Jan 082016

This past Tuesday night, January 5, the Big Apple Circus big top played host to the Celebration of American Circus. A mixture of performance and awards ceremony, the event presented by Circus Now and the Big Apple Circus, in association with Jonathan S. Cerullo and JSC Theatricals, honored four artists/organizations who have made significant contributions to Circus Arts in the United States.

Here are the five honorees this year.


From left to right are Ed LeClair (Executive Director of Circus Smirkus), Dominique Jando (world circus historian and author), Rob Mermin (Founder of Circus Smirkus), Bill Irwin (clown/actor), and Hovey Burgess (Professor of Theatre and Circus Arts and Master Teacher at NYU TISCH School of the Arts). Circus Smirkus received the Community Impact Award, Dominique Jando the Elevating Circus Award, Bill Irwin the Evolving Circus Award, and Hovey Burgess the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Below is David Shiner (actor/clown) who presented the award to Bill Irwin.


And here they are together.


Bill and David are about to reopen their hilarious hit comedy show Old Hats at Signature Theatre on 42nd Street.

Below is the beautiful Dolly Jacobs (award-winning circus aerialist and Founder of Circus Sarasota) who presented the award to Hovey.


Pictured below are the two together flanked by this year’s Big Apple Circus clowns, performed by Joel Jeske (left) and Brent McBeth (right).


By the way, Hovey’s in a wheelchair because he fell down and broke his leg.

One of the featured performers at this year’s ceremony was aerialist Sergey Akimov, who is featured in this year’s show at the Big Apple Circus. “The Grand Tour” is the second time in the last six years that Sergey has performed with us. He actually grew up at the Big Apple Circus because his father and uncle, the Egorov Troupe, were performers there. He’s a wonderful and skilled artist.


I’m hoping we will see the continuation of this event in the future.


All photos by Maike Schulz.

Dec 122015

What a blast! My two cabaret performances at New York’s famed Metropolitan Room this past weekend were a huge success. Saturday night was sold out, and the audience was comfortably full on Sunday evening. It was a joy for me to be able to perform in front of friendly, forgiving faces.


A photo taken from House Left

This was an entirely new experience for me. Between finishing college and until three years ago, I had never sung in front of an audience. But then the late Isaiah Scheffer encouraged me when he cast me as Mitt Romney’s dog in the Thalia Follies.

During all of my years in the ring I had a set routine about when and how to prepare for each show. But on Saturday night I had no routine to help control my nerves. Things were very hectic. The show immediately before mine ran very late, so my sound check and vocal warm up were condensed into a brief three minutes. And I could barely make my way back downstairs to the dressing room because of all the guests who were already waiting to find their seats. I experienced a rush of butterflies, all the while being nearly overwhelmed by the incredible turnout. It’s difficult to describe my contradictory feelings: all the friendly faces calmed my nerves while simultaneously contributing to my anxiety because I didn’t want to disappoint. What an unusual skew of emotions for a performer! I’ve always been a bit nervous before every performance and actually believe that if you don’t get nervous before a show, you probably don’t care enough.

It took me a couple songs on Saturday night to relax into the performance, but after that, it was relatively smooth sailing. And I eased into the performance even quicker on Sunday. The wonderful Lainie Cooke, who joined me onstage to sing “Do You Love Me?” and our crowd-pleasing finale song “Mention My Name in Sheboygan,” had given me a great note: “Just tell the story.” Her words stayed with me all night. Many of the songs I chose to sing, especially those originally performed by the incomparable Danny Kaye, are story-based, and I’ve been a storyteller my whole life, so Lainie’s words were a great comfort for me to just focus on doing what I do best.

