Clown for a New Day

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

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sunda Morning Looking Back: Biggest Big Top News of 2008 -- In a Season of Exits and Sellouts, a Reborn Ringling Proves the Most Interesting Story

First posted, December 22, 2008

This season just past was more than significant for a number of reasons that have long-term ramifications for the quality and changing nature of the circus in America. In the order of importance, here are the four most pivotal events:

* Paul Binder Exits Big Apple Circus

* Carson & Barnes says goodbye to three rings

* Guy Laliberte sells 20% of Cirque du Soleil to Dubai

* John Ringling North II completes second season as circus owner

Five years ago, could any of these happenings have been predicted? Five years ago seems so far away.

What about the prospects for a brighter future under the tents?

What good may come of the four above listed events?

Big Apple Circus under new direction has a chance to make a greater mark on the public’s imagination and to eventually spread its long-modest touring wings to other parts of the country.

Carson & Barnes, if it does reduce itself to one ring, will be forced to upgrade its overall artistic vision. When the audience's attention is confined to one ring, its focus naturally becomes more discriminating. Every moment is now more important. No looking to another ring for compensation. The one on display must deliver.

Laliberte’s future is gravely in doubt. By selling such a significant stake in the show to outside interests, in effect he lets go of the autonomy he has long demanded and opens the door for an eventual sale. And that’s a pity. A major question looms: how much money does he not now have that he needs in order to fulfill current contracts for new shows around the globe? And in the execution of his commitments, without ample funds will he produce inferior programs? His new Vegas offering, Believe, has left Cirque fans gasping in disbelief and angry.

John Ringling North II is by far the most potentially interesting story because we simply don’t know how far he can go in the producing realm. It takes the average circus owner at least a few seasons to reveal a distinctive artistic vision. North II, from reports, appears emotionally and artistically committed to his ownership of Kelly Miller Circus. Depending on the size of crowds he is able to draw (of greatest concern, he seems the weakest in the critical areas of promotion and publicity), he may be self-emboldened to do great things down the road.

2009?

Nothing yet indicates that any of the “major” shows on the road are going off the road, even though business appears to have been spotty for a number of them. On the plus side, gas prices have plummeted, and a new administration in the White House will likely favor the resumption of a more liberal policy on the visas needed to import the willing brown hands from Mexico who move our wagons down the road.

Circus Vargas has a lot going for it, but it, too, must learn how to frame a much more consistently dynamic program capable of generating stronger word of mouth. John Pugh, the way he talks to the press, seems as happy as ever to be touring his New Cole Circus, even in a dramatically scaled down version.

The future, as always, is in the hands of these precious few mortals who have the savvy and crust to keep our battered big tops — somehow — in the air.

12.22.2008

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

If the new liberal presedient works on the vistas for the willing brown hands from Mexico Maybe we can expect Sue Lacy to return in the circus as well.

Logan Jacot said...

2009 should be an interesting year for the circus. I've heard rumours that Carson & Barnes is going to have an outstanding line up so hopefully the one ring format works out well for them.
As far as Cirque du Soleil goes I just visited their seasonal New York show, Wintuck. It was the first time I have ever attended a Cirque show that the cast didn't recieve a standing ovation. I heard several people walking out of the theatre saying "We should have gone to see the Big Apple Circus."

Logan

Showbiz David said...

Thank you, Logan, for your on-the-spot report on Wintuk. I know so little about what kind of crowds it is drawing. Back to Anonymous and the other subject of cheaper gas and more plentiful, let's hope, brown hands, it strikes me that Circus Chimera fans might have reason for hope.

Logan Jacot said...

David,
Also worthy of note that there were two sections of the seating at Wintuk that were completely empty.
The only act that was decent and worthy of being in a Cirque show was Elena Lev's hula hoops. I personally believe that she has the best hula hoop act in the world.

Logan

Raffaele De Ritis said...

And 2009 will be significantly distingued for the announced Ringling European tour, starting Italy next fall.

Wade G. Burck said...

Show Biz,
What do you think of that hula hoop deal? The younger men seem to love them, while the older men rue the loss of Blaze Starr. Generation gap?
Logan, it is my understanding the the Wintuck show is predominantly geared towards young children. I can understand adult's without children being disappointed. Reminiscent of the Cavalia horse production. Folks(who it was designed for) loved it, but horsemen from rodeo to circus to the dressage world walked out saying, that was sure some lame horse training.
Wade Burck

Logan Jacot said...

