Creating The Diversity Circus Assembly Show

This article originally appeared in the Detroit News, March 2007

Discover how autism motivated Doug Scheer of Scheer Genius Assembly Shows to create the Diversity Circus assembly show.

Get to know your assembly performer 

In a 5,600-square-foot house that resembles a castle, the Scheer family leads a funny, friendly, almost fairytale existence on a lake in Commerce Township. Inside the castle lives Doug Scheer, 41, who’s always laughing and says he’s the court jester. He makes his living blending magic, humor, stage, theatrics, and education, and he says that no other performer has appeared before more Michigan elementary students in the past ten years. Then there’s Heidi Scheer, 40, a long-time assistant to her husband’s act. She’s the queen, he says, and indeed, she was crowned Mrs. Michigan International 2006. Their oldest child is Carson, now seven, after whom their street was named.

No kidding. Before building their house, the couple bought vacant land on Twin Sun Lakes just weeks after their firstborn arrived, then shuddered to learn the planned name of their new street, Leprechauns Vista. We said, is there any way we can change that, Heidi recalls. The developer asked for a suggestion.

The next thing they knew, they were living on Carson’s Cove. The youngest is a three-year-old Ella, so named, her father says, when her mother, who designed the home’s castle-like touches and ironed the stone, was thinking of Cinderella. In between is Gannon, six, who is mildly autistic. Autism is a developmental disability that appears in childhood.

It can cause a person to become self-absorbed and to withdraw from socializing. In serious cases, autism leads to repetitive movements and an inability to speak. It affects four times more boys than girls, according to Sally McInnis of Novi, a parent of a child with autism and a volunteer board member with the Autism Society of America’s Oakland County Chapter.

Discover how autism motivated Doug Scheer of Scheer Genius Assembly Shows to create the Diversity Circus assembly show.

Autism was the motivation to create this assembly program

Gannon inspired the Scheer family’s latest foray into zaniness. Called the Diversity Circus, this act will nudge youngsters to be more accepting of differences in others, Doug Scheer hopes. The Scheers have been using their giant, pie-shaped garage emptied of SUVs to practice the new show, in which, among other phenomena, a tiny kindergartner levitates a hulking fifth grader. Heidi rides off the stage on a giant, butt-wiggling chicken, and Doug Scheer makes a child’s midsection appear while the pint-sized head and shoes squirm for all to see. At a rehearsal last weekend, the Scheer children act the parts of kids their parents will ask to volunteer from school audiences.

It’s all for the sake of teaching tolerance and keeping the castle fires lit, said the father in his magical household. He toured for Chevrolet for 14 years while building up his school act. I made the new Corvette appear on stage 11 times a day, he says. Heidi Scheer has modeled extensively, and still does.

She says she didn’t win anything significant when she was crowned Mrs. Michigan USA last year, but it gave her a platform, she says, for talking about autism. The couple have sought therapy for their son from many sources, among them the Judson Center in Royal Oak, Doug says. They have family activities, and we take him there as a social outlet about once a month. 

Discover how autism motivated Doug Scheer of Scheer Genius Assembly Shows to create the Diversity Circus assembly show.

So in return, we give several shows to them every year. They use me as a fundraiser, he says. As the rehearsal ends and his two boys scatter, Doug  surveys the garage full of props.

Here is a five-foot-tall stuffed mouse. Over there is a rolling cart studded with mock-sharpened chrome stakes that, well, might just disappear if you touched them. “It’s a crazy life. It’s a fun, crazy life,” he says exuberantly. He adds, “you know what’s cool? Every little boy wants to be a baseball player or an astronaut. But I wanted to be a magician. I got my childhood dream. My kids don’t know what it’s like to have a normal dad,”  punctuating the line with more of his frequent laughter.

Heidi turns to her daughter, whom she’s carrying away, and says, “We like going to work with Daddy,” don’t we? Ella nods. 

This assembly program is now scheduling for January in celebration of Martin Luther King Day

To learn more about Diversity Circus or any of Doug Scheer’s 12 assembly shows: