in 2022, New York City’s premier variety arts ensemble, the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, brought Flatbed Follies to neighborhoods across all five boroughs of the city. Presented on innovative flatbed trailers adapted into mobile venues, Flatbed Follies enabled audiences to experience an incredible and eclectic variety of talents including clowns, jugglers, aerialists, wire walkers, musicians, magicians, puppeteers, dancers, as well as a calliope wagon playing authentic circus music. Working with the NYC Department of Transportation, Bindlestiff’s Flatbed Follies brought the grand spectacle to the Open Streets and Plazas of the city.
With the technical assistance of Shattered Prism, Bindlestiff’s Flatbed Follies started the season- powered by solar energy- on April 23, Car Free Earth Day, on the Mosholu Parkway. The wagons rolled through the summer and into the fall, with the final shows in Queens and the Bronx on October 30. Over the six-month season, Bindlestiff Family Cirkus presented 96 shows to more than 30,000 people in more than 50 locations across the five boroughs. The project provided work and support for more than 200 performers, teaching artists, musicians, and entertainment technicians. All performances were free to the public.
The headlining production on the Flatbed Follies stage was the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus. A dynamic line-up of world-class circus talent, including local performers, was a primary feature of the Follies.
There is much more to the Flatbeds than just the Cirkus. Bindlestiff Family Cirkus’ Flatbed Follies hosted world-renowned acts, including the Marching Cobras and the first United States stop for the Ethiopian band Qwanqwa. Arts education offered included juggling, hula hoop, and yoyo workshops. Cultural celebrations, dancers, poets, hip-hop, and a fashion show also shared the Flatbed stage.
Flatbed Follies is a bold community stage. Community leaders and local representatives have used the Bindlestiff mic. Uptown Showdown featured the circus and variety artists of Harlem and the Bronx. This year, an Indigenous Peoples’ Culture Festival was added to the program and was proudly created and presented by an all-Indigenous cast.
Bindlestiff Family Cirkus co-founder Keith Nelson states, “Arts access is so important, and our mission is to bring quality live entertainment right to the streets of each borough. There’s no admission and no reason why everyone can’t experience the fun of live entertainment.”
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