Baraboo on Parade!

Baraboo on Parade!
Down Fourth Street on Saurday, the fifth annual circus celebration and big top parade. Photo by Todd Krysiak, Baraboo News Republic

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Tree Glows in Oakland


Every year, seems that Christmas is less obvious, less illuminated, less sung about.

I've heard that forces out there are trying to destroy it. For what?

I love the culture of it -- the music, the lights, the good cheer, Christmas tree memories ...  And yes, the heart-warming reach of faith. 

Around here on my daily walks up and down the streets of Oakland and Piedmont, some blocks at most have but one tree in a lone window.

Some are as drab as this:

So, in compensation, I offer you these wonderful images from another time, another shared season -- another country?


To those wishing to remove it from the calendar, Humbug!

And to the rest of you, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Big Tops Falling ... Mild Animal Circuses Rising ... Cirque du Soleil in Arena Mode .... Welsh Troupe Books Brooklyn Stage ... Church May Swap Worship for Wire Walking ... Chicago Trib Critic Welcomes Elephant Exit .... Well, That’s What I'm Reading (sorry if I’m depressing you) ...

Pippin, the Sequel? Now comes  Cirque du Soleil with acts for a Broadway revival of  The Wiz.    They can't get the Great White Way off their minds.  Neither China, both markets failing to fall for Cirque when it first came to call. Trying to take Broadway, they slipped on their own Banana Shpeel, as they called the turkey they dared to let cluck in a New York playhouse despite scanting out of town notices. Hubris knows no caution.  But they’re not down yet.  The crusade resumes, this time wrapped in the luster of a proven hit musical.  And this time may be a charm.  The Wiz, looking good on the recent NBC Live, pleased more of the critics than none.  Cirque may bank on sneaking inside the musical more than being it.  Even it must play second banana.

 
Another Cirque concoction, something called TORUK, described “a live immersive multimedia spectacle" and claiming inspiration from James Camaron’s AVATAR, will hold court on a stage (their word) as wide and hard as an arena floor.   Opening in Montreal, they are eyeing China, hoping to strike gold the second time around.  Toruk is the first show from Cirque with a  "narrator."  I recall Cirque recycling its tent shows into flimsy arena adaptations.  At the Cow Palace in SF, they were nearly hissed out of town by miffed critics and customers.  Now, as for what appears above, my expectations explode.  

Let me go soft for a moment and honor their chronic courage -- or creative desperation.  Hey, Mister Cirque King up there, can you hear me down here?  When will you make a daring turn and bring in a few animals?  I'm waiting. Sometimes, less is better.

American circus schools forever almost rising, the saga continues.  Every once in a while from cyber courier Don Covington comes a link to another circus arts academy going up, sometimes in a church begging for anybody out there to fill up the chairs (as opposed to a circus in a tent begging for seat warmers).  Latest is talk around Chicago about eager jugglers and tumblers wanting to acquire Logan Square Church for a training center. Locals hailing the Windy City as the center of contemporary circus, which it may be.  They have just the right critic to cover it.  Read on...



And then there are those ambitious plans up New England way for a Circus Conservatory school. Another setback:  Fall classes cancelled.  Portland facility vacated.  Lease terminated.  Focus has turned to “developing the school as a degree granting program for people pursuing careers in the circus arts.”  A mandatory class should  teach students how to get cheap workshop space on public funding.

He’s about the best damn circus critic among the national newspaper theater critics, and his name is Chris Jones, of the Chicago Tribune.  Digs yesterday and today.  Is fair.  Is a fan of the form but won't give anybody a pass.    Looking at Ringling’s latest, Circus Xtreme,  Jones was entertained enough to overlook or note tactfully some sections not up to par.  A few:

“Circus Xtreme — which is not especially extreme, of course, but fun —  lacks a traditional trapeze act in the rafters.” ....  Even then, Jones was wowed by the “fabulously talented” high wire walking Danguir Troupe.   He goes back and forth, up in the air.  “Some of the other acts,” says he, “are old favorites I’ve seen done better.”  A few captured him.  “The Mongolian Marvels (strongmen) are quite something.”

About the elephants preparing to retire, Chris Jones may speak for many people out there by welcoming the news with calm resignation.  “The time has come.” He would also not be bothered in anyway were the Big Cage removed, too..  “I doubt the big cats are long for the circus either, and I won’t miss them.”   When I read that, I had this sinking (out of body?) feeling of watching a whole institution (American circus) being given its walking papers, packing up and heading down lonely ignored roads to no where.

But, not America’s favorite house pets!  Jones adores Alex and Irina’s  “Dogs of the City,” he did, Bow! Wow!  And he found a reliable thrill in the human blast off.  “A total sucker for the good old human cannonball.”   I enjoy and trust his reviews, such a rarity is he.

Blanco

Back to the boards, once again in New York city.  From London, Douglas McPherson sends me linkage to a Welsh troupe called  NoFit State Circus,  government funded and about to leap the Big Pond for a stage gig in Brooklyn.  Touted, by whom I’m not sure, to be “the UK’s leading large-scale contemporary circus company, the NoFitters have toured 15 countries, played to a quarter million people, landed  big awards.

And I still feel a little like I’m watching the pull-out vans driving up.  Hey, guy!  Could I have that lone ring curb over there?

Think it’s time to watch Ring of Fear.  Nobody watched a circus then in a state of guilt.

Next The Ambivalent American Audience.