On Monday night I watched the wonderful Bindlestiff Open Stage Quarantine edition and was pleased to see the “Ask Hovey” segment (featuring circus historian/teacher/performer Hovey Burgess) where he talked about ‘Midgets’ and mentioned the Vaudevisuals Press book “Rose’s Royal Midgets and Other Little People of Vaudeville“. Here is the video excerpt from the show.
In the first half of the twentieth century, performing troupes of Little People ⏤ then popularly known as Midgets ⏤ were undeniably, in Europe or in the United States, the main drawing cards of any variety or circus production that featured them. After their appearance in M-G-M’s “The Wizard of Oz,” the Munchkins’ everlasting fame has been a testimony to their timeless appeal. “Midgets” were not to be confused with Little People victim of achondroplasia: unlike the latter, they were perfectly proportioned, looking like amazingly gifted children who had just fled Neverland. Endearing to their audiences, they were also genuinely talented performers, and if only for that reason, their place in show business history is indeed worthy of attention.
“Rose’s Royal Midgets and Other Little People of Vaudeville,” published by Vaudevisuals Press, justly gives them the long-overdue attention they deserve as performing artists: the very short bibliography appearing at the end of the book sadly shows how little has been written about them, unless they appeared under the generic denomination of “freaks” in a few books related to carnival and circus sideshows — an even more derogatory term than “Midgets,” especially for the true performers they often were.
Trav S.D., American vaudeville’s foremost historian and keeper of the flame (whose book “No Applause, Just Throw the Money” is a must for anyone curious about vaudeville), tells us in a well-researched essay the history of Ike Rose and his Royal Midgets company, which forms the backbone of the book and benefits from precious documents in the personal collection of Karen McCarty — whose grandmother, Gladys Farkas, was a member of Rose’s company. Besides rare photographs, reproductions of contracts, advertising booklets, and programs give us a wonderful insight into the life of the troupes of that era.
In another well-illustrated essay, Trav introduces us to other famous Little People, from P.T. Barnum’s Tom Thumb (Charles Stratton) to the Doll Family (born Schneider) and many lesser-known individuals and troupes, with biographical notices that finally take them out of the shadows. The book opens with an essay by James Taylor (author of “Shocked and Amazed! On & Off the Midway”) on performing Little People’s reaction to the much too frequent use of the derogatory terminology that usually describes them, whether or not in a professional context. It ends with a gallery of Charles Eisenmann’s photographic portraits of Little People (from the Syracuse University Library’s Ronald G. Becker Collection) dating back to the 1880s.
Edited and published by Jim Moore, photographer to the circus stars, “Rose’s Royal Midgets and Other Little People of Vaudeville” is a wonderful tribute to bona-fide artists who, notwithstanding the special appeal of their physical peculiarity, were by and large talented actors, singers, dancers, comedians, and circus performers who certainly deserved more than a quick footnote in the history of show business.
Dominique Jando ~ Circopedia
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Coney Island USA presented a wonderful evening of discussion and interviews. Hosted by Adam Realman and featuring photographer/publisher Jim R Moore and writer/producer/performer Trav SD. The discussion topic was the new book from Vaudevisuals Press ~ “Rose’s Royal Midgets and Other Little People of Vaudeville.”
For more information and/or to purchase the book “Rose’s Royal Midgets and Other Little People of Vaudeville” click here.
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A journey through the hidden world of elephants and their riders.
High in the mountainous rainforests of Burma and India grow some of the world’s last stands of mature, wild teak. For more than a thousand years, people here have worked with elephants to log these otherwise impassable forests and move people and goods (often illicitly) under cover of the forest canopy. In Giants of the Monsoon Forest, geographer Jacob Shell takes us deep into this strange elephant country to explore the lives of these extraordinarily intelligent creatures.
The relationship between elephant and rider is an intimate one that lasts for many decades. When an elephant is young, he or she is paired with a rider, who is called a mahout. The two might work together their entire lives. Though not bred to work with humans, these elephants can lift and carry logs, save people from mudslides, break logjams in raging rivers, and navigate dense mountain forests with passengers on their backs.
Visiting tiny logging villages and forest camps, Shell describes fascinating characters, both elephant and human―like a heroic elephant named Maggie who saves dozens of British and Burmese refugees during World War II, and an elephant named Pak Chan who sneaks away from the Ho Chi Minh Trail to mate with a partner in a passing herd. We encounter an eloquent colonel in a rebel army in Burma’s Kachin State, whose expertise is smuggling arms and valuable jade via elephant convoy, and several particularly smart elephants, including one who discovers, all on his own, how to use a wood branch as a kind of safety lock when lifting heavy teak logs.
