Survival of the Fittest

We're in New York's Lincoln Center. The snow is coming down and the garden hoses that supply running water to the trailers are frozen solid. Still, the show goes on. Circus life can be a grind - and it isn't for everyone. A crewman, a trapeze artist, and even Artistic Director Paul Binder weigh their options and contemplate making a transition to the "real world."

AIRED: November 09, 2010 | 0:53:41

Previously on Circus:

We're in big trouble here.

Just came in this morning and said, "Stop with the net."

They're gonna be getting rid of the flying act.

PAUL: We have fallen off from previous years.

The economy's definitely affecting that.

GUILLAUME: Knowing how business has been, there would be

a point where survival would be in question.

A bomb threat at the circus? Who'd want to bomb a circus?

HEIDI: It's bad news.

They searched his room.

It's crazy, dude.

♫So here we are♫

♫It's like we never really left the start♫

♫Time heals the wound♫

♫But then there's still a scar♫

♫To remind us of the way it's meant to be♫

♫Oh, sing a song♫

♫A melody for what has come and gone♫

♫Try to convince the choir to sing along♫

♫Here's to tomorrow or whatever gets you by♫

♫Oh, la, la, la♫

♫La, la, la, la, la, la, la♫

♫La, la, la♫

♫La, la, la, la, la, la, la♫

♫La, la, la♫

♫La, la, la, la, la♫

♫La, la, la.♫

♫Up and down♫

♫Ferris wheel♫

♫Tell me, how does it feel♫

♫To be so high?♫

♫ High, high ♫

♫Looking down here...♫

STEVE SMITH: What happens in this big top, in that ring

is that real men and women,

these extraordinary people,

do incredibly amazing feats.

That is a testament to all of us.

It's an affirmation of the human spirit

that anything is possible,

and that we have the potential to do that

because they're doing it.

PAUL BINDER: It's about can-do.

It's about, "We can overcome."

It's about, "Let's get to the next town.

"Let's get to the next step.

Let's get to the next inspiration."

We know each other, not just because we do somersaults.

We know each other because we have the sense

that we can do it.

We can touch an audience.

And the audience will respond.

♫Did the clown make you smile?♫

♫He was only your fool for a while♫

♫Now he's gone back home♫

♫And left you wandering there.♫


STEVE: Poof! We're in New York. Wow! Magic.


We are finally here

in New York City, at Lincoln Center.

We are here

for three months, which is a beautiful thing.

It's the best gig, the circus.

BARRY LUBIN: You're in the entertainment capital

and the culture capital of the world.

Call me a snob, but I think it is.

JAKE LaSALLE: One of the primary reasons that we signed this contract

was so that we could be living and performing

at the Lincoln Center.

It's your new home, Chels.

MAN: If I make it in New York,

I'll make it anywhere. (laughs)

KWAME: When you're on the road, your real habits aren't there.

In New York, everybody's home,

which means their real habits

start sneaking out.

We fold this over just a little bit,

bring this back real quick and open it.

There's more tarp under here, though.

WOMAN: Lincoln Center, it's-it's going to be tough,

and I'm going to be so much closer

to all the people

that I was trying to get away from right now.

(indistinct voices)

KWAME: I would say a lot of people are actually trying

to escape their lives.

When you join a circus...

you no longer have to go any of the places

that you used to go to.

The only thing you have to do

is come to work on time and work.

On the shoulder.


On this lot, I have four names:

Kwame, Jacks, Captain Heat, and Captain Cool.

And I'm here

'cause I have a (bleep) job.

My job is the building,

takedown and maintenance

of the actual tent itself.

Harsh job sometimes.

Boring job most of the time.

Low-paying job all of the time.

And pull!

Let's just say there's a woman,

prison, babies, and courts, and that explains it all.

Most people who know those four things

know you end up in jobs like this.

(indistinct conversations)

MAN: I need a job right now.

The recession is crazy, and I seen the ad on Craigslist,

so, you know, I came out here to see what I could...

see if I could get hired or not.

If you can work full-time, let us know.

If you can work part-time, let us know.

That's the schedule, okay?

Thank you.

I worked for a long time in a union, so it's a little hard

to do that now, yeah.

If you can work... Look at the schedule and the show...

for the show dates. If you can work full-time,

work full-time, put full-time on the paper.

If you can't work...

This is unprecedented.

PAUL: I think we had six jobs available.

I need more, please...

And apparently,

over 200 people lined up for the jobs.

That may be a sign of the times.

Weekends are fine.

Weekends are fine? Yes.

Okay, just wait right there.

WOMAN: Most interviews that we do, usually, it's like, 30.

The most we've ever had was, like, 50.

250? We've never done that. Ever.

It looked like a concert outside.

PAUL: When we opened in Virginia,

we saw that people weren't rushing to buy tickets.

And in the last few days here, same thing.

Have a good day. Thank you.

Keep us in mind, please. Okay.

PAUL: You know, we could go out of business

if business is that bad.

Now we're also counting on our supporters in tough times.

But where do they come from? They come from Wall Street.

They come from, uh, businesses that are gonna suffer

through this time, too.

