Everyone wants to know- how does a girl find herself touring with the world's only cat and rat circus?? Just scroll down to hear our unlikely tale.
Melissa Arleth has been performing on stages since her community theatre debut at the age of 11. She won a writing scholarship to Long Island University, where she majored in theatre and minored in dance, but it was a psychology course that forever changed her performance destiny. Her and the lab rats' eyes met over a crowded Skinner box. It was love at first sight.
Being too weird for a normal survival job, Melissa made ends meet by juggling in a theme restaurant in Times Square in between tours and regional theatre roles. When cast in a touring production, she often found excuses for her character to juggle or play guitar onstage, just to ensure her equipment got space in the tour van. A chance to perform next to real variety artists and sideshow geeks at Sideshows by the Seashore in Coney Island made it clear she had found her people. She learned to dance on stilts and soon found herself working at Busch Gardens Williamsburg theme park.
In 2009 she traveled to the San Francisco Circus Center, where she enrolled in the Clown Conservatory, endured mild torture at the hands of Chinese acrobats, and learned slack rope walking. She also performed both with and without the rats in her first burlesque show. Before the end of the year, Melissa started to book "Cirque du Sewer" on stages at renaissance faires, theme parks, outdoor festivals and as the most bizarre pre-show the Marin Shakespeare Festival has ever seen. She left the program early, adding "clown school dropout" to her list of accomplishments.
In 2014, the first feline member, Pad Kee Meow, was added to the show and quickly became more beloved by the audience than Melissa and the rats combined. Cats, what can you do?
In 2016, Melissa hired her "Rat's ass-istant", Vitaliy. Like all the furry performers, he is a rescue... from the P.F. Chang's in Hackensack, New Jersey. Not only does he clean up a litter box like a champ, he plays a mean guitar.
Since then, the act has grown in scope and popularity. Anderson Live, Anderson Cooper's short lived talk show, featured Melissa and Ebola's "Flaming Hoop of Doom" act, and the David Letterman show booked Melissa and Ecoli to perform the Girl and Rat Handstand. Letterman bumped them at the last minute, but it sure was nice to enjoy the snacks in the green room, and after all, every rat needs to see New York at least once. In 2017, they performed twice on ABCs Gong Show reboot, in which Influenza the rat rocked the obstacle course, and Pad Kee Meow the cat suffered epic stage fright.
In 2017, the two new kittens, Schrödinger and Sputik were adopted and trained up. As of February, 2018, they have their own roles in the show and are jumping through hoops of fire, of all things!
For her part, Melissa just hopes someone, someday, will notice that she's doing some pretty cool tricks on the slack rope.