Stephanie Monseu on the NEA Podcast

“It’s America’s most popular illegitimate art form.” – Stephanie Monseu.

Check out our ringmistress and co-founder talking about circus (and Cirkus) on the National Endowment for the Arts podcast! This interview came out of Bindlestiff’s recent participation in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC and we’re honored to get this kind of platform to talk about the work we’re so passionate about. With music by Peter Bufano‘s Cirkestra. Photo by Maike Schulz.

Listen here:

Celebrating the Art of Circus at the NEA

Earlier this month, the 50th Annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall welcomed dozens of circus organizations and set the stage for an historic opportunity to bring together circus arts professionals from across the country. On July 5th (P.T. Barnum’s birthday coincidentally), the National Endowment for the Arts welcomed close to 200 circus arts performers, leaders, scholars, historians, administrators, presenters, and funders to our offices for a conversation on the state of the field. Why circus arts? Why the National Endowment for the Arts? Why now?

Circus continues to blend various traditional art form features—such as dance, music, theater, athleticism, daredevilry, staging, choreography, and costuming—into a clearly defined performance art. It blurs the lines between theater and exhibition, artistry and craftsmanship, old and new, outsider and insider, and though there have been periods of ebb and flow, we are seeing an extraordinary revival. This is significant, because it underscores circus arts as a burgeoning grassroots movement—and the art form’s increase in mainstream popularity. In 2015, aerialist Dolly Jacobs was selected as a National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellow, the first ever circus performer to be so honored.

People are excited about the new artistic experimentation they’re seeing and moved by the impact the circus arts are having in communities. Contemporary circuses have taken on projects such as providing clowns—and training doctors and nurses in clown arts—to interact with patients and hospital staff to relieve sadness, anxiety, isolation, and even pain. Circus groups have helped to rebuild city parks in Chicago, and they have changed lives in St. Louis by teaching young people circus arts and finding careers for them in the industry.

I strongly believe that one of the key roles of our agency, and for me as a director, is to recognize and support creative advancements happening throughout our country. And in my five-year tenure with the National Endowment for the Arts, we have certainly witnessed substantial lateral growth within the nonprofit circus community—not so much as a commercial endeavor but absolutely as performance art, as a grassroots movement, and as an agent for positive social change, whether it be expanding accessibility, inclusion, education, or health. It has been incredibly exciting to watch, witness, and learn.

We designed a jam-packed agenda for the NEA’s Circus Town Hall and while it would be impossible to provide an exact summary of the day’s proceedings, here are some principal observations (in no particular order of importance) that were discussed:

  • *Circus performances are affordable and reach extremely diverse audiences both globally and across the United States.
  • *Public and private funders need to recognize circus arts as a distinct discipline and invest in its future.
  • *Circus arts have the potential to fulfill both physical education and arts education in schools throughout the United States.
  • *Unification is imperative. Circus should be recognized in all of its forms including education, training, big top, proscenium, cabaret, and street performance.
  • *Circus groups in the United States have the potential and capacity to create work at the same level as international companies but are lacking the support.
  • *Circus performers/companies are great ambassadors for the United States and should participate in international arts exchanges.
  • *Circus arts can contribute in the national conversation about the importance of supporting the arts.
  • *U.S.-based presenters and producers have to play a bigger role by including circus arts programming in their venue and festival programming.
  • *Circus arts possess the ability to heal trauma, build community, improve individual character, and address social challenges.
  • *The circus community is in need of a national service organization that is representative of all its characteristics, genres, and forms.

There is clearly a thirst within the circus community to advance the art form and further enthusiasm for growth, innovation, and interpretation. To quote P.T. Barnum, “The noblest art is that of making others happy,” and there is no doubt in my mind that the circus arts are doing just that. It is our job, collectively, to see that this unique art form receives the requisite attention and unconditional support it so deserves.

by Michael Orlove, National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts opens its doors to the Circus

Wednesday, July 5 / Washington DC

The National Endowment for the Arts opens its doors to the Circus.

The NEA hasn’t formally acknowledged Circus as an art form, nor does it have grant categories that specifically include it. Many new circuses are not-for-orifut arts organizations, relying on funding outside the traditional mode of ticket and concessions sales and for income. A growing advocacy movement, typified by Circus Now and individuals from many organizations, has finally gotten the ear of the NEA.

Among the invitees, who will be speaking before the NEA are circus owners, academics, historians, presenters, and producers. Voices from the sectors of traditional, contemporary, and social / youth circus will be heard, on diverse topics, including:

Social Change Through Circus Arts
Creating a Path to Success for Circus Artist and Presenters
Physical Comedy as Performance Art
The State of Circus Arts in 2017
Highbrow, Lowbrow, Nobrow: Circus as Art Now and Tomorrow ( with Bindlestiff count-founder Stephanie Monseu and BFC Board Member / Big Apple Circus co-founder Paul Binder

We’ll keep you posted on this historic and important sit-down during the second week of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival!

Send the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus to Washington!