So, it-it makes us nervous.


Good afternoon and welcome to Lincoln Center!

First of all, our genuine thanks to Felipe

and everybody who shoehorned all of this stuff

into this tiny, little space here at Lincoln Center.

BARRY: Steve is the guest director,

and Paul's the, uh, artistic director and founder.

So, today we have a run-through.

A technical run-through.

Uh, preceded by a...

uh, rehearsals of the...

all of the production numbers--

Sharivari, finale--

what else, Mr. Steve? Carnivale.


BARRY: Um, the guest director has only so much say.

Essentially the, uh, artistic director, which is Paul,

has the-the final say.

That's all today.

And then this evening at 6:30, I believe...

Yes. Correct. ...we're having a technical run-through.

But it will be a run-through, everybody.

BARRY: Paul went from directing the show, uh, for 20 years

to becoming the producer of the show, and has always been

the artistic director of the show.

I love the theater!

I should like to die upon the stage.


PAUL: I defer to Steve.

Let him bring the energy of the show to it.

I love the guy. I love his vision.

I love his... the way he sees

and-and-and believes in who we are.

I love that he listens to what I have to say.

(laughing): You know.

This is the man I love.

Are we coming out?

♫The man I love...♫ (laughs)


Thank you.

Use my name.

Get the good seat.

Hello. PAUL: Now, look...

there aren't many people who get to see Mr. Paul...

in his drawers.

I'm from Brooklyn, New York, originally.

Now my address is The Big Apple Circus, wherever it goes.

I just want you to see one thing.

I always keep a picture of Annie Fratellini

on my dressing table because Annie was our mentor.

It was her circus, Nouveau Cirque de Paris,

that Michael and I first started our circus careers.

We were the American jugglers... Paul and Michael.

Although, he insisted it was Michael and Paul, but you know.

MICHAEL: Paul and I joined the Nouveau Cirque de Paris

with Annie Fratellini in the early '70s.

Early on in that show, we would peek through those curtains

into that incredible world

that Annie and-and Pierre were creating.

And we looked at each other and said, "Do you believe it?

We're in a circus!"

It was during this time that Paul had the inspiration

to create the Big Apple Circus.

Paul said, "Michael, I'm in the process

"of raising $250,000, a quarter of a million dollars,

"to create our own circus in New York.

Want to help?" I said, "Sure."

So, from that point on, we became little cameras

looking at the tent.

How's this made? How's that made?

And we opened our first show under a little

green canvas tent in Battery Park City.

And it is now this $22 million organization

that has evolved in ways

we could never have imagined.

Unbelievable, actually, when you think about it.

PAUL: See you, see you soon.

See you out there.

PAUL: It wasn't until the third year

that I took the role of ringmaster.

It seemed like a natural role,

being the artistic director of the circus.

Sort of like being the boss man.

So I was dressing up like the boss man, you know.

And the red coat and the top hat all became a part of that.

And it was a character... Mr. Paul.

Now, Mr. Paul is me, but he's sort of me writ large.

My feeling walking into the ring is quite wonderful.

I take a deep breath, I listen to the music.

And I walk in, and suddenly this-this feeling

of well-being...

and it's a very comforting feeling, being in there.

It's a very familiar place.

And the attitude that I basically take

when I walk into the ring is:

"Welcome, everybody, to my living room."

And the message to the audience is,

"Hey, we're human beings just like you,

"and look what we are capable of.

We human beings, look what you are capable of."

And we believe that if we practice our craft right,

they will go through a transformation

as they watch a show,

where they'll come out with a sense that the, you know,

the everyday world can be transformed.

BARRY: I always felt like it was Paul Binder as ringmaster

inviting us, all of us--

the performers as well as the audience--

to sit back and enjoy yourselves

and make yourself comfortable, because...

what you're about to see is, you know, our pleasure.

STEVE: This is a unique season for Mr. Paul

because he will be handing the torch as artistic director

over to Guillaume Dufresnoy.

PAUL: I'm stepping out as artistic director.

I'm stepping out of the ring.

Guillaume's gonna take the artistic director's role.

I do think this is a critical transition.

Guillaume has worked with me for 21 years.


And so all of the artistic decisions

that we've made over the years have been in collaboration.



What I thought is that we should issue

a memo that we can

release, so that everybody

isn't taken by surprise.

Indeed, I made the decisions,

but they were always in collaboration.

Now it's time for him to begin those... making those decisions.

Is he prepared?

I think fully prepared.

Is he me? Oh, no. He's not me. (laughs)

I think the letter should really come from me and you,

and I wonder if it shouldn't come from me

and you and Michael.

I thought it would be more powerful

if it's from you. (phone ringing)

GUILLAUME: I'm fortunate enough to have

been recognized as the designated successor to Paul

as-as artistic director.

And there's no greatest honor,

and there's nothing scarier, uh, that could have happened to me.

It's really, uh, yours.

And I see myself putting something out

when it's effective.

Let's start, let's assume that.

Okay. Let's assume...

You-you gonna type or... no?

However you want to... whatever works best for you.

PAUL: The date of the actual transition to Guillaume

would be the end of the season

at Lincoln Center, when he takes the title as his own.