I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who contributed to the success of the show. The entire staff at the Metropolitan Room were wonderful in organizing the event and keeping track of guests for the two performances. My guest performers Lainie Cooke and Bradley Jones were professionals from beginning to end. Both of them had wonderful solo performances. (I may even have to steal Bradley’s solo song, “Very Soft Shoes” from Once Upon a Mattress, since it’s been stuck in my head ever since the performance.) And of course, I never would have survived the show without the support and brilliance of our pianist, Dennis Buck. Let me tell you, the man is a genius–he could make a frog sound good. And on Saturday and Sunday … he did!


“The Life of the Party”

PB RHL Paul and Bradley

“Brush Up Your Shakespeare”

PB RHL Paul and Lainie

“Do You Love Me?”


“Mention My Name in Sheboygan”

I made sure to plant myself by the door so that I could say hello to everyone on their way out of the Metropolitan Room. (I also sold several copies of my book at the “gift shop” … the lobby coffee table.) Nearly everyone I spoke with was encouraging about the show, and many made comments about making this an annual tradition.

Well, I surely do like the idea of getting to do this again.


Signing a copy of my book in the “Gift Shop”


I love taking pictures with people from the audience. Here’s one with Joan Swirsky.


Nov 092015

Have you ever had the opportunity to introduce a cardinal?! How about sing for one?! Well, this past week, I got to do both!

About two months ago I was contacted by Peg Breen, President of the New York Landmarks Conservancy. Peg and her staff were busy coordinating the Living Landmarks Gala, an annual soiree held in the Plaza Ballroom to honor new Living Landmarks. Each year, the Conservancy recognizes New Yorkers who have made outstanding contributions to the City.

Plaza Grand Ballroom

The Plaza’s Grand Ballroom

Several years ago my juggling partner and Big Apple Circus co-founder, Michael Christensen, and I were honored and humbled to be declared New York Living Landmarks. I have been serving on the Gala’s Celebration Committee for the past few years, so when Peg called me up to ask if I would consider co-hosting the gala this year, I was both excited and nervous. Legendary gossip columnist, Liz Smith, had been hosting for seventeen years. This was a big deal! Honorees range from entertainers to entrepreneurs. And we’re talking some pretty huge names: Candice Bergen, Whoopi Goldberg, John Kander and Fred Ebb, Jerry Orbach, Elaine Stritch, and George C. Wolfe, just to name a few, not to mention some Rockefellers, governors, mayors, and senators.

Paul and Michael receiving Living Landmarks award

Michael Christensen and I accepting our award

Paul Binder; Shelley Doctors

My sweetheart, Shelley, and me (and my chins) at the Gala in 2012

So, would I consider co-hosting? … YEEEESSSSSSSS!!!!!

The lineup of honorees this year was terrific, and I was thrilled to be involved. Honored this year were Ken Langone, philanthropist and celebrated co-founder of the Home Depot; Brooke and Daniel Neidich, she the co-founder of Child Mind Institute and he a dedicated philanthropist and founder of Dune Real Estate Partners; Susan L. Solomon, a longtime healthcare advocate and the co-founder and CEO of the New York Stem Cell Foundation; Dr. Susan Weber, Director and Founder of the internationally-acclaimed Bard Graduate Center; and Robert E. Wankel and Philip J. Smith, Co-CEOs (and President and Chairman, respectively) of the Shubert Organization. I was thrilled to be able to take the stage alongside a handful of people who help make New York City great.

Not too long after agreeing to co-host, it turned out that I was going to host the event myself with the assistance of a couple presenters and special guests. And I was very enthusiastic about the company. I was delighted to be joined by Broadway legends Joel Grey and Bernadette Peters, who helped present the award to Phil Smith and Robert Wankel. Also, the Shubert Organization arranged for a special performance by Brian Stokes Mitchell, who will be returning to Broadway in the spring alongside Audra McDonald in Shuffle Along. Brian sang an mind-blowing arrangement of “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”

And then, of course, there was his Eminence, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who presented the award to Ken Langone. And as host, little ole me got to introduce the cardinal! THE Cardinal of New York City! (Hey, Ma, look at me now!) And just because I never knew if the opportunity would ever come around again, with the help of Ken Langone and Peter Duchin, I led the audience in a verse of “Sidewalks of New York.”

