The Big Apple Circus, back for the 35th year at Cunningham Park in Fresh Meadows, is leaving town after this weekend.
According to general manager Tom Larson, Paul Binder and Michael Christensen began performing as street jugglers in Europe in 1977. After being recruited for a circus and getting a taste of performing under the big tent, they returned to the United States.
“The Big Apple Circus was born under a little green canvass tent in Battery Park City,” said Larson, who has been with Big Apple for 21 years.
Over the years, Larson said he has learned the show’s secret to success.
“At the Big Apple, we take a great deal of care in terms of the quality of our show,” he said. “We keep the production value as high as we possible can within the constraints of the budget.”
There are 30 artists performing at the circus. Artistic director Guillaume Dufresony visits festivals and competitions all over the world to find the perfect cast.
The theme of the show changes annually, so Dufresony has to find new artists each year. New costumes, music acts and sets have to be found as well.
The 2013 show is called Legendarium, and explores the history of the circus with, jugglers, acrobats and a contortionist, to name a few of the performers.
Larson believes it is the community service and not-for-profit angle that has kept the Big Apple Circus popular over the years.
“Our entire attitude toward what we do is different,” he said. “Many other circuses, their idea is to come into a town, and yes they might present good entertainment, but their purpose is to make as much money as possible and then leave town. We have to earn money like any company does, of course, but that’s not our sole operating motive.”
Big Apple Circus has many outreach programs to interact with the local community in whatever city it sets up tent.
“We prefer to enrich the communities and give back something,” Larson said.
Legendarium runs twice a day before folding up the tent and leaving for Charlestown, Rhode Island on Sunday, June 16. For tickets, visit bigapplecircus.org.