. However, she said she decided to switch to theatre and finally found where she belonged.
How the Scites got into performing
Scites’ father, Eric Scites, majored in opera performance at Ohio State and had a great interest in the history of old American music, which eventually led to an interest in old American circus shows, V said.
Video: Watch V Scites breathe fire
Eric said that as a performer, he would take whatever work he could get until the right thing came along.
“I happened to accidentally stumble on doing some historical singing at an event, got interested, one thing led to the other,” Eric said. “We started doing more and more research and started adding more and more things, and then next thing you know, it’s a full-time job.”
V and her parents all said the tricks they performed were self-taught and not difficult for them to learn. Eric said he learned through research — finding out what the historical performers did and how they did it.
“Nobody’s going to teach you how to do this stuff,” he said. “You kind of learn it on your own.”
V’s entry into the family business
Although V’s father, her mother Susan Scites and V’s brother started performing a few years before she did, V said she finally jumped in when she was 9 because she was tired of staying home while the rest of her family traveled.
Eric said when they first started, he was singing with another lady while V listened.
“And finally, (V) came to Susan and said to tell me that we didn’t need the other lady anymore and that she knew all the songs,” Eric said.
Susan, her mother, said that V is a natural performer and that she always has been.
“You jokingly say ‘drama queen,’ but she has drama in her blood, and she loves to perform,” Susan said. “The world is a stage to her, and she is going to use it to her advantage.”
V said she started off as a contortionist, but by the time she was 12, her father had taught her how to fire breathe.
“He taught my brother and I and waited until after we knew how to tell my mom, who was not very happy because we were kids,” V said.
V said when she was 13, she wanted to learn a more dangerous trick and learned to sword walk, which is walking up a stepladder made of swords.
“So that’s what I did, and that was kind of my singular,” V said. “I just decided that that sounded awesome, and I wanted to do it. For the most part, it was a lot of self-honed, have the patience to practice a lot and have the talent.”
The traveling lifestyle
V and her family traveled to perform all over the country, performing 48 weekends out of the year and traveling the weeks between, V said.
The family did not buy a permanent home until V was 17, when they purchased a home in Pomeroy in southeastern Ohio to serve as a home base.
“But by then, I was about to leave for college, and they’re still traveling, so it’s more like a really expensive storage unit and less like a house,” V said. “But we all have time to take away from our busy schedules to get together for Thanksgiving and Christmas because we’re all doing different things, so it’s hard to get together, but having a house makes it a little easier.”The family did not buy a permanent home until V was 17, when they purchased a home in Pomeroy in southeastern Ohio to serve as a home base.
V said traveling full time had its setbacks and tensions and that she did not fully appreciate the bond she and her brother had with their parents until they had both been on their own for a few years.
Susan said people often make the mistake of thinking that their lifestyle is a fairy tale but that she reminds them that it’s a job.
“It’s very difficult for, I hate to say ‘normal’ people, but normal people to understand,” she said of the constant traveling. “And there are times when you just want to go home, and you can’t.”
Fire breathing as a ministry
V said she realizes her skills are a unique gift from God and that she wants to use them to minister to other performers.
“Being in that performance world and that aspect of the performance world, I see how dark it is and how much God is needed there, and no one brings it in,” V said. “I kind of want that to be, I don’t want to say my life’s goal to make it sound like I’ve achieved something great … I would rather go back into that world knowing that I have a light that other people don’t.”
She said her fire breathing serves as a great analogy to witness to people and share the gospel. She said that once when she worked on staff at a camp, she got to perform at the campfire and share her story and ministry to the teenagers there and that she particularly enjoyed working with teens.
“So it was cool to get to talk to them about the stuff from my past and what I struggled with and showing them the light and the fire within,” V said. “That’s something that I focus on a lot, too. God is referred to as a consuming fire.”
As open as V is about sharing her own story, she said she likes to know other people’s stories as well.
“I’m very adamant about no matter what your talent is and no matter what your past is, everyone has a story, and sometimes it takes the story of another person to help us realize our own and move on,” V said. “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God, and that includes fire breathing.”
Kate Norman is a junior journalism major and a copy editor for Cedars. Kate hopes to attend graduate school in Scotland and wants to live and work overseas one day.