Involved in Lookingglass’ production of Hephaestus is Lijana Wallenda Hernandez, a member of one of the oldest and most famous families in the Circus world: The Wallendas. Dating as far back as 1780, the Wallendas have been a traveling circus known for their various skills contained within one family. Soon, they became best known for their trapeze and ariel work. The family became one of the headliners for the famous Ringling Brothers’ Circus after premiering their four person high wire act at Madison Square Gardens in 1928 to an unusually long standing ovation. The family continued to work with Ringling throughout the 1930s and 40s. The family earned their nickname, “The Flying Wallendas”, when a reporter noted, during one performance, how well they recovered from a high wire fall. The name has since become synonymous with the family.
In 1947 after touring with Ringling for eighteen years, Karl Wallenda began to form his own circus. During this time he developed and performed the seven person pyramid, the act for which the family is famous for. In this performance, four men created the base, with two more men balanced on top and it was finished off by a woman balancing on a chair on top of both levels. This was something that had never been attempted before, and the Wallendas were able to perfect it. The trick was performed many times between 1947 and 1962. During a performance in 1962 the pyramid collapsed, leaving three performers dead and one performer paralyzed. Consequently, the pyramid was removed from the normal act.
The Wallendas are still a strong feature in the modern day circus, and a new generation of the family surpassed the 1947 achievement by creating an eight person four level pyramid for the 2003 Guinness Book of World records. This pyramid featured Lijana Wallenda Hernandez (Hera) and Tony Hernandez (Hephaestus).