Okay, first off, let’s not go out and commit mass suicide — not yet. Yeah, the news out of Hugo about Carson & Barnes is depressing, but that doesn’t mean the show, or all the others now on the road, will will not return next year. May I remind you, kids, that we go through these wrenching predictions of doom about every year (yeah, I know, it’s fun being melodramatic, but this IS circus, right?) ... Sure, the tent and indoor shows are shrinking in size. In corporate America, it’s called “downsizing.” Don’t count out our fearless owners (the Byrds and the Pughs, for example) who have been keeping these tricky things on the road for ages ... Somehow, they know how. Don’t overlook Big Apple Circus (there's the BAC ring crew), a wonderfully stable organization, far as I can tell, with exemplary artistic standards in act selection ... Vargas shows notable promise, if only they’d concentrate on the performance ... UniverSoul is not well established?
What goes with Kelly Miller? Reading Ben Trumble’s blog, I get the impression that business is mostly very unexceptional, in fact, not very good at all, so, practicing journalism 1A, I sent an e-mail to show manger Jim Royal seeking if possible his take on the season so far. In kind, he replied, “We are pleased with business this season, our numbers are up from last year.” Did you hear him say “up”? Stresses Royal, “I think it is important to consider a season as a whole. There are always great dates and losers. The end of summer — back to school time period is traditionally a slow period. We had good business on Labor day (which can be a slow day) and yesterday we had a very good day. Our next stop is sold out.” ... Might they be rethinking any of their booking strategies? “We are always looking at new ways to improve business, with costs as they are it is a necessity. Our big ‘gripe’ about 2008 is a common one, expenses.”
Somebody predicted in a comment on my midway (comments are always welcome here) that most of the circuses won't be back next year. Count Kelly-Miller an already declared exception. John Ringling North II due in on September 12 to oversee plans for the 2009 tour. I said 2009,so cancel that call to the suicide prevention hot line. North’s daughter, Katherine, to rejoin the show in late September. Circus owners, I have observed, are a stubbornly dedicated lot. No matter how I may critique their shows (and I know some of my reviews have driven some of you nearly mad), I feel a profound respect for the collective efforts of our tenting lords to keep their canvas in the air. Yes, they are doing lots of things we could argue are wrong. Maybe they will be forced to take a closer look at their operations. Lord knows, they are trying. You hear newer music. You see the story lines that audiences, whatever I think, might like.
Big Top Bits: Thrillingly Ringling, chillingly Chinese. Is there a show that does a better job showcasing the great acrobats from Asia? I think not. In this realm, the Felds excel, as witness their latest gift, seen here in the photo. A simply fantastic act. As circus as circus can be, yesterday, today or tomorrow. Sad to consider, however, how young Chinese kids are basically forced into a grueling young life of daily practice to be turned into circus artists or Olympic champions ... Chase chirping over a Ringling show he can believe in. That would be Bellobration: “Ringling’s sucked a bit over the past years, but with this show they’re back.” I think you’re onto something, Chase ... Cirque du Soleil’s Guy Laliberte telling a reporter “I love surrealism.” Fine with me; circuses should be atmospheric and other worldly, once penned Floyd King. To insure that “cirque has the pick of the best performers,” says the writer, Laliberte spends eight months each hear “looking for future circus stars.” ... Not that easy, Mr. L. I do think you dug yourself into an economic hole, what with all the show’s you’ve promised to deliver the world, and you desperately needed the money that Dubai offered you ...
Speaking of outside money to the rescue, back closer to Baraboo, Bob Dewel, who advanced from waiter to dentistry when Lawrence Welk was playing around Clear Lake, Iowa, circa 1940, spends most of his time these days looking for cracks and blemishes in the Al Ringling Theatre to restore. Our keyboard virtuoso, at the dapper age of 89, recently faced a city council and was able to help extract a $10,000 donation. Well, he once drilled for gold, don’t forget. The money raised will remove, at last, an unwanted popcorn machine and ticket stand from the lobby so that it can be restored it to its “original glory.” Go, good Doc Dewel! You and Guy Laliberte may have something in common ... Your next stop, may I suggest: Dubai.