I have been a fan of Bindlestiff Family Cirkus ever since the ’90s, when I first saw their seat-of-the-pants, old school yet cutting edge show at Collective Unconscious. Two moments I’ll always remember — a guy playing the circusiest of circus tunes “Entrance of the Gladiators” on an acoustic guitar (not an easy feat), and a skinny clown costumed as an old geezer in a long white beard walking a slack wire — the gag being that he used a walker, which of course touched the floor.
I loved their name. As I mentioned in No Applause, I ran away from home once as a small child, inspired by my hero, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, and tried to make my own hobo bindlestiff on that occasion, though I found it very inefficient at containing my can of baked beans. As do I love the mascot on their logo, a jackalope, one of the more adorable cryptozoological beasts for, unlike most of the others (Bigfoot, Nessie, the chupacabra, the Jersey Devil, etc) it’s not a large, scary monster.
At any rate, I was honored to subsequently perform with them on several occasions and to serve on their board (we met regularly at the restaurant at New York’s Ukrainian home) and to see them perform many different shows in many different venues over the years: Coney Island USA, the Brooklyn Brewery, the Present Company Theatorium, Theater for the New City, the Brooklyn Lyceum, Governor’s Island, and lots of different night clubs, and other venues. They ran a wonderful weekly open stage variety show at Dixon Place for many years. And they sponsor the First of May Award, a wonderful grant that has benefited many friends and colleagues.
Nothing since that first encounter however has excited me as much as the Flatbed Follies, a project they launched during the Covid epidemic. Basically, they travel around the city and present a free OUTDOOR variety show on a flatbed truck. I just love the grassroots purity of it, it’s like the old time medicine shows and circus parades of yore. While it’s admittedly in the vein of other outdoor NYC touring shows like Circus Amok and TNC’s Street Theater musicals, the fact that the show is mobile allows for a very dense schedule at many more locations: 15 shows in all 5 boroughs starting tomorrow and throughout the month. I’m going to catch them in Flushing, the nearest location to me, this coming weekend. It all culminates at the end of the month with the latest of their many tributes to Niblo’s Garden at Green-wood Cemetery.
Find a show near you! All the deets (and video of some of their past shows) are here.