CIRCUS DIARIES: The New American Circus by Ernest Albrecht

In Books, Circus, Features, Opinion, Reviews by Katharine KavanaghLeave a Comment

Ernest Albrecht is the foremost circus writer in the US and, although this book is now over 20 years old, it still holds a wealth of information that’s relevant to circus companies today. It’s also a fascinating insight into the preoccupations and ideologies of the movers and shakers who began to shift circus in America away from three-ring spectacle and back towards a more European style of presentation.

Albrecht conducted over 40 interviews with those at the helm of new and established circus organisations, as well as with those who worked around them. The book focuses on the development of four main companies – Pickle Family Circus, Big Apple Circus, Cirque du Soleil, and Circus Flora – dedicating a chapter to each, but with the connecting threads of their stories clearly interwoven.

The influence of Russian circus artists on the evolving American style is studied, and chapters are also dedicated to the financial, educational and political aspects of circus at the end of the 20th Century, much of which still resonates today.

The book is illustrated with black and white images, as well as a colour central section, and is written with an accessible journalistic style that prevents the significant research from becoming overwhelming. Behind the ‘new American circus’ are people with dreams and ambitions and hardships; through their eyes we are able to get a broader picture of the landscape of circus in the US.

Katharine Kavanagh
Katharine is a circus writer based in the Midlands, a handy travel hub for getting out and about to new and smaller-scale work. From a background as a performer, theatre-maker and circus volunteer, Katharine took part in the EU-funded 'Unpack the Arts' circus residency, set up The Circus Diaries website, and now dedicates herself to sharing the intricacies of circus art with the world.

She says: "Circus is an area of performing arts where few people have the vocabulary and understanding to write balanced critical appraisal. This tends to result in wishy-washy 'reviews' that all sound the same and say very little about the relative quality of the show.

"As the circus arts grow in popularity and engagement across the UK, it's important for critical voices to reflect this to increasingly discerning audiences. That's where I come in."
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Katharine Kavanagh
Katharine is a circus writer based in the Midlands, a handy travel hub for getting out and about to new and smaller-scale work. From a background as a performer, theatre-maker and circus volunteer, Katharine took part in the EU-funded 'Unpack the Arts' circus residency, set up The Circus Diaries website, and now dedicates herself to sharing the intricacies of circus art with the world.

She says: "Circus is an area of performing arts where few people have the vocabulary and understanding to write balanced critical appraisal. This tends to result in wishy-washy 'reviews' that all sound the same and say very little about the relative quality of the show.

"As the circus arts grow in popularity and engagement across the UK, it's important for critical voices to reflect this to increasingly discerning audiences. That's where I come in."