All in all, the Living Landmarks Gala was a gas! I had loads of fun, and it was invigorating to be around so many talented and proactive New Yorkers. I sure hope the opportunity comes around again.

One last thing … Because we had to stick to a strict show running time, I didn’t have an opportunity to give a proper goodbye to Cardinal Dolan. So if you’re reading this, your eminence … whether or not the Dolan who owns the Knicks is a relative of yours, maybe you can pray for him. We really want a championship.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan

His Eminence, Cardinal Timothy Dolan

James L. Dolan Nicks Owner

Knicks’ Owner, James L. Dolan


Nov 062015

BAC Grand Tour PosterIt’s been quite a while since my last post, but that’s because there’s just too much going on, here in my “retirement”! I’ve been working on a few really fun projects this past coupla’ weeks, so I’d like to tell you about some of them.

First of all, the Big Apple Circus has moved into Lincoln Center for the season. I made my way up to Walden, New York, a few times over the past several months to watch the show as it developed and moved into dress rehearsals. The new show is called “The Grand Tour” and it’s a loving homage to 1920s travel. I’ll write more about the new show soon, but for now, I want to say that it’s definitely worth attending. It’s one of our strongest shows ever and features some truly remarkable talent.

I also spent a week between San Francisco and Los Angeles in the first half of October. My sweetheart and  partner, Shelley Doctors, had her organization’s annual psychology conference in L.A. this year–not quite as picturesque as last year’s conference in Israel, but still good. Before making our way to southern California, we stopped off in the Bay Area so that I could visit the San Francisco Circus School, on whose advisory board I sit. While in California, I was able to spend some time with both of my sons (and a couple of my grandchildren), which certainly made the trip worthwhile. Max, who grew up at the Big Apple Circus as a performer, is a “scrum master” at Wikimedia, the parent company of Wikipedia. You want to know what a scrum master is, I suppose? Well, leave me a comment below. And Adam, Max’s older brother who lives and works in the L.A. area, is the Executive Vice President of a division of Warner Brothers Television. Max is a graduate of Harvard, and Adam is a fellow Dartmouth graduate. Not too shabby a sibling rivalry, eh?

Speaking of rivalries, I went to the game at Dodger Stadium where the Mets won the National League pennant. I was in disguise … my Mets t-shirt under my sweater.

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 04: General View of the game between the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers on opening day at Dodger Stadium on April 4, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

View of Dodger Stadium, photo by Harry How of Getty Images

Next, as I mentioned previously, I had an opportunity to go down to Sarasota Florida and perform my cabaret for the Sarasota Showfolks Club. The evening was arranged by Leigh Ketchum and Brian Liddicoat as a fundraiser for the Showfolks, CFA Tent 122, and the Sarasota Ring of Fame. I have been developing a cabaret show for the Metropolitan Room in New York, so I was delighted when Leigh and Brian asked if I would come be a guest of honor at the Showfolks–it was the perfect opportunity for “an out-of-town tryout.”

Showfolks of Sarasota building

My accompanist and musical director, the incomparable Dennis Buck, was able to join me in Sarasota for the event and even agreed to perform one of the show’s duets with me since since my friends Lainie Cooke and Bradley Jones, who will be singing with me at the Metropolitan Room, are based in New York. In addition to Dennis, I was fortunate enough to be united with a wonderful local Sarasota performer, Dagmar Beavers, who kindly agreed to sing one solo number, a duet with me, and a finale trio.

Paul, Katja, Katherine, and Max at Sarasota Cabaret Night

Here’s my two youngest kids Katherine and Max with their mother, Katja.

