"Although there may be nothing new under the sun, what is old is new to us and so rich and astonishing that we never tire of it. If we do tire of it, if we lose our curiosity, we have lost something of infinite value, because to a high degree it is curiosity that gives meaning and savor to life." -- Robertson Davies
Sometimes people are contemptuous of anything they consider old. They are interested only in what they consider innovative and new. One of the innovations people credit to the New Circus movement is combining circus acts and theatrical story lines. However it really is not an innovation. In 1927, Poodles Hanneford appeared in the American debut of an operetta titled "The Circus Princess". The original production had premiered in Vienna the previous year. The first act and finale of the operetta take place during a circus performance and the audience sees some circus acts perform. Reading about Hanneford's performance made me curious about the operetta. So I recently watched a DVD of a 1969 German television production of "The Circus Princess". It was interesting, especially a third-act comedy scene set in a hotel. "The Circus Princess" was not the first theatrical circus production in New York. New York's Hippodrome Theater frequently integrated circus and plot in their productions between 1905 and 1923. For example, in "A Trip to Japan" spies used a circus as cover for their travels. So this "new" type of production is actually over 100 years old. Those who are hailing its introduction just don't realize its history. Although it is old, it is fresh and exciting for those who have never seen a theatrical circus production.
Last weekend I watched a PBS American Masters biography of Johnny Carson. One of the interesting points they made was that Johnny could have earned a living as a professional drummer. He was capable of doing some things with his hands that other drummers found amazing. He credited that to the dexterity that he had developed while practicing card magic as a youngster. Last weekend I also watched Johnny Carson appearing as a guest on the Jack Benny Program in 1963. In this episode Johnny performs some card flourishes and then plays a drum solo. As a drummer he did something that fascinated me. He rested one stick against the head of a drum and then brushed it with the other stick. It provided a very interesting sound that I don't remember hearing before. I enjoyed seeing him perform both skills after learning about the link between the two. I don't know that I will ever put this new knowledge to practical use, but it has made my life fuller.
I saw a performance of Tama Sudare at Clown Camp ® several years ago. It is a bamboo mat that can be twisted into many different shapes. It is similar in some ways to the European act called Trouble Wit. It was something that I had never seen before and I was curious about it. So, I began asking questions. I learned it is an ancient Japanese performing art that has recently been revived. I obtained the necessary props and started practicing it. I used it in a few performances and then stopped using it for a while. Now I am starting to practice it again. It gives greater variety to my repertoire. Because it is old enough that people consider it to be new it makes my act unique. On the internet I have seen some photos of Tama Sudare creations. I know just enough about the art to be amazed by what people have been able to achieve. Above all it is fun to do. I would probably still practice it just for my own enjoyment even if I never perform it again. It is interesting trying to see what things I can do.
Sometimes I do things just to satisfy my curiosity. The Cub Scout Pack that I am involved with has an annual Pinewood Derby where wooden model cars are raced down an inclined track. I decided to enter a car in the sibling and adult category this year. I could have just made a car, but I wanted to see what else I could accomplish. So, I built a circus wagon. In the process I had to experiment with different techniques. It was a lot of fun.
What are you curious about? How can you satisfy your curiosity just for fun? How can you use old entertainment ideas in your new performances?