Summer is approaching and with it high season for the circus festivals. Circus programmers spend the entire year putting together the menu for their festival. They’re the ones who decide which performances you’ll be served up. A dream-job or a minefield peppered with artists’ egos and disappointed festival-goers? We put it to two prominent members of the species: Martine Linaer-Gijsen, programmer for Flanders’ oldest and biggest circus and outdoor theatre festival Theater op de Markt, and Wendy Moonen, programmer of the biggest circus festival in the Netherlands, Festival Circolo.
There is no university course for circus programmer. What led you to the job?
Wendy Moonen: “During my studies in Cultural and Social education I did an apprenticeship at the theater festival Boulevard in Den Bosch (NL). I knew immediately that that was what I wanted to do for a living: working for festivals. Each year Boulevard would invite one big French circus, like Cirque Plume or Les Art Sauts. And I think that was the beginning of my love affair with the circus. Of course the step from apprentice to programmer didn’t happen overnight. I was employed by Boulevard, working part of my time on the program and part of my time on production. Wim Claesen was the director at that point, he was approaching retirement age and still had two dreams he wanted to realise: organising a circus festival and starting up a circus school. That became Circolo and ACaPA (Academy for Circus and Performance Arts, Ed.) in Tilburg. I was one of the team he put together to shape the festival. The first edition was in 2007. When Wim decided in 2012 that it was time for him to step down, I proposed myself as his successor. The rest of the story you know. In the meantime I also work on the program for Oerol and the street theatre part of Boulevard.”
Martine Linaer-Gijsen: “I recognise elements of my own history in Wendy’s account. I also got involved in the whole thing step by step. It is hard to say when I actually officially became the programmer of Theater op de Markt. I had been working for quite some time at Dommelhof (Limburg provincial domain for podium arts, culture and G-sport in Neerpelt, Ed.) and at some point we decided to shift the focus more towards the organisation of events like Theater op de Markt. I was responsible for communication – Marc Celis and Linda Janssen were in charge of the program. Linda is now director of the cultural centre Palethe in Overpelt. Marc asked me at some point to help out with the programme for Theaterstreken, another of the projects at Dommelhof. When Linda left for Palethe it was decided that someone else should take over communication so that I could focus on programming at Dommelhof. That was somewhere around 2006 or 2007, I believe. Marc and I worked together for several years, as he headed towards retirement. I do remember that at some point I realised: this year I actually put together the entire program.”
Martine:“I can also be completely seduced by dance and film, but circus has a particular quality, a purity and immediacy I don’t find in any other discipline. Many circus artists come back on stage after the show to meet the audience, that happens less often in dance or theatre. That accessibility, that openness, touches me and it is one of my motivations for working with those artists. I always say, if I am touched as a programmer, then my audience will also be touched.”…
Read the Full Article at Circus Magazine