After being laid off from his job at Disney, Zachary Miller — and Csaba Szilagyi — are bringing their prowess for acrobatics to people’s front yards with Curbside Circus.
After he was furloughed from Disney in March 2020, Zachary Miller and business partner Csaba Szilagyi sat down to brainstorm what they would do next.
The two founded WeFlip Entertainment in 2019 to bring acrobatic shows to theme parks — such as SeaWorld — and special events, but the duo was looking to branch out and do something different. The only question remaining: What would that look like?
That’s when Miller remembered a friend of his who at one point mentioned the idea of performing door-to-door. Miller brought up the idea to Szilagyi. That’s when they realized they could also bring the acrobatics of the circus to the people.
“We’ve always gone business-to-business, and we want to bring that same kind of entertainment straight to people’s houses,” Miller said. “We wanted to do it creatively, because we didn’t just want to be like regular birthday party entertainment — we wanted to bring the same level of entertainment if you go to the park, but bring it straight to your door.”
In that moment, Curbside Circus was born.
Both Miller and Szilagyi found themselves in the same profession, but both took different ways of getting there.
In Szilagyi’s case, the Hungarian-born acrobat began his craft at a young age before attending the Hungarian Circus Academy. Since then, Szilagyi has performed all over before landing at Disney and joining the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! He also started his own school, Circus-Arts.
Meanwhile, Miller’s route into acrobatics came from karate. At age 5, Miller began what would become a 15-year career studying and teaching the martial art. When he was 16, one of his students’ fathers approached him. That man happened to own a circus.
Because of Miller’s background in tumbling, the man asked if he’d be interested in filling in a role, which Miller accepted. Miller recalled the day of the show that the man helped him with his makeup before he went out to perform in what would be the first show of his life.
“I felt so lost,” Miller said with a laugh. “I think in this industry everyone is so welcoming that they made me feel at home, but I do remember feeling super lost in the show. It was kind of like a plug-and-play is what it felt like: ‘Hey go do this here, go do that there.’
“At some point, the guy was like, ‘Listen, just have fun, you’re just a character on stage,’ and at the point I was like, ‘I get it,’” he said. “You spend a lot of time — especially when we’re teaching people nowadays to just be like, ‘Relax, be yourself.’ I would say the majority of people are born with entertainer in them … I think once you figure out, ‘Oh, I can just relax out there and be me,’ that’s when it clicks.”
From there, a love for acrobatics grew into a full-time profession that led Miller to a chance meeting with Szilagyi at age 18. Szilagyi auditioned Miller for the Arabian Nights show at Disney — before partnering with him in 2014. That moment established the two as friends and work colleagues.
In the years that followed, Miller worked a number of jobs at SeaWorld and Disney — where he began his work as a stuntman in the Indiana Jones show — before his furlough earlier in 2020 and eventual layoff from the latter in September 2020.
One of the biggest highlights for Miller in the past several years didn’t come from his work in Central Florida but rather during his stunt work as leaping ghosts in the most recent “Ghostbusters” movie.
“All the practicing went fine, and then the very first day, we went to shoot with the real actors in place,” he said. “We went to go flip over the actor, they said action, and I started to run in the stilts. I tripped over myself and belly-slid across the whole stage in front of 200 film crew, and the director was there and the extras. I will never forget that moment. … But I did it the next time, and it was no problem at all.”
After nailing down their plan for Curbside Circus, Miller and Szilagyi bought a trailer and wrapped it in October of last year.
Ideas for the shows began to grow. Szilagyi built a stage on top of the trailer so it could be used as part of the show. From there, the two began recording video of different acrobatic stunts — such as doing handstands on multiple stacked chairs and so on — while developing their show.
While Miller and Szilagyi got things going, they applied for and received a PPP loan to bring on three additional temporary hires to help with other aspects of the business — marketing, web design and more. They also brought on six acrobats to perform the one-man and two-man shows.
“We probably turned what would have been five or six months (worth of work) into five weeks,” Miller said. “So we pushed it along, and that was February, March and April, and we were able to open late April. It’s funny, our industry, prior to the pandemic, is very last minute … so we have always operated like that, but this was the first time where we were like, ‘OK, let’s take it slow, we don’t have very much money but we’re going to try and push it along.’”
Since taking the show on the road, things have gone well, Miller said, and the support has been tremendous. So far, they’re booked out the next few Saturdays and are even getting bookings as far out as October.
As Miller and Szilagyi look to grow their business — and even expand in the future — Miller hopes to keep doing this kind of work until he no longer can.
“It’s love, I think,” said Miller on why he does what he does. “I only do things that I love to do. It’s never work for me, because I enjoy waking up and going straight to my computer and thinking about shows and how we’re going to put shows on for people, and I absolutely love performing … I love to go out there and make people smile.”