Editor’s Fanfare Vol. II, No. 4

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TRYING TO CATCH A BREAK

“There are plenty of ways of losing money in the circus game,” Charles Sparks is reported to have said.  In years gone by most of the ways of losing money usually had something to do with the weather. Now, in addition to weather, there are often tragic events that effect the public’s desire and even their ability to go to the circus.  The Big Apple Circus has experienced more than their share of  both kinds of events in recent years.

For the past few years the Big Apple Circus has been in the midst of  trying to recover from  a disappointing season at the box office and a financial crisis the year before.  It started off its new season  in New York City’s Lincoln Center with a well reviewed new production,  Legendarium, that began building strong audience support when Superstorm Sandy hit.  The big top was not flooded as so many other areas of the city were, but the mayor declared all city parks closed for a short period, during which the show lost a series of performances, and then afterwards it was slow in getting back to the level of attendance it had enjoyed before the storm thanks to the public’s mind and concerns being elsewhere: rebuilding and clearing damage from the storm.

Lost performances mean refunds or rescheduling.  Either causes havoc at the box office.  So instead of improving on the take from the previous year, the New York run ended up being rather flat.

In its next engagement, the show did better in Georgia than it had done in recent years. Then it was on to New Jersey. The New Jersey dates did better than the previous year, with several sellouts being recorded on weekends.  Weekdays were slow except for group sales, but the weekends continued to build, and the show headed for its second longest run of the season, March 26 to May 2, in Boston with an improved financial picture

Boston has become a much anticipated engagement in recent years as the city took the circus to its heart, despite its antipathy for the New York Yankees, Rangers and Knicks.  The big top was set up literally on the front lawn of Boston City Hall, indicative of the affection and regard with which the show was treated by the officials and people of  Bean town.

Attendance was reported as good, every day showing an improvement over last year and, as had been the case in New Jersey, attendance was building to a point where the show was beginning to make up for previous losses.

And then the Boston Marathon bombers changed all that, and the show suddenly found itself as collateral damage.  On the day of the bombing the show had no performances scheduled, but on the official day of mourning in the spirit of community unity, performances were cancelled. Then Friday of that week the Governor of Massachusetts closed the city down completely.  There was no transportation of any kind, Residents were advised to stay indoors with their doors locked.  Another loss for the Big Apple Circus, and another scramble to make refunds and make up loses from what Lynn Stirrup, executive director, termed “a significant overall impact.”

But these are only the most recent and devastating box office disasters the Big Apple Circus has endured. A few years back attendance during the run in Dulles, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C., took a hit thanks to a gunman who had taken to shooting cars at gas stations in the area and was terrorizing the public and keeping them at home  and away from the circus.

It is our sincere wish that the Big Apple Circus can make up its loses and come home a winner and goes into the new production, which goes into rehearsal late this coming summer, a positive financial situation.

 

One of the recurring themes that has often been a part of the discussion here is the contemporary circus’ efforts to merge the circus and the theatre into one compatible whole.  A new show that has just opened on Broadway, a revival of the 1972 musical Pippin, has melded the two forms in a way it has never been tried in the theatre.  Most such experiments have worked the other way around: the circus attempting to incorporate elements of theatre into its performances.  We are happy to provide a review of that production in the Passing Spectacle section, but more than that we have been able to get Gypsy Snider, a name familiar to these pages both in print and online, who was a critical creative force in making this experiment work, to talk about the creative process that was employed to make it happen.