The busking beginnings…
Paul Binder and Michael Christensen came to the MobileBooth at Lincoln Center to tell the about their adventures that lead to starting the Big Apple Circus. The two longtime friends met as mimes in San Francisco. Then, while taking a road trip together, they paid their gas juggling on the street. That led them to pack their rucksacks, juggle on streets and pass the hat from England to Istanbul.Â They made their living with juggling acts in many countries with many charming bad accents. Juggling in Paris, they were asked to join to the Nouveau Cirque du Paris. Michael remembers their first weeks as members of the circus. “I have pictures of the early shows where you and I are running into the ring. It is the kind of picture where you are look into the dictionary, you see ‘happiness’ and there is that picture.”
After a trip back to New York, Paul proposed that they start a circus of their own in New York City. The circus is now about to celebrate its 32nd year. Michael, or Mr. Stubs, played for many years the hobo clown down on his luck. Michael, up until this last year, was the circus’ director and ringmaster. Their families grew up in the circus. Paul’s kids did all of their schooling on the road in the One Ring School House. Twenty-two years ago, the pair started Clown Care, a program that integrates circus entertainers into childrens hospitals all over the country. They have seen the transformative impact the circus has on people. After the first act, “people are shimmering,” said Michael.
“At the circus, the audience leaves behind the woes of society, at least for a moment.” said Paul.
“We followed our heart. We followed our own joy. It [the circus] was challenging but not once did we look at each other and say let’s throw in the clown towel… Still after all these years there is that same sense of delight and wonder,” said Michael.
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