Clown for a New Day

Clown for a New Day
Dagwood might make it in today's emasculated circus

Monday, June 09, 2008

The One Act Circus – Why Not?

Sunday Morning, Looking Back ...

It’s about time
our tent shows face up and pace up, intensify and get to the point: Pack the acts tighter, move 'em as fast as the Kentucky derby, and give the public a thrilling break. People no longer want long. Too many things to consume or IPod or text message out. Diminished capacity to sit still. Intermissionless shows elsewhere may be growing in popularity. So easy to take in. So unmessy. Sit down once. Get up once, and you’re out of there. Like taking in a movie. My open memo to circus owners: Give audiences your best stuff in one glorious rush. Concise. Prompt. Action-packed. And then finish fast. Better to leave ‘em wanting than worn.

On Broadway and off, some shows (the long-running Alta Boyz, for example) are nixing the interval. Xanadu on roller skates barely reaches the ninety minute mark (running out of steam way before then).

Many of today's cash-strapped circuses have been cutting back on acts and rarely run, in total performance time, much longer than ninety minutes anyway. Circus Osario, putting its two thin halves together, comes up with about forty minutes. Yes, I said forty. Over at Big Apple Circus in the mornings, the kids get so restless to run for the buses, so says company manager Don Covington, that they offer a slightly shortened version (cutting each act a little) to give the moppets an early exit.

Ironically, Carson and Barnes, which ran for years without an intermission, now sports one for reasons all to clear ... Yes, I am not totally dumb to the realities. "Concessions!" I can hear you shouting. Osario’s best act (which is not saying a whole lot), is a nifty Russian swing fling that sends the house into intermission on a high note, possibly lending the false illusion that more of the same will occur after they’ve bought their hot dogs and more cotton candy. Here's why audiences deserve brevity:

Circuses need more than kids with free ducats showing up. They need to generate word of mouth — remember world of mouth? When I saw it in 2005, Tuffy Nicholas's Sarasota-based Moscow Circus of Stars was worth a respectable look (a few top drawer moments) – all 90 minutes of it, but the long intermission only added to the onus of a desperate operation needing to sell sell sell -- anything. Run it without a break and audiences are more likely to leave much more impressed. And more likely to talk up the show.

Big Top Bits: Celebrity Circus, I see, kicks off this Wednesday. Anybody plan to watch it? I don’t relish famous faces making semi-fools of themselves in the ring ... Circus never has done well on television. Why not a real competition for young aspiring circus artists out of the schools? Why not? Because, I fear, nobody would tune in. It’s a given that the unwashed masses can sing and dance; not so, turn a triple or train a cat .... Bit Top websites, out of date, amaze me. Don’t these producers know we are living in a new age? New Cole (or Cole Bros or Cole Stars, name keeps changing) is running last year’s photos on its website.Kelly Miller's website is as stale as it was last season ... Can this economic recession, crippling vacation auto travel, not benefit the smaller shows that are so affordable? I’m betting on it ... The History Channel had a big spread on loggers up in Oregon, so why not one about the men who move our big tops? ... And, about pressing times, here’s another way to tip the public toward your tent: Along with free or discount kiddie tickets, promise ‘em dollar concessions! Or at least designated dollar shows ... On the other hand, why not give away free popcorn and charge for tickets instead?

And that's an unsolicited wrap...

from June 9 ,2008

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