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Karen E. Gersch – Artist Portfolio

KAREN E. GERSCH

If anyone knows about the circus it is Karen E. Gersch. She has performed, created and directed circus and painted, drawn and illustrated it. Her work is beautiful and captures the whimsical nature of the circus soul. Here are a few choice examples of Karen’s work with her descriptive text.

The ‘Nickel’ in this oil painting, “Nickel Storms the Ring” was my teacher and mentor, Nina Krasavina, a star acrobat, aerialist ad the first woman clown ever to grace the ring of the Moscow Circus. After defecting to NYC in the mid-’70s with her husband, Gregory Fedin, they traveled with 3-ring circuses throughout the US and Canada. Nina and Grefory opened their own school, the Circus Arts Center, in an abandoned department store in Hoboken, which they ran for years, training many acts that had longtime professional careers. 

Gordoon”: acrylic on canvas portrait of Jeff Gordon, whose inventive and acrobatic routines made him a beloved and longtime featured performer with the Big Apple Circus, as well as Cirque du Soleil, Ringling Bros., Walt Disney World, and various NYC theatre productions.

Kenny Raskin/New York Goofs”. Kenny is a physical comedian whose diverse and charming character work enlightens every stage, be it on Broadway, off-off-Broadway or Cirque du Soleil. He is someone I never tire of sketching; captured here during a New York Goofs engagement.

Little Tich” and his Big Boots Dance was a headlining act of the English music halls in the early 1900s. Tich (Harry Relph) was only 4’6” tall, but left large footprints with his eccentric and energetic dance routines, combining balancing skills with acrobatics. The slender wooden boots he performed in were 28 inches long! Relph is considered the forerunner of all screen comedy.

Darja is a Latvian-born acrobat whose professional partners happen to be small dogs and a potpourri of cats.  The setting for her act is a living room, complete with two dressers, a nightstand, and an oval carpet.  The drawers glide open and cats climb gracefully out, then jump in an arc to her shoulders, where they run and balance along with her extended limbs, as she turns walkovers, handstands, cartwheels, and splits.  A dog poses perfectly on her top hat while she executes back rolls and contortional poses.

    Darja performs primarily in Russia and Europe, in circuses, cabarets, and theaters.  Her animals travel with her – in carriers to the stage, but live uncaged in her hotel room, where they all share her bed.  I know, because I had the room next door to her in Leipzig, Germany, and was serenaded by her Siamese and Egyptian cats, who sang gustily all night!

“Richard Hayes”, also a British Music Hall performer, was a noted juggler and silent, deadpan comedian, often billed as “The Laziest Juggler in the World”. His oversized head, languid manner, and slow-motion moves distinguished his ball juggling routines.

This is a very early pastel sketch of Hilary Chaplain (1990’s) from the CircuSundays Series I used to run.  Hilary is one of the most prolifically funny and hardest working physical comediennes, whose recent work has delved deeply into emotional and historical elements.  In particular, her current production “The Last Rat of Theresienstadt” which takes place in the “Ghetto town”/concentration camp of Theresienstadt during the Holocaust.  Following a successful run in Europe, where she garnered top awards, the show will be presented at The Wild Project on November 13th and 14th.

“Senor and Friend”. Senor Wences began his career as an unsuccessful bullfighter before becoming a gifted ventriloquist. The Spanish performer was one of the highest-paid and most popular Vaudevillian acts in the world and appeared on the Ed Sullivan show throughout the ’50s and ’60s. Wences died at the age of 103 in Manhattan.

“Slava’s Snow Show”. I first saw Slava Polunin in Cirque du Soleil’s production of Alegria, back in the 80’s, and was delighted by his simplistic and organic clowning (finally oversized clown proboscis and makeup used well by the clowns who wore them!) His signature romantic imagery, the surreal environments and emotional physical work he creates were resurrected in his first “Snow Show” that appeared on Broadway. This drawing was one of many rendered from his second run in NYC at Union Square.

Born in Prague, Tomas Kubinek and his parents fled the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia and settled in Ontario, Canada, when he was only 3.  He fell in love with circus and clowns, began performing as a child and has never stopped, regularly traversing the globe with his imaginative and eccentric solo shows.

Waldo & Woodhead” (Paul Burke and Mark Keppel) were a couple of wild and zany guys, whose character-driven physical comedy and strong partner juggling made them a well known performing sensation around the globe. This painting, exhibited at several IJA Conventions, was sold three years ago.

For more information or to see other artwork, visit:

www.artbykeg.info on FB: “Art by Karen E. Gersch”

With the exception of “Waldo & Woodhead”, all the drawings and paintings here are unsold and available. Inquiries should be made to: keg37@frontier.com.

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American Circus Big Apple Circus Circus Clown Comedy Performing Arts Photography Physical Theater Tent Show

IN/SIGHTS – Big Apple Circus Clowns

Big Apple Circus ClownsBig Apple Circus Clowns

“1987 – Big Apple Circus Clowns. This shot encompasses the wonder of clowns’ first contact with the audience: hope, innocence, vulnerability, and impending mayhem.”

~ ~ Paul Binder – CoFounder of The Big Apple Circus

(Pictured above top to bottom: Michael Christensen as Mr. Stubs, John Lepiarz as Mr. Fish, David Casey as Oaf and Jeff Gordon as Gordoon.)

