Editor’s Fanfare Vol. VIII, No. 1

A Test That Could Have Profound Consequences

As reported in the previous issue, the Big Apple Circus will undertake an arena tour, national in scope, immediately following the conclusion of the tented tour in July. This represents the most daring and significant undertaking  not only for the Big Apple Circus, but the entire traditional  circus establishment sans animals.  (The state of New  Jersey recently joined New York and passed a ban on any exhibition involving exotic animals.)  The reception the show receives on tour could show the way for the circus of the future in a way more profound than anything we have seen since Ringling ceased touring.  This tour will prove more or less conclusively whether or not there is an audience for the kind of entertainment the Big Apple Circus now represents.

When the Big Apple Circus first burst upon the scene forty-one years ago it was a prime example of what was new in the world of circus.  It called itself a classic circus and introduced the idea of a one ring circus to an audience that was, in its growing sophistication, increasingly disenchanted by the more extravagantly spectacular three ring circuses.   Now forty-one years later the Big Apple Circus’ position in the circus world has changed.  It now represents the kind of traditional circus, which some fans still embrace wholeheartedly.  The question is how much of the country is still hungering for traditional circus as opposed to the contemporary circus.   What this national tour will answer more conclusively than any experiment before is whether or not there is still an audience for whom this kind of circus will appeal and if they desire it in numbers large enough to sustain what the Big Apple Circus has become.

Whatever it is the Big Apple Circus has become is a reflection of the taste and ambition of the man at its head, Neil Kahanovitz. “It all comes from Neil,“ Mark Lonergan, the director of the present production, acknowledges. “Neil has very specific visual ideas,” Lonergan adds. He specifically asked that there be aerial acts in the opening because they had been absent from recent productions.  He also wanted lots of color.

“He wants the audience to walk away from a performance feeling joy,” Lonergan says. “There is also a level of sophistication to be considered as well.”  The fact that the show is playing in Lincoln Center situated between the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Ballet must be taken into consideration. “It should always be a show that has earned its place at Lincoln Center. We have to think about what we can do that is unique in this environment,” Lonergan points out.

So what this proposed tour stacks up to be is something of a contest between what amounts to the prime example of what the traditional circus has become and the level of sophistication it represents and the experimentation of the contemporary circus and its own brand and level of sophistication.

We will be watching with great interest to see how successful the Big Apple tour turns out to be.