90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
The Circus: Past And Future

Acrobat Duncan Wall ran away to join the circus, and found the circus has changed.  He’s with us.

A circus tent and worker  in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012. (AP)

A circus tent and worker in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012. (AP)

The circus, of course, goes back to Roman times and beyond.  In its recent heyday, it was the super-spectacle, the monster show, of the 19th century. The circus train, Barnum and Bailey, all that, would unload a roaring menagerie and waves of performers that would transform a town and set imaginations ablaze.

These days, that heyday is long ago.  And the circus is changing again.  Back to some old, old roots made very new.  Think Cirque du Soleil.  Think high circus art.

This hour, On Point:  an insider’s view of the the changing world, the evolution, of the circus.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guest

Duncan Wall, author of “The Ordinary Acrobat: A Journey into the Wondrous World of the Circus, Past and Present.”

From Tom’s Reading List

The New Republic “This question—is the circus art?—is at the center of Duncan Wall’s book The Ordinary Acrobat, a history of the circus up to the present day told through a memoir of his year at a circus school in Paris. Each chapter introduces an aspect of the circus as Wall encounters it, so we learn about the origins of the flying trapeze, for instance, when he finally screws up the courage to enroll in his college’s trapeze class. On the way, Wall interviews performers and other writers about their approach to the circus.”

The Observer “When economists bemoan the foreign drain on homegrown talent and skills, they probably don’t have trapeze artists, acrobats or high-wire walkers in mind. Yet Britain has lost a generation of highly-trained performers to circus troupes based abroad.”

Excerpt: “The Ordinary Acrobat”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Oct 21, 2014
David Perdue, Michelle Nunn

Two weeks to go till Midterm Election Day. We’ll look at how the biggest issues are playing out around the country.

Oct 21, 2014
This undated image provided by Google, shows an early version of Google's prototype self-driving car. For the first time, California's Department of Motor Vehicles knows how many self-driving cars are traveling on the state's public roads. The agency is issuing permits, Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014 that let three companies test 29 vehicles on highways and in neighborhoods. (AP)

The future of the car: from the fuels they’ll run on, to the materials they’ll be made of, to the computers that may drive them.

RECENT
SHOWS
Oct 20, 2014
In this Oct. 2, 2014 photo, patrons line up for “Nightmare: New York,” a haunted house attraction in New York. (AP)

Afraid of snakes? Heights? Ebola? We’ll unpack the science of fear.

 
Oct 20, 2014
A statue of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on New York City's Roosevelt Island. (Flickr / Alexisrael)

Greatness and the American Presidency. Aaron David Miller says aim for good. Really good.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Introducing The Explicast: A New Podcast From On Point Radio
Friday, Oct 17, 2014

Confused about the news? Don’t worry: so are we sometimes! Introducing a new On Point Radio podcast: The Explicast. You can find Episode One right here.

More »
1 Comment
 
Two LIVE Tracks From Jazz Violinist Regina Carter
Friday, Oct 17, 2014

Regina Carter shares two live tracks — one arrangement, and one original composition — with Tom Ashbrook in the On Point studio.

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: October 17, 2014
Friday, Oct 17, 2014

We talk Facebook mishaps, whether Katy Perry was actually right and the glory of architectural giants and their iconic windows.

More »
Comment