Giants of the Monsoon Forest offers a new perspective on animal intelligence and reveals an unexpected relationship between evolution in the natural world and political struggles in the human one. Shell examines why the complex tradition of working with elephants has endured with Asian elephants, but not with their counterparts in Africa. And he shows us how Asia’s secret forest culture might offer a way to save the elephants. By performing rescues after major floods―as they did in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami―and helping sustainably log Asian forests, humans, and elephants working together can help protect the fragile spaces they both need to survive.32 pages of photographs; 4 maps
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A pioneering photographer of the early cinema, James Abbe captured the spirit of entertainment in New York, Hollywood and Europe in the 1920s with his magically-lit portraits of the stars of screen and stage. A unique album of show business personalities, this book brings together Abbe’s iconic images of silent movie stars, his exuberant studies of revues at the Folies Bergere, and his fascinating record of early British cinema. Concluding with his reportage of the turbulent politics of the 1930s, Limelight encapsulates an era through one man’s brilliant career.
Born in Alfred, Maine, James Abbe’s boyhood took place in Portsmouth, Virginia. His family owned the most important bookstore in that maritime city. At its counter James sold his photographs of ship launchings and arrivals taken with an inexpensive camera. Saturated with the print culture of the period, Abbe realized that photography was underutilized as illustration in American periodicals. He began placing photo illustrations with magazines in 1916. In 1917 he moved to New York City.
A sociable, witty man, Abbe had little trouble placing photographs in periodicals, but his break into the world of theatrical photography took place when he made a number of memorable portraits of the Barrymore brothers on stage in costume during dress rehearsals for “The Jest” in 1919. Abbe became fascinated with the nascent movie industry. He did portrait photography for several New York based cinema groups, especially for D.W. Griffith, and became the third New York based camera artist (after Karl Struss & Frank Bangs) to venture to the West Coast and work as a lensman in Hollywood. He worked for Mack Sennett for several months, even directing a now-lost comic two reeler, and as a photographer for Photoplay for another several month stint. He was the first bicoastal entertainment photographer.
Abbe had a remarkable talent for inspiring trust in stars and Lillian Gish convinced him to come to Italy in 1923 to work as a lighting consultant and still photographer for “The White Sister.” He closed his Broadway studio, abandoned his wife and children, and moved to Italy. He spent the next period of his life in Europe, photographing movie and stage productions in Paris and London and working as a photojournalist. Several landmark photographs of Joseph Stalin in a trip into the Soviet Union during the late 1930s would make him a celebrity of news photography during the late 1930s. His book, I Photograph Russia, was one of the important volumes of early photojournalism. He signed his vintage prints with his last name in red crayon on the lower-left corner of his images. He used a credit stamp for publicity images. Despite the relatively short duration of his career on Broadway, he was one of the greatest portraitists of the great age of theatrical portrait photography.
Abbe’s theatrical work was one of three photographic specialties he cultivated during his career. He also became an expert movie still photographer in 1920 and an important photojournalist in the 1930s. Brought to New York by magazine publishers interested in his experiments for using photographs as illustrations for narratives, Abbe won overnight renown in 1919 for his stage portraits of performers in costume. Enhancing the available stage lighting with a battery of portable lamps, he made intensely vivid images suggestive of interrupted stories.
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CLOWNING IN CANADA – edited by Julia Lane and Linda Mancini
This wonderful issue of Canadian Theatre Review features all articles devoted to clowning in Canada. Click here to read more!
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Confused about what to do today?
Try Juggling –
Wondering what you will do tomorrow?
Try Juggling –
Thom Wall is here to tell you what it is and HOW to do it!
JUGGLING – WHAT IT IS AND HOW TO DO IT! by Thom Wall
“I realized that there was no resource that taught contemporary juggling techniques,” Wall says.
“The books that were already available focused on “this old style of juggling performance or juggling training, where you just throw the throw, it does this and then it just works,” he says. “Whereas juggling pedagogy in the past 30 years has completely changed.”
~Have a go at it. You might just find that you enjoy juggling~
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By Andrea Stulman Dennett
Dioramas and panoramas, freaks and magicians, waxworks and menageries, obscure relics, and stuffed animals–a dazzling assortment of curiosities attracted the gaze of the nineteenth-century spectator at the dime museum. This distinctly American phenomenon was unprecedented in both the diversity of its amusements and in its democratic appeal, with audiences traversing the boundaries of ethnicity, gender, and class. Andrea Stulman Dennett’s ‘Weird and Wonderful: The Dime Museum in America’ recaptures this ephemeral and scarcely documented institution of American culture from the margins of history.
Weird and Wonderful chronicles the evolution of the dime museum from its eighteenth-century inception as a “cabinet of curiosities” to its death at the hands of new amusement technologies in the early twentieth century. From big theaters that accommodated audiences of three thousand to meager converted storefronts exhibiting petrified wood and living anomalies, this study vividly reanimates the array of museums, exhibits, and performances that make up this entertainment institution. Tracing the scattered legacy of the dime museum from vaudeville theater to Ripley’s museum to the talk show spectacles of today, Dennett makes a significant contribution to the history of American popular entertainment.