Guillaume and I are gonna go

to the festivals in Europe together.

But the future stuff is gonna be his decision.


Okay? Yeah.

PAUL: He and I so far have worked

very well together on this.

I-I must say, I'm very pleased with that.

Easy? Mm-mm.

Can we do it? I'm sure.

Sounds like it might work.

STEVE: It's extremely necessary

for the Big Apple Circus's future

and life that Mr. Paul step back

and step away.

Because in order for this institution

to live beyond him, it has to live without him.

GUILLAUME: Next year's lineup is almost complete.

There is one spot that I need to fill:

the host/ringmaster.

I want you to just feel... What it's like to be inside of...

Just-just general wash... this is all it's gonna be.

We're not gonna have spotlights or anything...

GUILLAUME: It's almost a double role.

There is a-a host that can be a through line

during the performance itself.

But that person also plays a very important role as, uh,

it's the institutional voice

with press events, with guests coming to the show.

So we have selected a few people.

Hi, Paul.

Guillaume, feel free to go back to being grim and upset.


Thank you very much.

GUILLAUME: We have three candidates at the moment.

We will give them a specific text.

We want to test people's ability being receptive

to, uh, to direction.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen!

And welcome to the auditions

for the new host of the 32nd production

of the Big Apple Circus!

The production schedule is set, and spirits are high.

And why wouldn't spirits be high, Steve?

With three of the most talented artists in the industry

leading the process.

MICHAEL: Thank you, Kevin.

Thank you very much, guys.

Very gracious.

Thank you, indeed. That... Is that time

for me to leave? No. No.

You just paid us a great compliment. Thank you.

Well, I meant it from the bottom of my heart,

from the cockles of my heart.

I beg your pardon. It's a perfectly G-rated word...

We'll have none of that talk here, young man.

Okay, moving on?

(plays steady rhythm)

♫Tall and tan and young and lovely♫

♫The girl from...♫

GUILLAUME: Then we will give everyone

an opportunity to show what we call, really, their material.

It could be a-a text, it could be playing music.

Whatever skill they want to display.

(singer whistling tune, strumming)

(playing lively tune)

A blonde, a rabbi

and a horse walk into a bar.


The bartender says,

"Is this some kind of joke?"

(laughter) (continues playing tune)

♫Who can take a rainbow♫

♫Wrap it in a sigh♫

♫Soak it in the sun and make a groovy lemon pie?♫

♫The Candy Man♫

♫Yeah, yeah, the Candy Man can♫

♫I said the Candy Man can♫

♫'Cause he mixes it with love♫

♫And makes the world taste good.♫

(song ends, applause)

Please, sit down.

That's too much.

Yes, around the table.

Just your impressions, your thoughts. Uh...

You know what? I'd like to...

In my new role-- this is truth--

I mean, there's a certain discipline

that I'd like to adhere to, which is,

let everybody say what they have to say.

I'll say what I have to say, and then...

There's no decision for me to make.

No. Well, there's... I don't think there's a decision today.

GUILLAUME: There'll be no decision... (mutters)

BARRY: I'll be glad to start.

Um, to me, it's a two-horse race.

Um, I think

Meredith is charming,

but I didn't see him in the same class

as the last two gentlemen.

PAUL: I... By the way, I-I agree.

I would put... rank them

one and two, uh, but I would def...

I would not eliminate Meredith.

I think he had some really interesting qualities

that could be developed, and clearly,

he is directable.

I rank Kevin first.

Thank you, indeed.

PAUL: I rank Joel second, and

I was delightfully surprised with Joel's approach.

The tuba bit

stands on its own.

It could be an act in the circus.

If you make him a character in a show sometime--

it doesn't have to be this show, obviously--

make him a character in a show,

and then he does that tuba routine... is fantastic.

STEVE: Paul is-is really making a concerted effort

to take a step away.

It's really hard for him to let go.

But he is trying,

and Guillaume is making a concerted effort

to not step on toes, so he's trying to move forward,

at the same, taking a step back.

So we're doing this little dance

back and forth between the two artistic directors,

because we're at that point

where it's almost official.

PAUL: You gonna speak?

Everything is... has been basically said,

so, I need to think, and...

Oh, that's right. Of course.


All right. See you around the neighborhood.

Talk to you soon. You bet.

MICHAEL: Barry, could you pick up that scarf

on the floor, please, under the table?

Oh, yeah. Thanks.

You're welcome. All right, see you later.

STEVE: Do we... do we need a couple of minutes with Guillaume?

Uh, that would be great.

Can we text him real quick,

or call him real quick on your fancy-dancy machine?

(door opens)

There's Guillaume now.

We could go right here. Hello!

Yeah. No, we'll just have... it we could just have five minutes.

You're responding to my text?

No, I... Oh, great.

...just naturally came back.

Thank you very much.


So... So, I was just saying to...

Look... Yes. Yeah.

What were you saying?


That when... when you look at the three guys...

Yeah, I mean, for me, there's, uh, there's no doubt

I want to go after Kevin.

It would be my recommendation.

Yeah, it'd be mine, too.