Wade,
I am fully aware that Wintuk is geared towards children. When I judged the show I judged it on a children's show merits, and I still came to the conclusion the show stunk. There were several kids that were in the seats around me that actually fell asleep during the performance. That same weekend I also saw the Lion King which is geared towards the same demographics as the Lion King blew Soleil out of the water.

Logan

Wade G. Burck said...

Logan,
What would you think of the idea of Soleil using animals?
Wade Burck

Logan Jacot said...

Hi Wade,
Soleil has added animals to their show Believe. Although it was just birds. I think some of their shows are very appropriate for animals but I don't think animals would fit in with other shows. Overall I think if Soleil added animals it would help the circus industry in general.
Cirque has used animals in the past. They have had a few their original touring shows and they attempted to train two snakes for their show Zumanity. Also when Cirque toured Europe with Circus Knie they used Knie's animals.
Merry Christmas!
Logan
PS Wade I just remembered that we never finished our sanctuary converstaion if you would like to finish send me an e-mail ljacot@bgsu.edu.

Wade G. Burck said...

Logan,
Birds and snakes are a stretch, as are dogs and so is using somebody else's animals, or formating around them. How in the world would Solei using animals help the circus industry?
I would enjoy continuing the sanctuary discussion, but it is more educational for everyone if it is done in a public forum. That way others can participate and you have many view points instead of a few. The more discussions and thoughts taken out of a 42 ft ring, "that" will be better for the circus industry. You learn more if the debaters don't share your philosophy's, and you are not preaching to the choir, as it were.
Wade

Logan Jacot said...

Wade,
I believe it will help the industry because people generally trust Cirque, more people trust something with the name "Cirque" on it then they do if the word "Circus" is there. I think when Cirque has animals, the customers for the most part feel comfortable that the animals are being well taken care of. They know Cirque as reputable company. Cirque in America is regarded on the same level that theatre, opera, and ballet is on. This for some reason causes people to think "It's cirque, it's a multimillion performance group of course they are going to take care of their animals." Once somebody recognizes that one company does take great care of it's animals it leads to a better trust that animals can receive good and proper care on the road. This opens lots of doors.
Logan

Wade G. Burck said...

Logan,
There you said it they trust Cirque, because it is not Circus, in their mind. To suggest that big and powerful will take better care of their animals is the type of "con" that has lead to the current state of of affairs. We do not want to ever give the "perception" of anything involving animals.
Wade

Logan Jacot said...

Wade,
Please explain yourself. How has the "big and powerful" belief got us in this situation today? Are people assuming that all shows are "big and powerful"?

Wade G. Burck said...

Logan,
It was in reference to the statement that Solei would benefit the perception of animals because:
"This for some reason causes people to think "It's cirque, it's a multimillion performance group of course they are going to take care of their animals."
I was suggesting that alluding to the myth that big and powerful would naturally mean the animals were cared for properly or better was wrong.
Wade

Logan Jacot said...

Wade,
I agree alluding to the the myth that the big and powerful is always right but I don' believe it is always a bad thing. I think in Cirque's case you would need the myth to get anti circus animal customers into the seats. Then once you got them into the bigtop, the myth would need to stop there and the audience would have to reason from what they are seeing if the animals are or are not being well taken care of.

Logan

Wade G. Burck said...

Logan,
I don't think alluding to anything, will do the industry any good. It's how a lot of the issues started. It is about facts not pretense.
Wade

Wade G. Burck said...

Logan,
There a some folks waiting to resume that sanctuary conversation you mentioned. Do you want to start a new thread, or just continue with the old one?
Wade

Logan Jacot said...

Wade,
Do you want to continue you it on your blog? If so it's up to you if you want to continue it on a new thread or the old one. Just give me the bait and I'll take it :-)

Logan

Wade G. Burck said...

Logan,
Give it two days until we figure out the recent comments snafu. It may get lost in the old thread. Folks need to go to the beginning of blogs, instead of starting the book in the middle, and thinking they know what is going on.
Wade