Opal Raven is a performer who’s not afraid to turn up the heat – literally! 

Her one-woman variety show, Opal Raven Cirque, features daring sword work, fascinating snakes, and of course, plenty of fire.

Producer Dave Fraser brings us a glimpse of Raven’s danger-defying sideshow act, which she describes as “like magic, but real.” 

Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Opal Raven considers herself a performer who’s not afraid to turn up the heat, literally! Her one-woman variety show showcases daring sword work, fascinating snakes, and, of course, fire.

She spoke with producer Dave Fraser, who brings us her story.

Opal Raven, Circus Performer: I’ve been a performer since — since the beginning of it all. And it was always just, “Gotta do more! Gotta do more!” And it’s morphed into this crazy, one-woman, like, Wonderland that it is now.

My name is Christina Collins Terrell, and my stage name is Opal Raven. It started as a burlesque name, because when you’re on the burlesque stage, there’s a lot of really fun burlesque names.

And I picked Opal Raven ’cause I’m kind of the edge lord of the group and I love Ravens. And then opal, kind of, is the opposite of — of a raven where it is light and multicolored and unassuming. So, the two of them together brought out my Opal Raven name. I started just classifying myself as a circus sideshow performer.

I take many forms during all of my performances. I am a belly dancer. I am a sideshow artist. I am a fire dancer. I’m a flow artist. I work with LEDs, I work with snakes. I do a lot of sword balancing and tricks as well as sword dancing. And I’ve settled on calling myself cirque because I am a circus-in-one and a lot of my performance is just tailor to what my audience is looking for.

What I love to say is the difference between sideshow and magic is, sideshow is real.

So, the fire is going in my mouth. It is it is there. There’s a move called a fuel retention, where you actually hold the fire in your mouth, and you take the wick back out of your mouth and the fire is still there in your mouth. When you’re done, it’s all real and it’s all a technique and race against time and — and never, ever, ever swallow it!

There are fire safety courses and actual certifications that you go through in order to be certified and safely perform that. But as far as performing is concerned, it’s an art form. So, you can go as technical and training style as you want, or you can be as loose and figure it out as you go.

I am covered in bruises, scrapes, scars, and burns from practicing what I do, and that’s under the supervision of trainers, teachers, certifications. The wonderful thing about it is, because it’s real, it brings an extra, like, intensity to the stage whenever I am performing, but it also brings an extra danger, which I am insured for. So that’s a… that’s an important detail.

I have an adult boa constrictor. His name is Smaug. He’s — he’s an albino constrictor and he’s the main performer that works with me. It’s amazing. With the with the snakes specifically, you get a lot of people who are very shocked and concerned and almost afraid during the performance.

And at the end, they come up and they’re like, “Can I touch your snake? What’s his name?” You know, it’s like, “Have you trained him to do what he does?” Like how, you know, “Are you afraid of him?”

It’s a great opportunity to dispel a lot of — of — of fear and wrong assumptions on — on snakes and reptiles. They’re really edgy acts and there’s a lot of fire involved.

So, people are usually just, like, amazed, wide-eyed. And so many of them just come up and they’re like, “That was amazing!” And that’s — that’s what I do it for. It’s — it’s just…it’s a great feeling.