When the Big Apple Circus returns to New York’s Lincoln Center in October, it will be by trans-continental ocean liner, long-distance luxury train, Ford Model T, and by airplane. It’s all part of this season’s circus theme, The Grand Tour, which highlights the romance and novelty of travel in the 1920s.
“We’re really trying to capture the ... time when travel was something people really looked forward to because it was so new,” says Mark Lonergan, director of The Grand Tour. “The idea of going on a trip on one of these modes of transportation was something just extraordinary.”
This year marks the 38th season for the Big Apple Circus, which has gained a reputation for its impressive acrobatics, international acts, and nonprofit mission that seeks to bring the joy of the circus to all regardless of income.
In this new show, an international cast of performers such as the African acrobatic group Zuma Zuma, the Chinese hand balancers The Energy Trio, and Russian aerialist Sergey Akimov will lead the audience on a journey across the world. First, they’ll sail from New York City to Europe, then board the Orient Express to cross the continent by rail. After wandering the desert in an explorer’s Model T, they’ll fly back to New York City at the end of the show.
But no, there won’t be bringing any ocean liners or locomotives into the Big Top, Lonergan says. Instead, the performers and the backdrop will evoke these modes of transportation, whether it’s a clown carrying a steering wheel and car door or an aerialist flying an airplane around the ring by hand. “It’s imagining from almost a childlike point of view how do we evoke the idea of the transportation if we were playing with our friends at age six,” Lonergan explains.
In a time when airplane travel is so routine that people wear their schlubbiest pajamas for an overnight flight, Lonergan says this theme is about reliving the “golden age” of travel when everything was new. Though it might be hard now to imagine a refined dinner with china, flowers, and impeccably dressed waiters on your long-distance trail across Europe, he says, back then it “was part of the experience.”
Although the Big Apple Circus always has an international cast roster, Lonergan says there was a greater emphasis on that aspect in casting for this show. As a result, The Grand Tour’s cast hails from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America, helping the audience explore the world that much more. But even though the cast is taking the audience on the trip, Lonergan says the point is not to stop in any destination for too long. “It’s the getting there that’s the fun in our show,” he says.
The Big Apple Circus’ The Grand Tour premieres at Lincoln Center on October 21, 2015 and runs through January 10, 2016. Tickets are available online.