Tag Archives: circus

Step Right Up

Alice Hoffman has a new book out next week and I am more than a little excited for it. Not only because it’s a book by Alice Hoffman – I loved The Dovekeepers – but the plot hits on some history subjects that really pique my interest, namely New York City at the turn of the last century and side show/circus weirdness (You really need to watch the 1932 movie Freaks. Trust me on this).

source: brooklynmuseum.org

The Museum of Extraordinary Things is about Coralie Sardie, a girl who spends her days as the mermaid in her father’s curiosity museum on the Coney Island boardwalk. When she meets a photographer named Eddie Cohen, they both get tangled up in the fall-out of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. The book also promises to include “bootleggers, heiresses, thugs, and idealists,” which all seem pretty necessary to me.

In the meantime, go watch Freaks and check out some the circus/sideshow/curiosity items from our collection:





– Jess


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SilverDocs Part 1: Under the Big Top

This post is the first in a series featuring films I saw at the SilverDocs Documentary Film Festival this past June.  Each will spotlight one film, along with related library resources to enjoy while waiting for the film to be released.

After harboring a lifelong fantasy of running away to join the circus and hosting a trapeze party for my 30th birthday, it’s no wonder that I made a point of seeing Circo.  The film chronicles the challenges of a traveling circus family in Mexico, highlighting the tension between dedication to family versus dedication to a craft and a disappearing way of life.  It’s hard to know whose side to be on: the father, trying to preserve his family’s heritage and business; or the mother, torn between supporting her husband and wanting to provide her children with a normal childhood and decent education.

CLP offers plenty of resources related to the circus arts, but with the exception of one remarkable book, this post will focus on our DVD offerings.  You can easily lose several hours to the full color and black and white photos of circus performers and reproductions of original circus posters in The Circus: 1870 – 1950, a behemoth of a book (670 pages, measuring roughly 12”x17.5”x3”, and probably weighing 25 lbs.).  You’ll also learn fascinating tidbits to add to your trivia arsenal, such as the fact that Jules Leotard, inventor of the trapeze, also invented (as his name reveals) the leotard, making him the first show business sex symbol (p. 353).  Since it’s a reference book you’ll have to visit us at the Main Library to peruse the lovely images, but we’ve got plenty of circulating books on the topic as well (just ask a librarian).

Also available for check out are several DVDs featuring various types of circus performances.  We have numerous Cirque Du Soleil shows, including a fascinating documentary, The Magic Touch, profiling Dominique Lemieux, Cirque’s costume designer.  If you’ve never seen a Cirque show live, splurge the next time they are in town.  Until then, content yourself with one (or more) of our DVDs.

Acrobatics play a prominent role in Cirque du Soleil shows, and if that’s your area of interest, you can borrow one of our DVDs featuring Chinese acrobats.  If tight-rope walking is what gets your heart racing, watch Man on Wire, the Oscar-winning documentary about Phillipe Petite’s 1974 daredevil (and illegal) high-wire walk between the World Trade Center towers.

For a bit of fictional drama, try Cecil B. Demille’s The Greatest Show on Earth, Charlie Chan at the Circus, La Strada, Sawdust and Tinsel, Billy Rose’s Jumbo, Lola Montes, or Freaks (originally released in 1932 and filmed using real circus performers).

See you under the big top!

– Sarah


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