“The book should prove interesting to readers of American social history, and particularly enjoyable for museum and entertainment professionals.”
“This book was a great read and provided the information I was hoping to learn about nineteenth-century dime museums. All the information on the subject seems to be scattered about and often lacking. This book ties it together in a succinct yet informative text.”
“Weird and Wonderful is a well researched and very readable account of the (mostly) 19th-century phenomenon commonly known as dime museums. While they were themselves short-lived, the influence of dime museums extends far and wide throughout our culture – from Discovery Channel programming and blockbuster museum exhibits to freak show revivals and viral videos.”
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A formerly conjoined twin in a carnival sideshow feel the pang of cut ties!
A young woman is haunted by the ghost of her conjoined twin, in Lisa Brown’s The Phantom Twin, a sweetly spooky graphic novel set in a turn-of-the-century sideshow.
Isabel and Jane are the Extraordinary Peabody Sisters, conjoined twins in a traveling carnival freak show―until an ambitious surgeon tries to separate them and fails, causing Jane’s death.
Isabel has lost an arm and a leg but gained a ghostly companion: Her dead twin is now her phantom limb. Haunted, altered, and alone for the first time, can Isabel build a new life that’s truly her own?
Interview with the author Lisa Brown
Q: The Phantom Twin is about sisterhood, loss, and identity. How do you think young adults will relate to Isabel’s story?
A: I think that all those elements resonate in just about every human’s life; family, death, and loneliness. I know that they resonate with me. As for young adults, they’re in the middle of an enormous identity shift from childhood to adulthood. It’s an evolution that sometimes feels like a loss, other times an achievement. It’s really a bit of both.
Q: The setting of The Phantom Twin is very unique. Why did you choose it?
A: I’ve always been enamored of carnivals. They perch on the edge of wholesome and seedy: innocent fun on the outside and perhaps more sinister behind the curtain. The lives of the sideshow performers themselves were also a muddle of contradictions: beauty and talent, exploitation and bigotry, and, for some, success and happiness. In the end, it’s complicated, and I am drawn to what is complicated.
About the Author
Lisa Brown is a New York Times bestselling illustrator, author, and cartoonist. Her work includes a slew of illustrated books including Goldfish Ghost by Lemony Snicket; The Airport Book; Picture the Dead with Adele Griffin; and Mummy Cat by Marcus Ewert. For adults, Long Story Short is a collection of comic strips about classic novels. She lives in San Francisco and teaches in the illustration department of the California College of Art.
“In the tradition of Ransom Riggs’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love, Lisa Brown’s The Phantom Twin explores the behind-the-scenes lives of performers in an old-timey circus sideshow, tapping into our fascination―and on some level identification―with these obvious ‘outsiders.'” ―New York Times
“Skating the line of unsettling and adorable, Brown’s trademark tidy artwork and straightforward, emotional text will make readers wrestle with what it means to be a ‘freak.’ Step right up.” ―Daniel Kraus, New York Times–bestselling coauthor of The Shape of Water
“Lovely. A fascinating and heartfelt tale of two sisters, beautifully told, beautifully drawn.” ―Ransom Riggs, #1 New York Times–bestselling author of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
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~ The Grand Gypsy ~
A Memoir by Ottavio Canestrelli with Ottavio Gesmundo
The Grand Gypsy is a memoir of life in the circus, filled with daring feats and tragic mishaps. It is the true story of a man who experienced historical events as he toured with his family through five continents and countless nations. Among these events are his harrowing experience fighting in World War I against the German Army in Italy, and the excavation of the Sphinx in Egypt.
Replete with over 150 rare, historic photographs, The Grand Gypsy is a chronicle of a circus dynasty from the late nineteenth century in Europe to the new millennium in the United States of America. Included are significant images that document an extensive tour through such exotic locations as Burma, Sumatra, New Guinea, Syria, and Mesopotamia during the early twentieth century, and numerous portraits and captured performances in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Hollywood, Las Vegas, and Sarasota, Florida.
“The Grand Gypsy is indeed fascinating and highly enjoyable reading, not only for anyone interested in circus history but also for any curious or adventurous mind.”
Dominique Jando – Editor, Circopedia.org
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“The story of Ottavio Canestrelli is unique and this book, rich with history and filled with humor, is fresh and memorable.” – “readers will definitely be interested in his remarkable story.”
The Booklife Prize by Publisher’s Weekly
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“The story of his travels, his acts and those of his talented family will enthrall any reader, and this is a most well-written and structured book”
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“The roster of names dropped along the way, along with an expansive collection of photographs from every period covered in the book, should provide a good deal of pleasure”.
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“The pictures in the book are astonishing. With its pictures and rich anecdotes, this is a treasure of a book.”
Judge, 25th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards
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