Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Enter the Classroom Circus Amateurs ... Their Numbers Are Rising -- When Will They Rise Above Recital Status?

End of Summer Wrap Up, which is never really a wrap up.  "Same old same old" is not a nice thing to say, so I must I must try saying something like "same new same new."  These days, I've been feeling as if I'm sinking into historic quicksand,  and it's because I am more and more getting a sense that the "commercial circus' (is that an oxymoron?) may be sinking itself -- under an emerging world-wide academic circus, from school to school to school. 

There are, I've heard (pardon my lazy awareness) hundreds if not thousands of class rooms round the world in which youngsters dabble in juggling, take a crack at trampoline with spangles, join up for test shows and experimental shows and youth summer shows and what not  -- most of them never going beyond the summer of their big top dreams.  Or they end up, please be assured, the academics tell us, on cruise ships or in Vegas vaudeville, or abroad.  Not under Kelly Miller Canvas.  Rarely, if ever, inside Big Apple's world class rings.

Don't say "circus for self-esteem," because a legion of veterans now at the chalkboard are finding new careers spreading the joy of acrobatics and aerial arts.  And out of this new paradigm, perhaps, may evolve the next big circus epoch, if there is to be one.  You can be certain it will be far less visceral, more cerebral.  

Here's my apologia, or pragmatic perspective:  I buy tickets to see touring professional shows (just a word to carve out a broad category), and so I have lived out of the radar of the academics.  Let me draw an unflattering analogy between what we will call (not a word I drop smugly, but with respect)  "amateur circus" and "amateur theatre."  The latter, more often called "community" or "regional" I am well aware of, because there are hundreds of booming local playhouses in which fine actors deliver plays and musicals in high style; many thespians, with the right nudge or roll of dice, might have made it on big boards -- there just aren't enough big boards for them all.

Segue to "amateur circus.  Here's the deal, or I should say the big gap.  I practically never derive the same top-drawer satisfaction from a student circus show as I do from a local amateur stage company. For one big reason, circus soars on great tricks. Theatre comes with dialogue and songs, pre-composed, the materials proven time and time again.  Easier, I declare, for an amateur singer belting "That's Entertainment" to get a rise from me than for a fledgling juggler to take me to the clouds.

Take the Sixth Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa. There I saw, for the first time, the stage version of Cabaret.  A wonderful show, expertly directed, well acted.  There I've seen rousing stagings of chestnuts like Annie and Oliver, so well done, as to approximate a professional theatre-going experience.   Of course, the actors come with those powerful  time-tested materials.

Around amateur circus rings, it just ain't so. Sorry.  There are the notable exceptions. Even though Traces, which long ago opened in San Francisco, impressed me, even though it had some good acts, it was the exception, Id' guess, not the rule.  Even Circus Oz, when I was putting up with it, did not always have what one might call professional acts. It compensated with a subversive hip on its shoulder. 

Where am I going here?  Are you still with me?  Let's continue this thread tomorrow or the next day or the next ...

* My recent intersecting with some very nice accademics out there.

* The schools that do produce, big time.

* Ooops, I started out alluding to standard shows forever on the edge of insolvency. That, too, will be addressed in due time, I think.

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