And, uh, I like what he brings. I like that he's different

and we have never had him in our ring.

We all felt the connection, his physical presence.

Agreed. And I don't mean that in a bad way.

All right, thank you. Thank you.

Thank you very much.

I'm call... I'm gonna call him.

Go for it. Call him, yeah. If he's not even out

of the lot, he can come back. (clicks tongue)

This is a very interesting spot for a barn.

I'm Heidi Weirbelus.

I left the circus

when my husband called in a bomb threat in Walden.

Hi, buddy.

I'm here today to visit

and just catch up with the people

and say hello, good-bye before I head back to Colorado

and start my life over again, pretty much.

I missed everybody a lot.

Been keeping in touch with Kwame, and, like, he called me

the other day backstage during a show

and was, like, "Hi, everybody wants to say hi to you."

So I talked to, I think, Chrystie, Andrew and Smitty.

How's it goin'?!

How ya doin', baby? How ya doin'?!

HEIDI: So everybody called me all at once

and was, like, "Oh, we miss you," and I was, like,

"Oh, guys, you're killing me."

HEIDI: Hi. Hey.

How you doing? Good, good, good.

How's everything?

Uh, all right.

I'm, you know...

Single and looking to mingle.

(clicks tongue) Yeah. Yeah.

A little bit, little bit. All right, that's good.

HEIDI: In Walden, everything just kind of

spiraled out of control.

I mean, it was just my husband Ryan at his finest.

Called me the other day and said he wanted paperwork done, so...

There it is. Wow.

He gave me 12 hours notice.

After we left,

the situation just kind of kept getting worse and worse.

We just kind of imploded.

Just got to the point

where we were both just ready to be done.

We both just didn't think that

we could really fix it.

Oh, yeah. He made it real pretty before he left,

but he still left, so...

Oh, I'm sorry.

Whatever. It's...

I mean, we're... Sorry.

The funny part... I... (scoffs)

Did I notice? No. It's good, man.

You don't need the Yuri Bomber in your life.


Welcome back to the circus, yo.

This is the wife of the bomb threat.

No. Come on. I'm just kidding.

No. I know. Are you kidding me?

I know. I'm just... I will always look at you as the horse girl.

HEIDI: But we've always really loved each other,

and, you know, that's never gonna change.

We've been best friends since, you know,

we were still pretending we were unicorns.

(indistinct conversations)

What it... Irene?

Is there cream in here or no?


It looks great. It smells great.

Thank you.

MAX BINDER: My dad talks

about the impending transition all the time.

It's a big change, and, uh,

he's just got a sense of limbo right now, I think.

This is not like...

This is not like a recipe.

This is like an invention.

It's-It's delicious.

STEVE: It's more than watching your teenage son

or daughter go off to college.

This is a process of

letting go of really everything that you are.

MAX: First on his agenda is he needs to find a place to live.

Um, he doesn't want to stay in a trailer

in upstate New York, so, you know,

he's apartment hunting right now.

STEVE: I mean, these are new things

for a man who's in his 60s.

You have to actually have a house that's real

and a mailbox where the mail comes.

Someone doesn't bring it to you in an envelope.


It comes from the mailman with a stamp on it.

I think you're doing great with the trapeze stuff.

Thank you.

I mean, because that's a real challenge.

It is. Every day there's, like, something different.

Well, yeah. Yeah.

Well... living, breathing moments here.

Right, right.

But it... You know, it shows...

It shows a real sense of focus, so...


JAKE: There is something about Paul's enthusiasm for his

circus that is intoxicating.

Um, and there...

It's a passion that is genuine and-and sincere.

Um, and I appreciate that more than anything.

Hi, Paul.


How are you? All right.


I'd be... I have nothing that a full house wouldn't cure,

I assure you. There you go.

WOMAN: I respect that he... he's the founder of the circus.

And he's never stepped on my toes.

If I've done something wrong, he's told me.

He's told me straight out what I've done.

I go, "Okay." I fix it.

Never argued, never had a problem with him, ever.

Gonna be polite to everybody?

Absolutely. Yeah.

Well, good. Good.

Oh, you have to?

Well, what can I...?

(rock music playing)

Be good to them, you know.

Be nice to the customers.

You know why?

They feed us.

BARRY: When Paul directed the show,

there was a lot of throwing of chairs and screaming,

and you know, I used to say, "I think the direction

of my hair just changed,"

because, you know, he'd just yelled at me

in-in a way that, you know...

He's coming. It's really loud.

I just called him. He's...

Loud and raucous.

Yeah, I know. He's coming. He's on his way.

Okay, thank you, Scott.

BARRY: But, you know, he's a guy who's been

boxing his way out of Brooklyn for a lot of years,

and Brooklyn is still there.


(door opening)

Oh, yay!

Hey. I know.

You're soaked.

I know. I am.

But you're here.

Yeah. Oh, how are you?

I'm good. How about you? Good.

My name is Harmony French.

I'm a flying trapeze artist.

I was, like, 70 degrees. Look at you.


Very good with tanning gun. Yeah.

HARMONY: Earlier this year, I was with the Flying Neves.

