Categories
American Circus Juggling Photography Variety Arts

Happy Birthday – Francis Brunn – November 15

Francis Brunn – Studio Shots 

I photographed Francis in the studio and rehearsing on many occasions over a 10 year period and will eventually put together an album of my images. These are a few of them.

This was taken at the Showcase Studios where Francis rehearsed when in NY. 

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY FRANCIS!

When the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus brought him to America in 1948, he became the first juggler ever to work the center ring as a solo headliner.

New York Times – Obit

Other Resources on Francis Brunn.

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Categories
Big Apple Circus Clown Vaudevisuals Interview Video

Vaudevisuals interview with Mark Gindick & Adam Kuchler

Vaudevisuals‘ Karen Jenson sat down with Big Apple Circus clowns Mark Gindick and Adam Kuchler to hear what they had to say about
‘clowning’ and where they got their start.

More about Mark Gindick and Adam Kuchler:

Mark Gindick is a professional actor, clown, physical comedian, director, teacher and writer/creator of his own theatrical shows. Wing-Man, his original theatrical piece without one spoken word, won BEST ONE-MAN SHOW in United Solo Theatre Festival, the largest solo festival of it’s kind in the world. Mark has appeared in major feature films, including the Nora Ephron comedy Julie & Julia with Meryl Streep; on televison, The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien and was featured in The PBS mini series CIRCUS; starred Off-Broadway and at the Edinburgh Theatre Festival in the New York Times acclaimed hit The Comedy Trio Happy Hour; clowned on circuses such as Cirque Du Soleil, Ringling Brothers and the Big Apple Circus as well as teaching clowning at SUNY Purchase College and other New York City venues. Mark wrote and starred in How To Be A Man at the Palace of Variety on 42nd Street (NYC) and Mark’s unique blend of vaudeville, dance, and physical comedy earned him three Golden Nose Awards.

Adam Kuchler is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Adam followed in his uncle’s footsteps and became a clown. Since 1995, he has worked in 43 of the United States and 14 countries around the globe,  in circuses, variety theaters, parks, cruise ships, and once in a bullfighting ring.   He appeared on Late Night with David Letterman multiple times, and in 2012, was honored to be awarded a special prize for clowning at the International Circus Festival in Figueres, Spain.  In his spare time, Adam enjoys playing ukulele and eating popcorn.

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For more information/tickets!

Categories
Circus Clown Comedy Performing Arts Photography Women Writer

The State of the Clown – by Sara Moore

Reposted by Permission from Sara Moore at CircusCenter, San Francisco.

THE STATE OF THE CLOWN | BY SARA MOORE

I am a clown.  I’ve shared the same trailer, the same dressing room, the same midway, with all manner of people who enhance the idiocy and paradox of their own bumbling humanity by turning themselves inside out and presenting themselves to an audience. I have performed with everyone from Carol Channing to “Freckles.” I have been on the bill with every type of performer from opera singers, stand-ups, storytellers, jazz singers, “bubbleologists”, psychics and eccentric dancers. I’ve also played Shakespeare’s clowns and stood in a circus ring and brought an audience of 10,000 to screams of laughter by doing nearly nothing. Hell, I’ve made people laugh on the damn A-Train on the way to a gig in full clown geish. You learn early on with a career in show business that there’s a whole lot of education and empathy that grow as much from a junkyard as from Lincoln Center.  Be versatile. Be ready for any kind of job, anywhere, anytime, with all manner of misfit entertainers. All are welcome. Except for magicians: they take up too much space in the dressing room and smell like Aqua Velva. Joking. But serious.

Historically, most clowns have been men. As a woman I have had to work very, very hard to be seen as a funny being while also not being a particularly “pretty” woman, which seems to be the golden combination as defined by men: she’s funny AND a real looker! I never wanted to be pretty. Being genderqueer I’ve always been happy with my cute factor, riding the misfit streetcar of desire between the genders. Even though I’m confident that I’m funny, insightful, and dare I say innovative, when I approached The Big Apple Circus, I was told flat-out that they would never hire a woman clown. That I didn’t even make the first cut because, y’know, I simply wasn’t man enough. Truth is, they had hired women clowns in the past – just coupled with men who were their husbands and partners. But this is what I was emphatically told: no women clowns.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages: the newest addition to the #MeToo bunker is, heartbreakingly, a beloved Big Apple Circus clown. It is devastating and utterly unsurprising. These guys are absolutely everywhere, beneath and on top of every rock in every culture: toxic masculinity. Only this time, Don Draper is wearing a freaking clown nose and a bad frock. Insert multiple expletives! And just when I was really amping up about clowns not being scary…

For a long time, I haven’t known quite what to say about the fear of, and continuing sarcastic commentary about, and horror-movie imagery of clowns. Perhaps, I thought, it’s the word itself that no one likes since it’s so fully associated with Ronald McDonald and all manner of overly painted, mask-ish creatures that made little Emily cry her eyes out at the county fair. Maybe it’s the bad singing – or dinosaurs themselves – but I remember flinching when I first saw Barney. I also flinched and was repelled by all manner of costumed characters as a child.

