Carson and Barnes Circus, in the 1960s

Monday, November 01, 2010

Monday Midway Misc: Big Apple Circus Comes to PBS, Generates Few NY Reviews for Dance On! ... PETA Proposes Pachyderm "Empathy Center" for Venice...


Performance Unrehearsed: Enter a PBS behind-the-scenes look this week at Big Apple Circus, and already I’m skeptical. Oh, heck, sorry to have rained on a parade yet to march. Producers of the show said to have looked at several circuses, and settled on Paul Binder’s big top because it’s such a respected troupe, even though performance quality was was not their primary goal.

“We wanted to be with a traveling circus. We wanted to be with a group who lived together, ate together, performed together and traveled,” says producer Maro Chermayeff. “And so I think those were the major factors, (and) the quality of the show itself.” In fact, if I may interject, BAC has a very soft route, each town many days and cushy days in between. That an arduous season? I think not ...

If the PBS producers had really wanted “the major factors,” here’s where they might have gone: Kelly Miller Circus. They’d have found much more activity in a respectable tent show that moves virtually every day, that is not adverse to mud, sleet, hail and snow, and they’d have had a star witness bearing rich American circus history to interview in the show's owner, John Ringling North II, his story being a big story too. Anyway, since New York's PBS affiliate WNET is sharing in pre-publicity, perhaps they had a hand in selecting the town's own circus and in possibly underwriting the three part, six hour series, Circus. Follow the money. Let's face it, kids, Manhattan has slightly more clout and connections than Hugo, as in Oklahoma. And when last I checked, BAC employs an active PR dept., K-M does not. So there.

Theoretical Tanbark Plus: In Paul Binder, they have a true sawdust scholar to draw from — if he’ll talk, which I doubt. His type tend to hold back, tend to puff their properties like good press agents. What does he really think of the “Greatest Show on Earth”? Of Cirque du Soleil? Of the pathetic lack of effective circus schools in this country? I’m not expecting much.

Big Apple Circus Dance On! Reviews: Any out there? So far, only dribbles to draw from, which seems strange given the well publicized transfer of artistic power from Binder to his heir successor, Guillaume Dufresnoy. (I could scream every time I try to spell this man's name!!!) One from a blogger named One Savvy Mom, very high on the show and offering $25 discounts on tickets if you’ll mention her Mommy code. Sounds like shrewd marketing. Then there’s the lone media Big Apple bulwark, The New York Times, from which, as per custom, comes annually a rosy notice, this year’s endorsement penned by Lawrence Van Gelder, who has never to my knowledge(in recent times) reviewed a circus that he did not like. Maybe The White Tops really has it right. Around the ring(s), people prefer happy talk. And what a critical scourge I feel writing this.

If Van Gelder is correct, good news for Dance On! (its set seen in the photo at top) and Dufresnoy. I’d like to think a fresh vision has emerged to give BAC a genuinely fresh and exciting makeover. Only could I track down one other consumer posting, the adoring fan yet stating that she found more to her liking after intermission when the animals came on. And that is in essence what we were told right here on this blog by Agent A.

Shilling for Sawdust & Spangles: Perhaps many shows at one time or another practice the art of extracting feel-good notices for various payoffs. At the end of a remarkably intelligent review in The New Yorker of Banana Shpeel, one of the comments posted noted that, according to the Chicago Tribune, CDS had hired a firm in India whose employees were all instructed to post affirmative reviews of Cirque shows on theatre blogs, and that likely they were doing the same thing for Shpeel. At least the ticket agency Goldstar, which puts out a glowing paragraph about Dance On!, honestly acknowledges up front that it was prepared by Goldstar editors.


PETA Promotes Elephant Empathy Center: They’d like to open one down in Venice, Florida, if they could convince the Venice city fathers and mommies to ditch their sympathy for Tito Gaona’s great Ringling museum dream, to be housed in the old Ringling-Barnum barn (above), and instead, allow PETA to set up interactive exhibits to educate the public about animal abuse. One device would shackle visitors to confinement to approximate how elephants are assumed to feel while on tour. But Venice Mayor Ed Martin is not falling for such folly. “I didn’t see that as a serious offer.’ When I told my wryly philosophical friend Boyi about PETA’s campaign against the use of animals in scientific and medical research, he replied, “So let those people who are protesting be used for the research.” He smiled. I laughed.

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