FYI Vol. VIII, No. 4

Some Rumors Prove to be True

The circus world always seems to be rife with rumors, most of which turn out to be false because they are started by people who just don’t have access to what is really happening.   For the past few months I have been hearing rumors about changes in the top management of the Big Apple Circus.  Unlike most rumors, my information was coming from people who had some access to what was really going on, but pursuing verification proved to be very difficult.  None of the many people I went to for authentication were willing to say anything for the record.   However my persistence finally moved the circus to issue a definitive statement, since it had become pointless to keep what was going on a secret.

Here is the official statement from the Big Apple Circus: “Neil Kahanovitz is focusing on other pursuits and is no longer working with the Big Apple Circus. We are extremely grateful to him for getting the circus to where it is now and wish him the best of luck with his new endeavors.”

How this came about is unspecified, but there are several rumored explanations still hanging about.  Before and  if we ever get to answer any of those lingering questions there is more information I am able to pass on to Spectacle readers.

Jack Marsh, who some may recognize for his connection to Circus Flora, which, by the way he will continue with at least for the time being, has been named executive producer.   Flora begins rehearsals for its new show at the end of May under the direction of Marsh’s mother Cecil MacKinnon, and Marsh will be with Flora for most of its St. Louis engagement which runs through the month of June.

The new arena show is proceeding as planned. All of the artists from the tent show have been signed.  So for all intents and purpose it was created artistically before Marsh arrived.  Mark Lonergan is set to direct the transformation. Georgia Stevenson  is the general manager for the arena tour, so she will be covering whatever administrative chores need monitoring.   Guillaume Dufresnoy is collaborating with the creative team on adapting the show to the new space.  The most creative aspect of the transfer involves the design aspect which is aimed at recreating the big top atmosphere rather than that of an arena.  Six weeks remains before the arena opening.  Spectacor, which owns a numbers of arenas around the country , is a partner for booking and marketing the arena tour.

Dufresnoy, in fact, continues to be involved in all aspects of the circus including the beginning discussions for the new tent show. He is helping find and sign acts.  West Hyler, who has guided previous editions, will be directing the new tent show.  Marsh will be its producer.  Housch Ma Housch will be the star clown. The show will also include several heavy apparatus acts, with “people flying around everywhere,” according to Marsh.   There will no horses in the new show but two of the Olate dog acts are set to appear.

Marsh says he has always been interested in the workings of the Big Apple as it and Flora are very similar in many ways, and through conversations about the shared features he was invited to assume his present position. He was eventually hired by Gregg Walker, the current CEO of the Big Apple Circus.

According to Walker’s Facebook page his experience includes a stint with Sony, in their corporate development department, with Viacom dealing with mergers and acquisitions, and a decade at Goldman Sachs. He studied law at Yale and received a degree in economics from Washington University  in St. Louis.


A Couple More Rumors

Kelly Miller will take a hiatus after its Little Ferry, NJ date in June and return to the road in September. A second rumor has it that Nik Wallenda will walk the highwire with this sister over Times Square, NYC on June 23 televised by ABC.


More Honors for Circus Harmony Graduates

The KO Duo, Kyran Walton and Oliver Layher, met when they started attending circus school at Circus Harmony, and they were just 8 years old! Now 18, these multi-talented young circus performers have already performed in hundreds of shows in a variety of circus arts from acrobatics, to aerial, to juggling, to unicycling. As members of Circus Harmony’s elite performance troupe, the St. Louis Arches, Kyran and Oliver have performed at the Smithsonian Institute, Circus Flora, Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey, Wonderama TV, the  American Youth Circus Organization, and much more.

The KO Duo recently took third place in the St. Louis Teen Talent Competition where they were also awarded the Voss Family Award for Originality. The Duo were the first Circus Harmony students to be part of Peace through Pyramids, a circus exchange program with Ecole de Cirque Tous en Piste a Tourette-Levens in Nice, France. They were invited to Nice by Graciela Newsam, a Panamanian aerialist whose sister, Monica Newsam has taught for Circus Harmony in St. Louis. While there, they had the great fortune to visit the circus collection of Dr. Alain Frere, one of the Monte Carlo Festival’s founding fathers. They also had the unprecedented opportunity to perform in the Monte Carlo big top on World Circus Day for Princess Stephanie of Monaco and other distinguished guests. On the way home, they met up with Circus Harmony alum, Keaton Hentoff-Killian, who is currently touring France with Circa Contemporary Circus from Australia.