The Showfolks were extremely gracious, and we had a great turnout. I’m sure we could have crammed in a few more people if we had wanted everyone to be packed in like sardines, but I was very pleased with the size and energy of the audience. Plus, my two youngest kids came to watch their old man risk his life … singing … in front of a room full of people. It was wonderful to have a full audience watch my cabaret for the first time, and my anticipation for my benefit performance for the Big Apple Circus community programs is growing. It’s at the Metropolitan Room (34 W. 22nd St., btwn. 5th and 6th) on December 5. The Room tells me they’re likely to sell out, so get your tickets soon! (Click here for ticket information.)

One other event that I had a great time doing recently: last night I hosted the annual Living Landmarks Gala for the New York Landmarks Conservancy at the Plaza Ballroom. The event was a gas. Check back real soon because I’ve lots to say about that evening.

Sep 152015

Paul Binder Headshot, photo credit Bertrand GuayOver the last couple months I have been working on something very special. I’ve had lots of fun performing at various events and parties this past year, and I want to keep on singing for friends and family. So, I’ve been putting together a cabaret show.

The first thing I had to do was to come up with some songs to sing. It certainly wasn’t easy to narrow down my list of favorite songs from all the tunes that I know. Of course I wanted to sing songs that I like, but I also tried to select songs that relate to my life. Let’s just say that the initial song list was anything but short. Eventually, I shortened the list to a dozen or so songs that could be woven together into a single show.

I’ve been practicing and rehearsing weekly with my friend, the incredible accompanist Dennis Buck. I have a great time working with Dennis. (He really knows how to actually make me sound good.)

PB Blog, PB Risks His Life, Cabaret NightI also reached out to a couple friends and asked them if they wanted to be involved in the show. I’m extremely pleased that both Lainie Cooke and Bradley Jones will be singing. Each of them will sing a solo and then a duet with me. Lainie is a jazz singer, and I’ve known her for many years. Bradley was a musical theatre performer long before he became a psychoanalyst. We sang together last year at a going-away party.

The cabaret is coming together nicely. I’ll actually be taking the show down to Sarasota, Florida at the end of October. I’ve been asked to be a special guest at the Showfolks Club. For everyone based in New York, though, don’t worry–you have an opportunity to see the show too without flying down to Florida for the weekend. I’m scheduled to perform at the Metropolitan Room on Saturday, December 5. The show will be a benefit performance. All proceeds will be donated to the Big Apple Circus’s award-winning community programs.

Cabaret - Metropolitan Room

There are probably ten thousand people who you would rather hear sing. And I completely sympathize with that sentiment. As one friend put it, by singing in a cabaret I am risking my life. But it should be great (dangerous!) fun. And if you like hammed-up, very ordinary singing, you are in for a treat!

Cabaret - Show TitleDate: Saturday, December 5, 2015

Place: Metropolitan Room (34 W. 22nd St.)
Time: doors open at 9:00pm, show starts at 9:30pm
General admission: $20 (and two drink minimum)

Purchase tickets online at http://metropolitanroom.com/
or by calling (212) 206-0440

Aug 102015

Tanglewood - Tanglewood LogoLast week, I drove up to Lenox, Mass. with my sweetheart and partner, Shelley Doctors for a Dartmouth class of ‘63 mini-reunion and to see (and hear) the incomparable Tanglewood on Parade Gala Concert. The Tanglewood Shed is enormous, with a capacity of over 5,500. In addition, thousands more sit outside on the grass. Tanglewood has been the main summer venue of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for more than 75 years.

Shelley and I met up with fifteen of my classmates and their wives/partners for afternoon drinks at Carole and Rich Berkowitz’s beautiful house before dinner, then headed to the concert venue. Rich is one of a few of my former classmates that I keep up with on a regular basis, but it’s so nice to be able to gather together and share stories face to face with all of them.

Tanglewood - Group

Here are all fifteen classmates with their wives/partners in Carole and Rich Berkowitz’s beautiful backyard

Tanglewood on Parade is an all day event, beginning with fanfares at the main gate at two o’clock. There are concerts around the Tanglewood complex throughout the day, and at night is the Gala Concert. Along with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Tanglewood on Parade event featured the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra and the Boston Pops.