I'm sure I'll be pretty white.

HARMONY: We were fired.

So, opening night is when I left.

Hey. Hey.

How's it going? Good. How are you?

How was your trip? Good. Good.

Harmony's coming because Alida could not get out

of a contract that she

had signed with her family, the Flying Wallendas,

uh, to do the seven-person pyramid.

HARMONY: It definitely was embarrassing to get fired.

There were definitely some egos hurt,

including my own.

It's nice to at least do something

with the four weeks that I spent

learning the Sharivari routine.


Oh, I'm sorry.

It's okay. It's okay. It's okay.

Why don't you just fly higher?

I should, right?

HARMONY: I've really only been flying on the trapeze for three years.

I went on vacation to Club Med, which is where I met Chrystie,

who's in our troupe now, 'cause she was working there.

And I tried flying trapeze, and then

I was hooked.

(man shouts)

MAN: Up!

HARMONY: And then once it gets in your blood,

it's hard to get out.

There's something about it feeding your ego.

I don't know what it is,

but I know when I take time off

that I don't feel as good about myself

as I do when I'm performing.

♫Hands out...♫

STEVE: I don't think you can ever separate ego

from people who are willing to put their lives on the line

on a daily basis

for our enjoyment.

♫Doesn't mean anything...♫

MARK GINDICK: You want to be presented well in the show.

You want to have

your shot in the ring.

(rhythmic percussion playing)


If you feel like you're not having your shot in the ring,

that's... that hits on the ego.

"What's wrong with me?"

(applause and cheering)

There was a time where I was not in the first act.

I was in the show very little in dress rehearsal.

In Walden, I had to make sure

that I was represented in the show better,

which eventually happened in D.C.

The fact that Grandma and I are in the ring together

without Glen, uh, I don't think was done

on purpose.


♫Come on with the rain♫

♫I've a smile on my face...♫

Since Barry and I have had this relationship before,

of course, organically,

that stuff just fired up quicker

than perhaps putting a trio together.

This is a clown's audience tonight.

Yeah. I mean, really

Yeah. a clown's audience.

I loved the button on the "Singin' in the Rain."

That's beautiful. The water bottle on...

Yeah. Yeah. on top.

Is that a full bottle that you're-you're putting on? Yeah.

Yeah, I put the other one away and I go full bottle.

BARRY: Mark's completely open.

He's a wagging puppy dog looking for love and attention.

And I think Glen's a very individual kind of guy.

And, uh, I'm more drawn to people

who are warmer to those things...

where there's input and they're asking for it.

They're constantly asking for it.

'Cause what comes with that is difficulty,

criticism, and pain.

I've been putting my stuff in the prop box here.

That's what they told me to do.

In the what? Oh, really?


'Cause they're gonna lock it.

BARRY: So if you can't really take notes, then you're on your own.

And he is.

Given that, he's doing really well being on his own.

You have a date with Mark?

Yes, we do. Oh, that's nice.

You jealous? No.

Of course you are. Uh-uh.

I don't... I don't need anybody.

Oh, please.

MARK: One thing about the circus,

you just need to have a thick skin, anyway.

I mean, just look at the living conditions, to begin with.

I mean, that kind of sets the tone

of having a thick skin and then

going out there and, you know,

showing your heart every day, and it's hard.


Hey, Rosie. What's up?

Well, we're gonna need...

you gotta start treating this up.

We got an audience coming in in half hour.

Oh, (bleep). Got a half hour

before the audience comes.

BARRY: One of the hardest things about the circus is the conditions.

And our water supply comes in and goes out by garden house.

So, if it's below freezing,

you got no water.

(overlapping chatter)

We have a, uh, slight, uh,

snow problem and a water pocket at the same time, so,

as we're melting the snow,

it causes other problems... water pockets.

MAN: Show must go on... rain, sleet or snow.

It gets a little bit rough.


Just one of those lucky years.

There's still mushrooms in my trailer.

I don't know if I have to tell that to you...

No, no, it's still active. It's still...

The problem is, as long as it's below freezing,

we can't do anything with it. Okay.

We have to wait till we get to Atlanta,

dry it out, clean it out,

and then we'll start fresh. Okay.

It's because... It's so cold.

The conditions. Okay, good.

Sorry. That's okay.

Well, we'll cook 'em up.

See what they taste like. (laughs)

WOMAN: Malick is not feeling good,

Sultan is not feeling good.

I'm not feeling good.

Um, half the show's not feeling good.

It's one of those days.

Love the circus.

This is not the toughest job, right?

There's-there's harder jobs than mine, that's for sure.

At least I get five minutes of glory out there.


GLEN: Did you do that braid in his hair?

No. Oh.

I'm taking it out.

Are you taking it out?

Can you braid my hair later?

You don't have any. Oh, that's right.

I keep forgetting. And yours is steaming.

My head's steaming?

That's 'cause on the planet I come from,

we have a whole different atmosphere and climate.

All right, I'm gonna go inside.

I'll see you later.

See you later.

Are they practicing again?

Tonight, after?

No, I don't think so.

So, tomorrow they're doing something?

I don't know.

