Monday, September 26, 2011

Gavin Berger Reboots Big Apple Circus Big Top: Show's Corporate Funding, Tix Sales, Board Morale Rebound

Update, 9/28: The Washington Post gave Dream Big! a solidly affirmative review.
New Big Apple Boss: Gavin Berger might be the real thing. Photo by Buck Ennis

Show no longer in dread of red, back closer to black. Corporate funding kicking back in, with a matching grant of $1 million met, shrinking a $2.5 million deficit. Ticket sales, down by 20% during the Great Recession, on the rise again. Budget beefed up by $1.5 million. Four recently dropped play dates restored.

Crane Business News credits new exec. director Gavin Berger’s take-charge leadership, eleventh hour corporate funding, and a “re-energized board” for “saving” Big Apple Circus. It’s “back on solid footing.”

Berger was hired on an interim basis only last April. How quickly the board saw in him the perfect mover and shaker to re-boot Big Apple’s world class big top. Four months later, they’ve handed him the “yes and the no.” He apprently brings a welcome bolt of optimism and gutsy in-the trench fund-raising savvy, much needed.

Previously, he directed Lincoln Center concert hall shows, more recently, developmental affairs at Consumer Reports. “We crashed and burned in every direction,” said he to Crane’s Miriam Kreinin Souccar. “But we worked really hard to rebuild.”

It only took Berger a couple of weeks to raise the $1 million needed to match a $1 million grant from the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation.

Berger’s believes that the show’s community outreach programs to hospitals need stronger marketing; If more New Yorkers were aware, more ticket buyers might be turned into private donors as well.

Where it all counts, of course, is in the ring itself, and new artistic director Guillaume Dufresnoy is getting strong support from the Board for his desire to bring in new creative teams each season to keep content and production fresh.

Big Apple's new show, Dream Big!, just now uncorking in DC, offers a promising touch of fresh funny air in the menagerie. Along with the dogs and horses that have become Big Apple staples in the tricky animal-rights era, they've added an African crested porcupine and a Vietnamese potbellied pig.

I’m laughing inside, trying to picture the pig.

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