The climax of the entire concert was certainly the final piece: a performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture complete with cannon booms that are in the score. The sound of real cannons was incredible. I also particularly enjoyed listening to the Pops, who played a wonderful tribute to Frank Sinatra and a couple pieces from Star Wars by composer John Williams. Also they performed a violin piece that was a tribute to Williams’ late wife, that had me in tears. (My father was a violinist.)

I once conducted the Boston Pops as part of the Big Apple Circus. The event was filmed for PBS and titled Pops Joins the Circus. The act went something like this:

After being quickly changed, by the clowns, out of my ringmaster suit and into a clown costume, I ended up in front of the 80 piece Pops Orchestra, who were seated in the center section of the Big Top audience. Now a clown, I soon discovered that I could control the orchestra by waving my hands. After dancing to the music and goofing around for a bit, I selected some kids from the audience to try their hands at conducting, which they did very successfully. When I invited an adult into the ring, though, the movement of his hands resulted in the horribly discordant sound of hash from the Pops. With closer inspection, I signaled to the audience that he had dirty hands. Well, I cleaned him up, and wouldn’t you know, the dissonant chords morphed back into beautiful symphonic sounds of Offenbach’s Gaite Parisienne (the Can-Can).

And here’s some old footage from the Pops Joins the Circus event:

Jul 232015

Circus Summit - LogoFor four days last week I attended the Worldwide Circus Summit in West Springfield, Massachusetts. 850 people attended the event from around the world. The vast majority were American Circus fans, most of them associated with organizations such as the Circus Fans Association of America, the Circus Historical Society, and Circus Model Builders. Also in attendance were circus directors, museum directors, university scholars and program directors, and―probably most importantly―there were 6 or 7 circus schools and youth circuses, including performances by kids from Circus Harmony, a “social circus” run by Jessica Hentoff, a first and second year performer at the Big Apple Circus and an admirer of our community programming.

There were tables from about 30 organizations set up, including a Big Apple Circus Souvenir Table, which was run by Cheryl Jones, Gigi Price, and Mary Griffin.

Gigi Price at the Big Apple Circus Souvenir Table Gigi was born at Carson and Barnes Circus, Photo by Paul Gutheil

Gigi Price at the Big Apple Circus Souvenir Table. Gigi was born at Carson & Barnes Circus.
Photo by Paul Gutheil

There were panels and presentations every day. I was asked to attend several panels, and I actively participated in two:

  • “Impact of the circus on contemporary culture” with circus historians Fred Dahlinger, Fred Pfennig III, and David Carlyon
  • “Circus Directors’ Forum,” moderated by Wayne McCary (former President of the Eastern States Exposition and the Big E Super Circus), with Barbara Miller Byrd (Carson & Barnes Circus), Brian Boswell (Boswell’s Circus, South Africa), Zsuzsanna Mata (Budapest Circus Festival, Hungary), John Pugh (Cole Bros Circus), Katya and Nelson Quiroga (Circus Vargas), Jim Royal (Kelly Miller Circus), and Ramon Vazquez (Circo Hermanos Vazquez, Mexico).
Here I am with Wayne McCary (Co-Chair of the Worldwide Circus Summit and former President of the Big E and Super Circus), Don Covington (Worldwide Circus Summit Program Director and Inter-Organizational Liaison, Past-President of the Circus Fans Association of America, and former Company Manager of the Big Apple Circus), and Jim Royal (General Manager of the Kelly Miller Circus and former General Manager of the Big Apple Circus), Photo by Paul Gutheil

Here I am with Wayne McCary (Co-Chair of the Worldwide Circus Summit and former President of the Big E and Super Circus), Don Covington (Worldwide Circus Summit Program Director and Inter-Organizational Liaison, Past-President of the Circus Fans Association of America, and former Company Manager of the Big Apple Circus), and Jim Royal (General Manager of the Kelly Miller Circus and former General Manager of the Big Apple Circus),
Photo by Paul Gutheil