I talked to Sarah and she was like,

"Yeah, we should have a party."

Most circus acts are built around families,

because in this business,

if you want to be with someone permanently,

you pretty much have to be

in an act with them.

You still gonna dress up like this a couple times a week?

(both laugh)

The past two years now,

I've been with my boyfriend Jeremy.

Whatever you want, my love.

Just the rhinestones

around your eyes.

He is a prison guard.

He's a lieutenant at a California state prison.

So, it'd be nice if he was in the circus

and did flying trapeze with me.

And I'm sure he feels like it'd be nice if I stayed home.


But you can't help who you fall for, right?

I waiver back and forth between feeling comfortable

with the idea of leaving and the idea of staying.

And I've had a lot of friends

say to me, "Well, why don't you come back to California

and just do corporate gigs?"


that's definitely not the same.


ANNOUNCER: The Flying Cortes!

HARMONY: Living amongst all the performers

and the crew, and spending a period of time together

on a... on a show,

it's very unique.


ALEXANDER: It's very difficult

to have somebody new come into our troupe.

And the hard thing is not the flying, the training...

that's probably the easier stuff.

The majority of people have a problem

adapting to the lifestyle.


KWAME: There's absolutely

no news to break.

I swear to you.

I think Kwame and Heidi is an official thing.

SMILEY: Kwame is a good guy

for Heidi, too.

MAN: But what do you know?

Tell me about what's going on...

These are the basics:

Ryan and Heidi come here as a married couple.

He leaves after being the Yuri Bomber.

Eventually... they start getting a divorce.

Me and her grow closer.

And eventually we started, as she'd call it, dating.

Are you a couple?

Remember the collar she used to wear?


PAUL: Glen's "Lead a Band" is singing.

First of all, Glen is to be commended.

It was not easy for him.

Gosh, here I am.

I created that piece.

I performed that piece.

I know all of the little stuff about it.

So here I am with my, you know...

uh, "you better get this right" attitude.

(laughing): You know.

And he was terrified.


But he really internalized it, and really has made it work.

And I think the best

direction with him was, you know,

bring your good feeling to it.

Bring your sense of rhythm to it.

Bring your feeling about the kids to it.

Those things emerged and became

the primary issues of how he works in the ring.


GLEN: There was a little stretch there

where I just felt like, "God, what am I doing out here?"

Yeah, I was just dreading walking into the ring.


Each show was worse than the last.

And I was just thinking, "God,

can we just cut this?"


I guess I'll cut my teeth.

(applause, cheering)


WOMAN: We lost our little horse, George, today from colic.

It happens to horses,

but he started colic'ing yesterday at 6:00,

and... we were hoping we could get him through it.

The vet came out, they took him to the hospital

and everything, but they said there was nothing...

We did everything we could,

but there was nothing that they could do.

(baby crying)

PAUL: They brought him over to the equine clinic,

as quickly as they could

in the early morning.

And he never... he never... he died.

PAUL: He somehow had something terribly wrong

in his intestinal tract.

What was really sad about it is that

this little horse,

this little stallion, was a real star.

He loved going in the ring.

He, you know, he did

his job every day, was very proud of himself,

and h-he was... it's ver...

it's really awful to lose an animal like that.

WOMAN: He was like part of the family. I mean...

it was really hard going the whole day,

knowing what had happened,

and having to do the shows and hear the music

and... act all happy and like

everything's okay.

PAUL: The old, uh, cliché

is "the show must go on,"

but it's about making an audience feel good

about themselves,

bringing joy, bringing wonder, bringing magic into their lives,

and George was one of the ways we did that

and we're sad to lose him, but we, we must go on.

GUILLAUME: How we move forward...

for the act is yet unknown.

It's just a matter of finding

the, the best replacement.

WOMAN: You know, they're going to look

for another little horse, and they know

one that's trained to have him in the show

until, you know, we know what the next step is.


right now it's just missing George.

How long is Heidi gonna be here for?

Three days.

Three days? Three days? Three days.

But she's not gonna be here...? In New York for three days.

She's not gonna be in this room for three days, right?

KWAME: Next week I am moving to Colorado

with Heidi.

When are you leaving?

Moving to Colorado Tuesday.

Are you nervous?

I'm nervous.

I think Ryan's going to get his neo-Nazi friends

to kill me and chop me up and bury me somewhere...

I couldn't do anything in Walden 'cause she was married,

and evidently the fact that I didn't do anything in Walden

was the saving grace.

It's probably the reason she actually likes me...

'cause everybody else was trying to hit it.

I never had problems with Yuri, never.


I never had problems with him.

I am going to miss Smiley the most.

Smiley's the greatest roommate I've ever had.

I don't even think Heidi is going to be

as great of a roommate.

Are you excited?

KWAME: There is really nothing we do to piss each other off.

We do things that annoy each other slightly.

My music annoys him.

His sexual habits annoy me,

but before I leave, I'm going to get him back.

Heidi's coming.