Friends of Bindlestiff, we are asking for your support!! We just launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to help send the Cirkus to Washington, DC ( — as you may know, we’ve been invited to perform at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in July. This opportunity is a huge honor, but it presents a financial challenge for a small company like ours. Will you support our campaign to help bring Bindlestiff Family Cirkus to a national audience? And will you help us spread the word about the campaign?

Support our indiegogo campaign HERE:>>

The festival is free to the public, and we’ll be there July 6-9.
More info: Bindlestiff Family Cirkus at 2017 Smithsonian Folklife Festival or

Drop Force & Tool Creative Residencies!

Attention all artists! Drop Forge & Tool in Hudson, NY has an amazing residency program, supporting new work development of all shapes and sizes.

Part of Bindlestiff Family Cirkus’ A Cardboard & Duct Tape Spectacular was developed there last month! Fall Applications DUE MAY 15.

Apply today!

First of May Awardees Announced!

Congratulations to this year’s First of May Awardees!! Angelo Iodice is a longtime Bindlestiff performer who tours the world performing as AJ Silver (the cowboy from the Bronx!), Kyle Driggs is a Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cavalcade of Youth alum who recently appeared in Cirque du Soleil Paramour, and Bennett Santora is a talented young juggler currently in the 7th grade. We are proud to support all three in the creation of new full-length variety arts productions in NYC!

This year’s selection process was incredibly challenging — we continue to be awed by the vast array of talent in our community. Thanks so much to all who submitted for this year’s award, and we look forward to seeing your work in the coming year!

In the meantime: please come out and support our own new production, Bindlestiff’s A Cardboard & Duct Tape Spectacular (May 4-14)! We want to see your smiling faces in the audience. GET TIX:>>

Open House and Free Community Day with the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus!

Ariele Ebacher

Open House and Free Community Day with the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus!

Sunday, May 21, 2017
12 noon – 5 pm

Reservations for the free performance are highly recommended. Visit or call (518) 822-1438 to  reserve your place.

Keith Nelson

Hudson Hall at the historic Hudson Opera House

327 Warren Street
Hudson, NY 12534
(518) 822-1438

Jan Damm

The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus is thrilled to bring its one-ring extravaganza to Hudson Opera House’s Hudson Hall. The Cirkus wagon rolls in for a free Community Day on Sunday, May 21. From 1:30 to 3:00 pm, youth, families, and friends of all ages are invited to drop in on an open exploration of juggling, stilt walking, wire walking, and other circus skills, led by teen and adult members of Bindlestiff’s Hudson Juggling Club and Cirkus After School programs. 

At 3:30, the world-class artists of the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus take to the spotlight for a 60

Susan Voyticky and Matthew Greenfield

minute show, performing breathtaking acts including Ariele Ebacher, wire walker;  Susan Voyticky and Matthew Greenfield on duo lyra;  plus thrilling spectacles like Jan Damm’s balance stunts on the Rolla Bolla and Keith Nelson’s gut-wrenching sword swallowing act. Live music

The Ringmistress

by Sabrina Chap and drummer Ethan Shorter drive the show’s dynamic pace. Audience participation, physical comedy, and “something for everyone” are all part of the mix. This is not your Grandpa’s circus!


National Volunteer Week!


It’s National Volunteer Week! 


Bindlestiff wants to make a thunderous thank-you to Bethany Gladhill of Gladhill Rhone Consulting. She is a volunteer with, which connects social good organizations with pro bono professionals who want to donate their skills. We appreciate her time, her energy, and the clear perspective she offers on Bindlestiff’s organizational growth potential. THANK YOU, Bethany!

Tickets on sale for A Cardboard & Duct Tape Spectacular!

Bindlestiff Family Cirkus presents

A Cardboard & Duct Tape Spectacular

May 4-14, 2017 (Tickets on sale now!)


Bindlestiff’s latest production, A Cardboard & Duct Tape Spectacular, returns to NYC’s Connelly Theater after a successful premiere run in 2016. A little imagination can go a long way, and the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus continues to reimagine classic American circus tradition with a unique contemporary twist.

Join Bindlestiff’s cast of acrobats, aerialists, jugglers, sideshow marvels, and vaudevillians as they pare the Cirkus down to its most basic elements: discovery, risk, and joy. Always ready to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary, these talented performers bring the audience back to their own childhood experiences of fun. Follow the Bindlestiffs and discover that some cardboard, duct tape, and creativity is all that’s needed to find delight.

“Imaginative…delightfully clever…the show exudes a warmth and affection…all but irresistible.” Spectacle Magazine

Some highlights from the 2016 production:


Concept: Adam Kuchler

Script / Story: Peter Bufano

Jump Rope Choreography: Ekaterina Sknarina

Physical Comedy consultant: Daniel Passer

Set Design:  Bailey McClure

Lighting Design: Mark Simmons

Sound Design: Kris Anton

Rigging Design: Janet Clancy and Michael Richter

Stage Manager: Michael Richter

Roustabouts: Logan Kerr, Jean-Tae Francis, Maks Turner

Musical Director and Composer: Peter Bufano

The Band: Peter Bufano, Nate Tucker, Jeff Morris

Ensemble pieces and acts created by The Cast:

Stephanie Monseu

Keith Nelson

Adam Kuchler

Ekaterina Sknarina

Ivory Fox