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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~ 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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After a year of assembling photographs, quotes, personal comments, essays, and more photographs we finally have a beautiful book to offer the fans and friends of Rob Torres.
The professional photographers that have contributed their work to the book are: Michelle Bates, John Cornicello, Rob Falk, Mark Gardiner, Maike Schulz, and Wednesday Aja. Of course, I have photographs in the book as well.
A community celebration of the life of Rob Torres.
The softcover version of the book is available here.
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If someone ask you ‘what is the best way to becoming a professional clown’ you might have to think about it for awhile. THE CLOWN CONSERVATORY!
In 2014 American Circus Awards were created by Circus Now and The Big Apple Circus to spotlight particular achievements in the circus arts, while drawing attention to the creativity, diversity, and public relevance of circus to American cultural expression. Honorees are nominated by the Celebration Planning Committee and voted on by a select panel composed of various leaders in the circus arts sector.
Community Impact Award – Cirkus Smirkus
This award is given annually to a circus artist or organization that has succecced in harnessing and demonstrating the power of circus arts for community engagement and social good, and in bringing diverse audiences together through quality programming.
Elevating Circus Award – Dominique Jando
This award is given annually to an individual or an organization who has made a lasting contribution to increasing public awareness about the beauty, artistry, creative potential of the circus arts through their body of work, with particular attention paid to interdisciplinary collaboration or expression.
Evolving Circus Award – Bill Irwin
This award is given annually to an individual whose personal and/or professional contributions have made a significant and permanent impact on the circus field in America, with specific consideration of how the recipient’s work has influenced the perception of the circus arts by the American public and the arts and entertainment industry.
Lifetime Achievement Award – Hovey Burgess
This award is given to an individual artist, troupe, or company whose overall contributions to the field and community are substantial, undeniable and significant.
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Big Apple Circus Artistic Director Guillaume Dufresnoy makes Opening Remarks about Circus in America.
Thom Wall entertained the crowd as he MC’d the show.
Author of “Ordinary Acrobat’ Duncan Wall presents the Elevating Circus Award.
Dominique Jando received the Elevating Circus Award and talks about how important ‘skill’ is in circus discipline.
David Shiner presents the Evolving Circus Award.
NEA Heritage Fellowship Award winner Dolly Jacobs presents the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Hovey Burgess was wheeled in (having incurred a fall a few days ago) to accept the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Big Apple Circus’ “The Grand Tour’ performer Serge Akimov performs the aerial straps.
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Celebration Planning Committee
Mary Jane Brock (Chair)
Jonathan Cerullo (Director)
Adam Woolley (Managing Director, Circus Now)
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Upcoming performances by Circus Now at Skirball Center.
Big Apple Circus’ The Grand Tour show at Lincoln Center.
The Celebration of American Circus was directed by Jonathan S. Cerullo
Tickets still Available for Celebration of American Circus here!