Monday, November 21, 2016

Big Apple Circus in Bankruptcy ... Cole Bros. Circus in Plans for 2017 Return ... Carson & Barnes Indoors for Winter Dates ...

 Let’s start with Happy, and work our way down to Sad.


Armando Ferrusco, left, his son Armando Ferrusco Jr. , and John Pugh.  Beacon photo by Anthony DeFeo.
Good news on the Cole Bros. Circus front: A peep and a picture from Johnny Pugh in a story out of Deland, in the West Volusia Beacon, that some Flea Market operators in the area may use his winter quarters space, since they need to vacate the lot they currently occupy and flea elsewhere.

Buried in the story is news alluding to a possible return to the road in 2017 of Johnny’s endearing school of circus (Cole Bros Circus of Stars).  Said John to a reporter:  “Election year for a circus is always considered a bad year. I’m glad I took the year off,” he said. “I’m in the middle of right now planning for next year. I have some people that want to come here and join me.”

And how does that make you feel?  I’m floating.   Something to warm our winter months and keep our dreams alive for a season yet to come.

Seems he never sold the land, and, as I recall, the Pugh trucks were all returned to Deland following the near-instant disaster of the King-Cole Circus, another short-lived no-show taken out by the wrong Garden.

Okay, let’s take some comfort, next, in the goings on at Hugo, as in Oklahoma.   I wasn’t to happy to hear from a trusted insider, a while back, about Barbara Byrd e-mailing him, “business is not good at all.”  So, that much more cheered to see that the Byrds are taking out an indoor unit of Carson & Barnes for a few winter dates around the area. 

And what about Kelly-Miller, you may be asking?  I only know that the same trusted insider passed along news that the show, apparently far from buckling under to the no-elephants trend, will have a few Big Ones from Carden being worked by Joe Frisco in 2017. That suggests to me that John Ringling North’s trick is sill on the road.  Pardon my paranoia, but I am still recovering from the dreadful season just past.   So, set 'em up Joe.  I have a little story you  need to know ...

Okay, the bad and depressing, though not exactly unexpected news.  In today’s Wall Street Journal, the headline rushed to me this morning by Anonymous, Big Apple Circus has filed for bankruptcy protection.  I read it myself, only the lead off sentence is accessible on line,  to verify. Thank you, Anonymous A+   And I was hoping for a truncated, more sane and far less costly tour of Paul Binder's show come next season, say starting in the spring at Prospect Park (are you reading me, Paul?) with a very good show, say a smaller band.

This latest does not auger well for an imminent return.  The question, as I see it, is a psychological one: Can Paul Binder, whom I am convinced must be a central part of any revival, settle back into simpler?  Or will he feel more defeat than delight in taking a more well traveled course? 

Know what I think?  Heck, what do I think?  The life of a dreamer is fraught with numerous let downs, but the dreaming may be worth it, right?  Johnny, please, don't let us down!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Academics Want What the Circus Will Never Give Them


 What Will Have Been (that never was?), from Australia's Circa Ensemble
 
In the current issue of Bandwagon (very heavy, very very late, and very deep in detail), there's a talking thesis by a retired college professor, Robert Sugarman, arguing, I think, for a "rationale" approach to circus history. Or I might have missed the point.

In his earnest consideration of modern day examples of how the circus has evolved in size and content, Mr. Sugarman seems to have fallen prey to some easy assumptions about circus entertainment (let's put the word "art" aside for the moment) and in his descent, he has missed huge chunks of the contemporary panorama, including CHINA. In particular, the tricky relationship between the act (yes, "act" does sound like a crude word) and production (or should I say contextual stimuli?)

But, to get to my provisional impatience, here is where the professor goes off the track: In his view of Cirque du Soleil, he is prone, as some are, to see the triumph of spectacle over artistry. Not a new epiphany. Thinking types in previous generations complained along similar lines about Barnum & Bailey, about John Ringling North's "night club" productions.

Finding Cirque du Soleil showmanship analogous to a Busby Berkley musical of the 1930s, Mr. Sugarman argues, not to resolutely (he is, after all, an academic being more politely collegial than persuasive), that Cirque "exalts not the excellence of its performers so much as the awesomeness of is productions." Furthermore, "it is the effect, not individual performers, that is the point of it all."

 Cerebral Cessation between acts:  Seven Fingers - Sequence 8


And there is where he and his thesis derail. How tempting it is to underestimate not only the depth of the artistry inherent in many of Cirque's best touring shows (the very accomplished Russians compete to get in them), but in the splendor of the staging techniques that actually exalt world class performers.

Academics, because they need to be digging deep for meaning that is often not there, will in vain default to strained intellectual constructions. They must redeem the circus of the circus, must make of it more than it is to the common eye. Must discover and amplify deep meaningful reflections of societal dynamics and great historical shifts. Pardon me for sounding obtuse. The circus is not theatre. Is not cinema. Is not ballet. The circus is circus.

 The Zingaro Show:  That Way to Oblivion? 

Reading through Mr. Sugarman's paper, which he presented at the American Cultural Association in San Antonio last April, I ended up in a semi-daze, a little like the way I can feel trying to understand a Cirque du Soleil program magazine article describing the deeper philosophical underpinnings of the show I just sat through. The thunder of a great acrobatic troupe, the mesmerizing dexterity of a great juggler -- these moments generate a power that is universally understood and felt, without textbook, without an overwrought mind.

I am hoping to track down a copy at a local library of the book by Janet Davis, another professor, -- Circus Age: Culture and Society; Ms. Davis seems to be the most respected authority of the moment; I hope she does a better job lecturing under the big top than does Mr. Sugarman.

If not, I'll take an F and leave early.

First posted February 7, 2012

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

How Soon They Are Missed: New Stage Show, Circus 1903, to Revive Virtual Elephants. Will Virtual PETA Protest?

If you're feeling blue about recent events, tents falling,  waffling crowds walking, watch this, a brilliant tease of a new stage show, Circus 1903, with film clips of our American circus the turn of the last century.

PURE HEAVEN

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnmrRVZ2IYE

Circus 1903, now touring the world, will hit the States in Los Angeles at the Pantages Theater on Feb. 14

Thanks to Don Covington for the link.