("The Up and Down" by Dead Heart Bloom playing)

♫Now I'm up, I say♫

♫And I can conquer anything♫

♫At least for these few hours♫

♫I can hold your hand and smile♫

♫Let us brave the rain♫

♫Walk our city hand in hand♫

♫In this, our golden age...♫

Been a pretty long fall, man.

♫It's nothing that the drugs won't cure...♫

And... here we are.

God, I love my life.

♫...that your love won't kill for good...♫


I don't know how much I really believe in it.

But five years down the road, me and Heidi, realistically?

No clue.

♫Followed by them hanging men♫

♫But on their gallows pole...♫

I'm going to go surprise Heidi

by picking her up at the airport.

I told her I was working the day she is coming in,

that I'm not going to be there

and someone else is going to pick her up,

but I'm going to be.

Heidi. (gasps)


Hey, baby.

I knew it was bull (bleep).


How are you?



Heidi is most people's dream girl.

No real need to lie,

personable... you can get along with her.


I slept... and slept and slept and slept.

Funny, determined...

and loyal...

'cause despite the fact that we both wanted to bang in Walden,

we didn't.



Like they say, a lady in the streets,

a freak in the sheets.

HEIDI: Kwame has actually never been to Colorado at all.

I'm not sure he's even seen pictures,

so it'll be interesting.

I don't think that Colorado itself will be an issue.

There's no reason for me to think that.

I know other black people there,

but the last week before I came here,

I kept looking around, going,

"Oh, he's going to have such culture shock."


He's going to walk away from, you know, the circus

and, you know, all his friends here and, you know, his life.

I'm super excited that he decided to come to Colorado,

and I hope he decides that he likes it

and that he stays for a while

'cause we get along really well,

and I hope this one works out

because, I don't know, it's a new relationship

so the trust is still there, and...

You know, there's still a lot of hope and a lot of promise

for what could be coming next.

ALIDA: You want some tomato

with the black beans? Oh, yeah.

Chrystie was telling me that, I guess,

Harmony's not going to...

she's probably not going to come to Atlanta with us.

Oh, well, then I guess we don't have to...

We don't got to get rid

of all that stuff out of the truck.

Well, she could always change her mind. Her career's more important, though.

Huh? Yeah.

I said her career is more important.


when you're not 12 anymore and...

you know, she wasn't born into it, so...

I'm sure she's not planning...

to live her whole life doing it, so...


She did a good job.

Yeah, yeah.

No shoes, right? Nope.

You're leaving those. Chrystie's going to ...

You're gonna leave your silver slippers?

They don't belong to me, they belong to the show.

HARMONY: Today's my last day.

Steal 'em. I can't steal 'em.

I enjoyed working with the Cortes.

I'm sure we'll all keep in touch.

No, I wear the, the character shoes.

It's not your umbrella, right?

HARMONY: I don't think my leaving will affect them all that much

because they're all family.

Good-bye. Bye. So long, thank you.

I mean, no matter what, I would always be an outsider to them

'cause their troupe is so closely knit.

You know, okay, I'm gonna walk away from the circus...

and see how everything goes

back home, and if that doesn't work out,

then I can always come back to circus life,

but at least I'll know...

I'll feel more concrete about my decisions, I think.

Yeah, she's in love, you know.

Love conquers all.


So, whatever, we'll soon find out.

To be continued.

The photograph...

uh, the black and white photograph of Max.

Oh, here it is. Okay.

The response has been very subdued.

You know, several people have come to me and said,

"You know, it's fantastic.

It's been great being with you."

There were some good wishes.

Am I sad?


Just the one? MAN: Just the one.

All right, cool. No problem. Eight dollars, all right?

(indistinct chatter)

Ooh! Hoo-hoo!


MAN: Why? Why are you wearing that?

For the Chiquita Banana costumes.

We have to go... to wait for the... the change.

SARAH: Tonight is the gala.

It is the... I guess the most

important show of the year for the Big Apple Circus.

PAUL: The gala is an amazing event each year.

We are speaking to our audience of supporters.

We're gonna say,

"Enjoy yourselves and remember, this is the Big Apple Circus

that you've supported all of these years."

Tickets, please.

SARAH: The people that come

give a lot of money so

the show can run, and

everybody knows how we all have

to give the best tonight.

I take some of the pressure, for sure,

and I'm pretty nervous.

MICHAEL: I would be concerned if I weren't nervous

a little bit before going on.

A lot of supporters

that go back to the very first days,

and for me,

this becomes the only time during the year

that I get to be Mr. Stubbs in the ring with Mr. Paul.

And we touch that place

where we were when all this started.

Paul and I have about the most opposite personalities

you could think of, and...

and I think that that's probably part of why

the relationship

or why the partnership is so strong.

Ma, ma, ma, roar!

Did you mistake me for Paul?

PAUL: We couldn't be more different.

I'm a Jewish kid born on the streets of Brooklyn,

and he's a

kid who was born in...

Walla Walla, Washington.

PAUL: I graduated Dartmouth,

I got an MBA from Columbia.

MICHAEL: I grew up in poverty.

Had a series of five stepfathers,

was on welfare,

uh, Aid to Dependent Children,

juvenile delinquent,

food stamps and government surplus food.

PAUL: In our little cottage colony

in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, we did...

we had a little day camp.