There was also a wonderful discussion on clowning which included my dear friend Barry Lubin (“Grandma” the clown), along with Ringling and Big Apple Circus veteran clown Greg Desanto and David Kaiser, Director of Talent and former clown at Ringling. Ringling’s VP of Event Marketing Sales Bill Powell and Feld Entertainment’s VP of Corporate Communications Stephen Payne did presentations which were very impressive. Also presenting were Helmut Grosscurth, Managing Director of the European Circus Association, and Laura Van Der Meer, Executive Director of the World Circus Foundation.

There were also several banquets during the summit. I was asked to introduce Barry, the honored guest speaker, at one of these. Barry was brilliant and had us all laughing out loud. And, of course, what’s a Circus Summit without some circus performances? The Cole Brothers Circus had four very strong performances, and Circus Smirkus performed in a town nearby. Circus Smirkus was particularly delightful.

I was overjoyed to see so many members of the Big Apple Circus’s extended family. At one of the panels, I counted 19 people who were at one time or another employees of the Big Apple Circus. (I introduced them as “members of the Big Apple Circus Alumni Association.”) Other alumni were busy performing, so couldn’t attend.

Standing alongside Brian Liddicoat (Worldwide Circus Summit Facilities, Logistics & Staging Director and former General Manager of the Big Apple Circus), Photo by Paul Gutheil

Standing alongside Brian Liddicoat (Worldwide Circus Summit Facilities, Logistics & Staging Director and former General Manager of the Big Apple Circus),
Photo by Paul Gutheil

Apr 262015

A few months ago, David Orr contacted me about being a guest speaker at the Altoona Circus Bonanza hosted by the Adam Forepaugh – Barry Lubin “Grandma” Tent No. 2, the oldest active CFA (Circus Fans Association of America) “tent.”

Altoona - Circus Fan

Altoona is a city in central Pennsylvania, about an hour’s drive southwest of State College, so on my drive across New Jersey and Pennsylvania, I was able to listen to lots of good music.

There were two Circus Fans clubs, so-called “tents,” that were involved with the Circus Bonanza Weekend, so I got to go to dinner on two subsequent evenings. The first was hosted by the Emmett Kelly – Bello Nock Tent No. 41. The second was for the Forepaugh – Lubin Tent where I was guest speaker.

The emcee of both events was a gent named Mort Gamble, who is the Assistant to the President of Bethany College. Equally fun was a woman named Katie (I wish I could remember her last name) who was the ringmaster of the Bello Nock tent. She had read my book and tells the stories as well as I do, with some unique twists. What surprised me most was that someone told me after the event that she’s an FBI Agent–a delightful FBI agent, I must say. Circus fans come in all guises, as circus has the distinction of cutting across all social/political/economic boundaries.

Billy Martin

Billy Martin

After the dinner on Saturday, we all headed over to the Royal Hanneford Circus, sponsored by Jaffa Shrine. For those of you who don’t know, the shriners have children’s hospitals all over the country and wear unusual hats (some might call them silly). For many years they have sponsored circuses that raise money for their hospitals.

Billy Martin, who is an old friend, has been the ringmaster at Hanneford for the past 20 years. I was also pleased to see Ian Garden, Jr. and his America’s Show Camels. One of my favorite acts was the Lopez Family High Wire. They were very good, very strong. But of course the highlight for me was seeing Grandma in the ring. Barry’s appearance in the program was billed as “Everyone’s Favorite Senior Citizen,” and the title certainly fits.

080213 - Stone Mountain, Ga., : (all cq) Barry Lubin, "Grandma" of the U.S.A., throws a bucket of popcorn at the open mouth of Frankie Ashby, of Dacula, during the Big Apple Circus performs an afternoon show during their stay Wednesday afternoon in Stone Mountain, Ga., February 13, 2008. After failed attempts at getting a piece of popcorn in Ashby's mouth Grandma dumped the whole bucket at Ashby. Ashby was there with his family. The Big Apple Circus is celebrating their 30th birthday under the big top. Jason Getz  /  AJC

Grandma throws a bucket of popcorn at the open mouth
of an audience member at the Big Apple Circus

I had the pleasure of visiting Barry between shows. It was the highlight of the day.