But now I’m wondering if perhaps, just maybe, the very male-ness of clowning has been one of the main reasons why images of scary clowns have had such power in our culture.

Today, finally, we are at the birth of a new era. There is a vital new American Clowning emerging from the demise of Ringling Bros. and this historically mega-male art form, and it is fiercely female and based on the concept of the poet-in-action: more Lucy than Bozo. More Annie Fratellini, Diane Wasnak, Mooky Cornish. Don’t recognize these names? Google them. Fine, funny women all, and all cousins to Mr. Bean, Lee Evans, George Carl. Keep Googling! In many ways, the Clown transcends gender and bounces right into the realm of wonder and magical realism personified, a powerhouse prankster embodying all the mischief, mayhem and freedom of a human cartoon.

So, maybe now that our industry, like so many others, is facing its demons and becoming more inclusive and equitable, the image of clowns in the broader culture will change, too. I for one am working to help everyone see and absorb this new vision of what clowning is and can be: humanity exposed for all of our collective foolishness. It’s the fearless exposure and performance of being really human, in all its paradoxes. We are all beautiful, we are all ugly. We are all clumsy, we are all graceful. In many types of tribes throughout history, clowns are part of the healing community. When despair is crushing, kindness and humor become as vital as air. We bring medicine through laughter, joviality, silliness, and pure play. Yes, I’m just highfalutin enough to believe that clowns are part of the world’s solution, not its problem.

In this mixed-up culture, where every other person is considered a “reality star,” where gun orthodoxy outshines arts advocacy, and where even our most beloved cultural icons fall hard from grace, it is a miracle to find refuge in any kind of innocence. But a great clown can get us there, with the highest language of humor and pathos. Who better than the clown to bring us all together with what we already have, who can render the “everything all at once” of being human in high relief?

Send in the clowns? Don’t bother. They are in us all.

Sara Moore is a clown, actor, playwright, filmmaker, deviser & Director of The Clown Conservatory.

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 Check out the upcoming ‘Clown’ class starting in September at Circus Conservatory in San Francisco  – HERE!

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Categories
American Circus Circus Clown Comedy Photography Women

Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus – A Clown Goodbye!

RIngling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus

Traditions help create memories. Traditions help impart our life values to our children. Traditions help give children a sense of identity. Traditions help create a sense of belonging. Traditions offer a sense of security.
Last week I had the privilege of putting on my makeup, wardrobe and stood one last time center ring of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
32 years ago I began a career there. I have made the best friends & family there. I met Karen there. My daughter Emily got to appear as a guest clown there.
A day doesn’t go by where I am reminded in some way, big or small, the importance of this circus and it’s traditions in my life.
The current clowns (many young enough to not have been born when I started), welcomed this old clown into their world and honored me with this gift of the last photo.
This thing we do is kept alive by passing down what we learned from those before us to the next generation. Those skills and traditions are like gifts we get to unwrap, play with for a bit, then hand off and watch them create something new & wonderful.
It’s nice to know there we will always have a place, with our clown family, where we belong…
Greg DeSanto
Categories
American Circus Circus Photography Sideshow

Ward Hall reflects on “The Greatest Show on Earth”

(Originally published at WLRN.org on Feb 8th, 2017)

This week on Florida Matters we’re talking about the end of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The circus has a long rich history and a colorful past full of performers who worked under the big top, like retired showman Ward Hall.

Ward Hall was a sideshow manager with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus before the proliferation of household televisions.

“Some people call me ‘the King of the Sideshows‘,” Hall said.

Like many older performers, Hall ran away to join the circus.

Correction: “I didn’t run away to join the circus,” Hall said. “I walked two miles to the circus.”

That was 70-something years ago.

Hall first saw the Ringling circus in 1948. He was 17 years old, managing a sideshow of human oddities with the likes of the Armless Girl, the Boy with Three Legs, Priscilla the Monkey Girl and her husband Emmett the Alligator-Skinned Man.

And then in 1959, a letter came from Ringling. Hall said he’s proud of the work he got to do for the “Greatest Show on Earth” in the 1960s.

“It was the last big big sideshow that was ever done anywhere,” Hall said.

When asked if he could get in touch with his fellow Ringling performers of yesteryear, Ward Hall says it’s about 40 years too late.

“The sword swallower is gone, the bearded lady that we had there — she’s gone,” he said. “The giant, Eddie Carmel is gone, Ward Hall — he’s almost alive, but not really,” he said with a laugh.

Many of those he worked with are buried in a cemetery, Sunset Memory Gardens in Thonotosassa.

There’s a white wrought iron archway that reads “International Independent Showmen’s Garden of Memories.”

It’s where Ward Hall has a plot to be buried. It’s where a lot of his friends and colleagues, some of whom worked with him at Ringling, are buried as well. You won’t find them under their stage names. You’ll find them under their real names.