We did little plays and, uh, variety shows.

MICHAEL: Alcoholism,

country-Western music and

the ever next last beer.

PAUL: The assumption was I was gonna become a professional man,

a doctor or a lawyer.

Ha, ha.

(laughs) How wrong they were.

MAN: Let me tell you something. Look...

Who's first in? Chris, right?

Yeah. All right.

The clowns are going first. Okay, great.

All right, thank you.

CHRIS: Thank you. Good evening, everybody.

Welcome to The Big Apple Circus Gala.

So I want to bring out

the founder and artistic director

of the Big Apple Circus, Paul Binder,

as well as the co-founder, creative director

and founder of the Clown Care Program,

Michael Christensen.

Paul and Michael.

(applause and cheering, fanfare plays)

Hi. Hi.

Thank you, Chris.

I'm reminded of, uh, Mark Twain's comment.

The, uh...

The reports of my recent demise are grossly exaggerated.


Um, I...

I am not leaving the Big Apple Circus.

First of all... Thank you.


And my dedication

is to this.

It's to make sure

that this institution, uh, remains

for the next generation and the generation after that.

And, uh, my greatest satisfaction is when

people come up to me, and they say,

"I first came to the Big Apple Circus

"when I was a kid with my parents.

And here are my children."

And those people and the children of those people

are who I want to dedicate my time and my effort

to make sure there's a Big Apple Circus.

Thank you, everybody. (applause)

MICHAEL: When it was time to introduce Guillaume...

What's next?

...Paul blanked, and he came back

with this real puzzled look on his face.

And Chris and I stepped forward, we went, "Guillaume. Guillaume."

He goes, "Yes. Yes."

Guillaume. Guillaume.

Ah. And...

I want you to meet the man who's going to be

the artistic director of the Big Apple Circus.

Please welcome Guillaume Dufresnoy.

(applause and cheering, fanfare plays)

MICHAEL: It was great with Guillaume out there.

That was terrific.

When he came in, I made sure

I was the first one there to shake his hand.

I said, "Welcome to your new life."

(applause, cheering and whistling)

Hey, they like... They like you.

They like you, man.


All right? Thanks.

Shall we start the show?


We're gonna do that, everybody.

Thanks and welcome. Maestro.

(band plays)

BARRY: Guillaume's got a very tough act to follow.

And I'm not talking personality.

I'm talking about

the bottom line.

The gig was done extremely well.

(instrumental rock music plays)

GUILLAUME: The goal this year for the... for the gala

was a... was a million and a half.

And, uh, with the... with the economy, we...

we couldn't get to that.

I think we-we got around half that.

Uh, contribution may keep coming in in the next few days,

but, uh, we're far from goal.



We will have to look at ideas

to raise more money, to guarantee the survival

of the place.


BARRY: We've talked about the company possibly

canceling a couple of the spring and summer dates,

The possibility of a furlough is in the air.

Whatever it takes to stay in business is

totally worth it.

(noisemakers blowing)


PAUL & AUDIENCE: Nine, eight...

AUDIENCE: Seven, six...

BARRY: Paul is handling this transition amazingly well.

AUDIENCE: ...two, one.

I know he's gonna miss being in the ring because

he loves it.

Yes, we can.

BARRY: And I know that

he's in a certain amount of discomfort

and probably a certain amount of pain.

And I just want to encourage him.

I just want to say,

"You are about to enter the best years of your life,

"though right now, you must feel

that you're losing your baby."

I'm here because of Paul.

(voice breaking): I wouldn't be in the business

without him.

So I owe him a lot.


I was done with clowning,

and then I saw the Big Apple Circus,

and I fell in love with it, and...

he encouraged me, and I'm still here.

You know... I might be an accountant now

if it hadn't been for Paul.

Happy New Year.

Happy New Year.

BARRY: He's a great friend.

ANNOUNCER: Next on Circus...

I decided to completely

wean myself off all my medicine:

mood stabilizers

and antidepressants.

And it might be the stupidest time in the world

to not take them.

I don't know where my trailer is

'cause I moved into a new camper.

I don't even have my key to it

because it's in my bag that my brother has.

MARTY: My brother and I...

we have separate trailers now.

JAKE: When the performance didn't go as well

as Marty would have liked, he would approach me

aggressively, and so, I responded physically.

♫Maybe something special's on the way♫

♫What's all this about?♫

ANNOUNCER: Want to see more of your favorite characters

and performances from Circus?

Then come one, come all to:

♫I'll find a way back to you♫

ANNOUNCER: Circus is available on Blu-ray and DVD.

To order, visit us online at

Or call PBS Home Video at 1-800-PLAY-PBS.

♫Let's get everybody on their feet♫

♫Let's get everybody, yeah♫

♫Let's get everybody...♫

♫Let's get everybody♫

♫Come on, get everybody, hey!♫

♫Come on, get everybody, hey!♫


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Under a Minute
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Theater of The Mind Radio Drama
The Historic Attucks Theatre: Apollo of the South
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Mark Twain Prize
Little Country Theatre: 100 Years at NDSU
Light Falls