Sitting beside Grandma at the Royal Hanneford Circus
photo courtesy of the Forepaugh – Lubin Tent

Apr 032015
Barry - Tall Tales

Barry’s recently published “memoirs”

Barry and I at the Circus Ring of Fame  during Barry's induction ceremony

Barry and me at the Circus Ring of Fame

What can I say about Barry Lubin? Truthfully, quite a lot!

All together, Grandma appeared in 25 seasons of the Big Apple Circus. Grandma and I experienced many wonderful moments in the ring, and Barry and I have had many, many great (and some not so great) moments outside the ring. Through it all, I’m overjoyed that I can call him a friend.

In the past few months, Barry has accomplished an incredible feat: he’s published what he calls his “memoirs.” (And I know just how grueling it is to get a book published.)

Barry - inspecting admission ticket

Grandma and me in the ring
I’m inspecting Grandma’s admission ticket

In Tall Tales of a Short Clown, Barry writes about much more than his involvement with the circus over the past five decades. He speaks candidly about his life and personal struggles outside of the ring. I recently finished reading the book and had a hard time putting it down. I laughed out loud at the first line of the Foreword…. But then Barry could make me laugh almost anytime he wanted. There’s a moment in the PBS series CIRCUS where he cracked me up in the middle of a rehearsal. Funny man.

I’m pleased to say that in two weeks I will be seeing Barry in person at the 2015 Altoona Circus Bonanza. A few months ago, I accepted an offer from the Adam Forepaugh-Barry Lubin Tent No. 2 to be the Bonanza Speaker on April 18. As fun as the banquet will be, I’m particularly excited that I get to attend a performance of the Royal Hanneford Circus, featuring none other than Grandma the Clown. It will be great to see the little carpetbagger in action once again.

Grandma's last BAC show

Saying goodbye to Grandma during her last show with the Big Apple Circus

Mar 282015

Of the Big Apple Circus’ wonderful award-winning community programs, I am most directly involved with the Circus of the Senses. I’ve posted before about the very first Circus of the Senses in 1988 with Marty Glickman and Dave Jennings, as well as the Circus of the Senses events in Dulles the last two years, so you may have some idea of how much I care about this program. Barring any unforeseeable circumstances, I want to be behind the microphone at our Circus of the Senses events far into the future so that I can share in the audience’s delightful reactions.

Each Circus of the Senses performance is unique because of the different audience members. Everyone can have their own experience. This week I partnered with Robb Preskins, a doctor of delight from our Boston Children’s Hospital Clown Care Unit.

COS Boston - Paul and Robb

Robb Preskins and I at the commentators’ booth during Circus of the Senses

COS Boston - booth

The boys in action during the performance


COS Boston - not the blue dress

Olga Smirnov, courtesy of Smirnov Duo
this may have been the blue dress the girl was talking about

This past Thursday and Friday March 26 and 27 at the most recent Circus of the Senses in Boston (we did two), I heard about one particular interaction between an audience member and performer that illustrates the incredible potential of the program. After the performance, audience members are invited into the ring for a Touch Session. Visually-impaired children literally touch different elements of the show in order to widen their experience of the performance they have just heard described in great detail. These include a pony, the rola bola (which they actually try), the flying trapeze bar, a rabbit, the clowns bells, etc. During the Touch Session on Thursday, one girl exclaimed that after hearing the description of the Smirnov Duo’s quick change routine she wanted so much to have Olga’s blue costume as a party dress.

We had press coverage by NECN (check out their video below), the Boston Globe, Boston.com, and Emerson College Television. It’s good to get the word out about this amazing program.