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American Circus Big Apple Circus Circus Clown Comedy Performing Arts Photography

In/SIGHTS – Big Apple Circus Clowns – Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon

“GORDOON”

Jeff Gordon was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (USA), in 1954. A former All-American Springboard Champion diver, he graduated from Clown College in 1979 and spent the following year somersaulting over elephants at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. In 1981, he joined the Big Apple Circus, where he worked on the ring crew. He also appeared as a plant in the audience for the Big Apple Circus’s trio of clowns, Carlo Pellegrini (Carlo), Michael Christensen (Mr. Stubbs), and Barry Lubin (Grandma).

Jeff’s first experience as a clown had come as part of the Ringling show, but he felt much more comfortable in the intimate, one-ring European format of the Big Apple Circus. So, in 1983, he became a full-fledged member of the Big Apple Circus’s Clown Alley as “Gordoon,” a newly created clown persona. Mr. Stubbs, Gordoon, and Grandma would be, for the following five years, the iconic clown trio of the Big Apple Circus.

In 1989, in a quixotic attempt to run away from the circus and join a home, Jeff found himself on Broadway, playing The Dean in Bill Irwin’s Largely New York, a role he subsequently played on tour. By 1991-92, however, he was back at the Big Apple Circus, performing in Greetings from Coney Island and, 1992-93, Going Places, a show in which he was the lead character.

Jeff subsequently performed in Asia, appeared with Bill Irwin in the Seattle Rep’s production of Molière’s Scapin, and was for several years “Le Clown Gordoon” at the French Pavillion at Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center. He then moved to San Francisco, where he became involved with the successful Teatro ZinZanni. In 2000-01, Gordoon was again back at the Big Apple Circus, where he starred inClown Around Town with Tom Dougherty.

Jeff later participated in the Tianjin International Comedy Festival in China (2001) and toured with Circus Vidbel in 2004. He has worked extensively in Asia and the United States, and In 2007-2008, he was featured with Zany Umbrella Circus in Amman, at the Jordan’s Children Museum. In addition, Jeff has done many Artist-in-Residencies in the Pittsburgh area, where he now lives.

Thanks to Circopedia for this Bio of Jeff Gordon. A great resource for all things CIRCUS!

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Categories
Circus Clown Performing Arts Photography

Big Apple Circus ‘CLOWN CARE’ 25th Anniversary

On Monday at 11am a Celebration was held at the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital on Broadway and 165th St.

Serving that facility for 25 years, The Big Apple Circus Clown Care staff sang, blew bubbles, played music  and entertained the children and adults.

In 1986, Big Apple Circus co-founder and Creative Director Michael Christensen founded this professional hospital clowning program.

In the beginning it was only three clowns. Michael Christensen (Mr. Stubbs), Barry Lubin (Grandma) and Jeff Gordon (Gordoon)

Today the Big Apple Circus’s Clown Care is at 18 leading pediatric hospitals nationwide with over 80 talented professional clowns.

It also has inspired many other groups world-wide to develop in Germany, France, Mexico etc.

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The ceremony began with remarks by Big Apple Circus Chairman Chris Wearing.

Chris Wearing

Dr. Robert Seigle, pediatric nephrologist spoke about his relationship with the Clown Care group from the beginning.

Dr. Robert Seigle

The other speaker was nine time Emmy  award winning broadcast journalist Jane Hanson, host of NBC’s LX NEW YORK.

NBC’s Jane Hanson (w/clown nose)

They had celebratory cup cakes donated by Magnolia Bakery.

Philip Thurston, Press Contact for the Big Apple Circus organized this delightfully heartfelt event.

Philip Thurston and Clown Dikki Ellis.

The event was very emotional. Michael spoke about the role of the clown in the hospital environment. The Big Apple Circus Clown Care has been working in hospitals for 25 years and has brought joy and laughter to many children.

Mr. Stubbs (Michael Christensen) speaks to the hospital patients and press.

Directing part of his talk to the clown members of the audience he spoke of the importance of their work.

The Clowns gathered together at the end of the celebration and collectively chanted;

“See you down the road”

The tuba and banjos began playing as they marched out of the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and into the street.

They gathered their belongings, suitcases and instruments and paraded out the front door and took the subway to another hospital in Harlem.

Here are some photographs from the day.

Karen McCarty

Deborah Kaufman

David Engel

Audrey Crabtree and Andy Sapora

Dikki Ellis and Deborah Kaufman

Getting ready to Parade out the door.

The Big Apple Circus Clown Care CLOWNS!

(Not listed in order)

(Michael Christensen, John Grimaldi, Erin Schmahl, Karen McCarty, Josh Matthews, Julie Pasqual, Will Shaw, Audrey Crabtree, Watson Kawecki, Laine Barton, Leo Dessilets, Phyllis Capello, Ron Hoffman, Deborah Kaufman, Sarah Petersiel, David Engel, Lauren Sharpe, John Leo, Dikki Ellis, Hilary Chaplain, Maria Para.)

(L to R)Audrey Crabtree, Michael Christensen, Deborah Kaufman and Hilary Chaplain

The Big Apple Circus Clown Care ensemble (in hospital coats) travel to the next hospital in Harlem.

Mr. Stubbs (Michael Christensen) entering the subway at 165th Street station with props and gear!

Juggler Will Shaw with Big Apple Circus Clown Care 25th Anniversary Banner getting on the elevator with peers.

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Help the New York  Big Apple Circus Clown Care community outreach program continue by donating here!

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