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‘Bindlestiff Family Cirkus’ at Brooklyn Lyceum

Cheap laughs: circus offers discount to customers in clown makeup

Brooklyn Daily
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The performers aren’t the only ones expected to clown around at this circus.

Brooklyn’s own Bindlestiff Family Cirkus is coming home on March 13, with a six-show run at Park Slope’s Brooklyn Lyceum. And if you turn up to one of the adult shows dressed like a clown, you get $10 off your ticket price. You will also probably enjoy the spectacle more, according to the organizers.

“When people dress up for events it creates an environment and you get pulled in to it,” said Keith Nelson, a founding member of the circus group. “You become part of the show.”

Nelson’s burlesque and vaudeville variety show first took the stage in 1995 at the Charleston on Bedford Avenue. At the time, it was more like a sideshow than a circus, but the act has since expanded to cover acrobatics, sword swallowing, and general clowning about. Bindlestiff has also split its show into two separate performances — ones for all ages and ones for adults only — but Nelson said the difference is in the style of humor, not the level of skill or thrill behind the stunts.

“The big difference is that we won’t tell the adults not to try this at home,” said Nelson with a laugh. “And we tone it down a fair amount.”

He also said the performers would be less scantily-clad for the family shows.

Bindlestiff is truly a Brooklyn original — the five core cast members are all from the borough, and Nelson has lived on the south side of Williamsburg for 25 years. He said the troupe typically performs in smaller spaces — such as the Lyceum, where the company hopes to draw around 250 people per show — because it makes them feel closer to the audience.

“We have an immediacy and intimacy you definitely don’t find in other shows,” Nelson said. “You’re not at the back of a giant arena.”

The “Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cabaret” will combine the arts of seduction, clowning, contorting, juggling, and cycling into an underground variety show. But it also features acts intended to exhilarate the audience — such as aerial acrobatics and a bullwhip trick that uses a volunteer from the crowd. Nelson, who swallows swords among manning other duties during the performance, said his act is the most dangerous.

“Sword swallowing, if done wrong, can be a pretty quick death,” he said. “But so many of the acts have aspects of danger.”

“Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cabaret” at Brooklyn Lyceum (227 Fourth Ave. between President and Union streets in Park Slope, March 13–16 at 8 pm. $20 advance, $25 at door, $10 discount with clown makeup at the door. All ages show March 15–16 at 3 pm, $12.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
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