Next month, they will be performing at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival as special guests with the circus troupe from Meret Ryhiner’s International School of Louisiana. In June, they will perform with Circus Harmony’s St. Louis Arches power partner acrobatic act with Circus Flora. Kyran and Oliver helped choreograph this new act for their home troupe. In July, they will take part in the second year of the Peace through Pyramids in a partnership with Puerto Rico’s Escuela de Circo de Puerto Rico when the Puerto Rican troupe comes to St. Louis. Kyran and Oliver also will be attending Ecole Nationale de Cirque in Montreal, in the fall, the sixth and seventh graduates of Circus Harmony to win acceptance into this internationally famous circus school

Jessica Hentoff, Circus Harmony’s founder and director, is quick to point out that while the primary purpose of Circus Harmony is to be a social circus, “we also prepare young people incredibly well for professional circus careers, if they choose to take that path. I don’t think Kyran, Oliver or any of my students realize that not only do they get exceptional, serious circus training at Circus Harmony, they also have the unique opportunities of performing hundreds of shows, working with Circus Flora and making all these incredible international connections. To them, it’s just normal. Most of them, once they get some distance and look around, realize it. I wish I was one of my students!”

While the KO Duo was doing three  highs around Paris with Keaton, another Circus Harmony alum and ENC graduate, Kellin Hentoff-Killian was performing at the Israeli Juggling Convention and reuniting with members of the Galilee Circus from the first Peace Through Pyramids partners, the Galilee Circus! Other graduates Sydney ( Iking) Bateman and Melvin Diggs are with Luzia in Queens, New York. On World Circus Day, PBS American Experience reposted the video about Iking: Check it out.


More From Circus Harmony

Circus Harmony was also a recent recipient of a $14,000 grant from the NEA for Circus Harmony in the Parks. Jessica Hentoff added that “this generous NEA grant leverages the $5000 in support of this program that was awarded from the Saigh Foundation so even more children can learn to defy gravity, soar with confidence and leap over social barriers, all at the same time! Circus Harmony in the Parks shows are being schedule for this coming summer and fall.”


VivaFest Continues to Expand its Activities

The recent Viva Fest staged in Las Vegas featured 290 acts in the Student and Emerging Artist category, for a total of 300 participants. The acts were broken down into many different categories, so that each act competed against acts in the same genre.

In the Professional category 19 acts were presented in a cabaret style show. Three winners were awarded substantial monetary prizes.

Now in its second year the festival drew audiences of 1200 for the student shows, and 500 in each of the professional shows.

A new feature was a second big top allowing everyone time to rehearse and perform.

One of these tents was dubbed the Petit Palace and the performance there was hosted by promoters Matt and Heidi Morgan.  Two different shows were staged, a late night adult show and a family show on the Sunday afternoon of the festival. Cirque Mechanic also presented a late night cabaret show.

In addition to all the performances the festival also offered participants workshops and lectures or conversations with artists from the resident Cirque du Soleil shows on the nearby Vegas strip. A teeterboard area and flying rig offered more opportunities for training and development.

Mike Rice was the executive producer and founder of Viva Fest. Carly Sheridan was the executive director.

Maike Schulz’s extensive collection of photos from the VivaFest can be found in the photo galleries.


Felicity Hesed’s Cara Vita: A Clown Concerto debuts

at the San Francisco International Arts Festival

Felicity Hesed’s Cara Vita: A Clown Concerto is a solo theatrical clown piece which explores the joys, sorrows, and hilarity of romance, relationships, and child-rearing, May 30-June 1.

Created and performed by Felicity Hesed, this comedy offers a uniquely female perspective on the struggles of maintaining one’s identity in the midst of family life. Cara Vita: A Clown Concerto incorporates music, acrobatics, and magic to spin a tale of love and loss, offering   a fresh, female voice in the world of clowning.

Felicity Hesed partnered with Jeff Raz in developing this innovative piece to tell a deeply personal and universally human story.  Woven throughout are strains of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances, played live by violinist Clare Armenante.  Razz also directed.

Felicity Hesed is a Clown, Aerialist, and Director. She recently returned from Kaifeng, China where she was a featured performer at the Tenth National Golden Chrysanthemum Festival. Felicity delights and surprises viewers with her vibrant characters, technical skill, and audience interaction. Felicity has developed a unique style of clowning that incorporates acrobatic prowess, physical comedy, and theatrical storytelling. Felicity received a BA in Theater from Kalamazoo College and attended the Clown Conservatory. Felicity’s circus and clowning credits include the New Pickle Circus, Teatro ZinZanni, Children’s Fairyland, the Circus Center Cabaret, the San Francisco Aerial Arts Festival, and Seattle’s Moisture Festival.

Clare Armenante (Violinist) is a versatile violinist and fiddler with a passion for all music – any style, any genre. She currently performs, records, and tours with two bands: The High Water Line (bluegrass) and The Vivants (western swing/Cajun). She also performs as a member of the hip-hop chamber group, Ensemble Mik Nawooj, and other string quartets in the Bay Area.  Her skills in many genres of music have given her the opportunity to travel and perform at Carnegie Hall, Bill Graham Civic Auditorium with Bonobo, SF Masonic Auditorium with Sarah Brightman, The Oracle Arena with Michael Buble, and TedX Oakland. Clare received her M.M from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and her B.M. at Vanderbilt University.

Learn more about the show and book tickets by visiting or contact Hesed at, 773-841-0019