FYI Vol. V – No. 5

Partying Like It’s 1865

NGO16 MS 0013

On the evening of Saturday, July 16, Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn was transformed into a 19th-century pleasure garden and theater, to celebrate its permanent resident William Niblo (1789–1878). The one-of-a-kind outdoor show and picnic at the site of Niblo’s grand mausoleum featured entertainment curated by Bindlestiff Family Cirkus. Early arriving guests were invited to engage in Victorian amusements including graces, shuttlecocks, and wooden rolling hoops. The performances began with a grand procession of stilt walkers, penny farthing riders, dancers, and circus performers. These outdoor performances exhibited the 19th-century flair of Niblo’s theater:  guests were dazzled with fire eaters, jugglers, acrobats, contortionists, a hot air balloon fantasy, and much more. Music included harp solos, hurdy gurdies, and novelty song sing-alongs. The picnic and rollicking show surrounded one of Green-Wood’s beautiful glacial ponds, in front of Niblo’s stately mausoleum. Guests were encouraged to bring blankets, picnic dinners and beverages as they stepped back in time with author, historian and Niblo expert Ben Feldman. After the show, Niblo’s mausoleum was open for candlelit exploring.

William Niblo himself visited his Green-Wood mausoleum regularly before he was interred there. His combination pleasure garden and theater, Niblo’s Garden, was the Radio City Music Hall of its day. It featured acrobats, vaudeville, dramas, musical concerts, and operas and was the destination for entertainment in New York City. Niblo’s was the site of America’s first work of musical theater. The fashionable theater-garden, located in Manhattan on Broadway between Prince and Crosby, seated 3,200 persons. It was demolished in 1895.

Since 1995 the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus has traveled the world, bringing its unique hybrid of vaudeville, circus, burlesque, and sideshow to theaters, clubs, colleges, and festivals. The company has produced innumerable cabaret shows, custom performances for special audiences, all-ages and family productions, and sophisticated adult shows. For more than a decade the company has been developing more theatrical productions, including 2001’s Buckaroo Bindlestiff’s Wild West Gender Bender Jamboree, 2003’s High Heels & Red Noses, 2005’s From the Gutter to the Glitter: A Night Out with the Bindlestiffs, and 2013’s “My Last Cirkus.” From 2002-2004, Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, in conjunction with chashama, operated Bindlestiff Palace of Variety and Free Museum of Times Square, the last vaudeville house and dime museum in Times Square. In 2004 Bindlestiff instituted its annual children’s performance program, the Cavalcade of Youth, in which young performers and technical staff (ages 8-20) have the opportunity to hone their skills with variety arts professionals. This past winter Bindlestiff created its newest stage production, A Cardboard and Duct Tape Spectacle. Over 400 artists have been a part of Bindlestiff in its 20+ years. Bindlestiff can be seen today on stages, at festivals, and in the streets all over the world.

Canadian National Circus School (ENC) Graduates New Artists and Trainers

During an annual ceremony held this year on June 12, the ENC awarded twenty-seven higher education diplomas to new professional circus artists. Over ninety percent of the graduating class has already signed contracts with major circus companies including Cirque du Soleil, Cirque Èloize and 7 Fingers.  Among this group is Jessica Hentoff’s son Keaton Hentoff-Killian whose specialty is tight wire.

In addition the school also graduated twenty-two people from its circus arts teach training program.


Swiss Clown and Mime Artist Dimitri  Dies

The world renown Swiss clown Dimitri, who studied under Marcel Marceau,  passed away at the age of 80 on July 19.  A man of few words in a country with four official languages, Dimitri spoke to audiences by combining naïve, bumbling humor with acrobatics and a vast repertoire of musical instruments.  He last appeared in the United States in 2009 at the New Victory Theatre, New York City in a production called La Famiglia.