Hall said that unlike him and his friends, Ringling won’t die.

“I don’t have any idea what it might be, but somebody, somewhere, sometime is going to revive that title,” Hall said.

Listen to the WUSF Broadcast here.

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Categories
Clown Comedy Magic Magic Mime Music Performing Arts Physical Theater Quick Change Artists Variety Arts Ventriliquist Video

The Regard of Flight – Bill Irwin, Doug Skinner and Michael O’Connor

Now that Bill Irwin has joined forces with David Shiner again to present OLD HATS I thought it right to ‘look back’ at Bill’s earlier success. “The Regard of Flight“. The show was performed in many venues before going to Lincoln Center. An earlier version of the show was performed at the Baltimore Theater Festival titled “Murdoch” which I saw.
Bill Irwin was brilliant in choosing Doug Skinner and Michael O’Connor to share the stage with him in this show. They were great!
Doug Skinner provided ‘original music’ and Michael O’Connor was hysterical as ‘the critic’ lurching to the stage with comments and questions throughout the show. Wonderful comic timing together made this show a treat for any audience!
For those of you that did not see Bill Irwin, Doug Skinner and Michael O’Connor in “The Regard of Flight”…A wonderfully brilliant show!

“It should be said that Mr. Irwin is a contemporary American performance artist whose name belongs alongside those of Buster Keaton and Marcel Marceau.”
Mel Gussow NY Times
The New York Times Review

Bill Irwin and David Shiner are currently performing their new show “OLD HATS” at the Signature Theater.
“one of the funniest shows of the past few years” the New York Post,
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More information and tickets can be had here.

Categories
Cabaret Circus Juggling Performing Arts Photography

Juggling Archives – New Series – FRANCIS BRUNN

I realized that one of the disciplines I have photographed extensively is juggling and jugglers.

I am starting this new series which I will run (every two weeks) until the wonderful JUGGLE THIS festival happens in June.

Here is a photograph I took of Francis Brunn practicing at Showcase Studios (which use to be on 8th Ave near 56th St.)

This was taken in 1980.

Francis Brunn practicing at Showcase Studios.

Francis would practice there with aerialist Philippe Petit on many days when they were both in town.

I visited them on many occasions and photographed their practicing sessions.

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JUGGLE THIS is happening this year from June 6th thru the 8th. Go HERE  for more information.

Categories
Circus Clown Performing Arts Photography Video

December 2009 NY Downtown Clown Revue

This past month there was a wonderful show which actually happens every month. The New York Downtown Clown Revue. When most people think about ‘clowns’ they have this image pop into their head.

Bozo the Clown

The American public has had almost no exposure to the true ‘european’ style clown. This Bozo image has been popularized by the Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus and other American circus shows traveling the country for almost 100 years. Most graduates from the Ringling Brothers Clown College (no longer in existence) are required to wear a certain type of clown costume if they make it to the ranks of the Ringling Bros.& Barnum and Bailey Circus. The impression one gets is that this is either ‘family’ or ‘child’ entertainment. Unlike Europe where they have beautiful theatres devoted to serious ‘clown theatre’ where adults attend without the little ones in tow.  There is a tradition of ‘types’ of clown which goes as far back as the greeks. Author/historian/professor John Towsen could tell you more about ‘history’ of clowns in his wonderful blog and his book CLOWNS. In this interview with the trio Le Fromage Royal all three participants talk about their influences on this ‘new’ old skit.

Le Fromage Royal – ©2010 Jim Moore / All Rights Reserved

Joel Jeske, Christopher Lueck and Michael Richter of “Le Fromage Royal” .

Le Fromage Royal at the Krane Theatre, NYC

The evening wasn’t by any means just the Fromage Royal dudes.

Check out the NY Downtown Clown Revue BLOG to see.

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Categories
Circus Clown Performing Arts Photography

Emmett Kelly and Lotte Brunn at Ringling 1949.

Francis and Lotte Brunn joined Ringling Bros. show in 1948 when they first came to this country.  They worked the Ringling show for 2 seasons and then went to the Pollack Bros. Circus. Lotte met her future husband at the Pollack Bros. Circus in 1951 and then left Francis with the circus and went off to get married and start their own careers. Here is a picture of Lotte with legendary Ringling clown Emmett Kelly. (Thanks to Michael Chirrick for this!)

Emmett Kelly and Lotte Brunn at Ringling circa 1949. (Photographer Unknown)
Categories
Circus Clown Performing Arts Photography

Coney Island Chris – A Very Funny Man!

One of the funniest acts I have seen and enjoyed is Chris Allison’s side show freak CONEY ISLAND CHRIS. He mixes the zany attitude of the likes of Jerry Lewis’ nutty professor and Pee Wee Herman with a glass eating, finger in a rat trap, silly costume and hysterical facial gestures Coney Island simple guy trying to learn the ropes of sideshowville. Coney Island Chris made it to the finalist on AMERICA’S GOT TALENT.

©2009 Jim Moore / All Rights Reserved