Fourteen years ago Stephanie Monseu and Keith Nelson put together a fire-eating act for late-night cabarets in New York City; now that act has grown into the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, a hybrid mix of vaudeville, burlesque, clowning and high-wire acrobatics that is coming to Raleigh's Lincoln Theatre this Sunday, June 24.
More than 200 performers have joined the Cirkus over the last decade on its many tours through the lower 48 states and Canada. In addition to Nelson's sword-swallowing and Monseu's precision-target bullwhip, the current roster features the clowning of Joel Baker, A.J. Silver's trick-rope spinning, Ariele Ebaucher on the high wire and the music of Frederik Iversen, "the world's only reverse organist."
Sponsored this summer by Vermont's Magic Hat Brewing Co., the Cirkus will visit 30 cities up and down the East Coast by the end of July. Because Bindlestiff plays nearly any sort of venue—in the last week alone they've visited an 80-year-old Victorian opera house in Detroit, an avant-garde black-box theater in Dayton and a rock club in Cleveland—creativity and improvisation have become the Cirkus's stock in trade. They usually have only four to six hours before show time to plan and set up their act at any given site, so they have to think fast and be flexible.
"We can adapt our show to fit any stage," Nelson says. "We feel the audience deserves to see the wire-walk and trapeze."
"We've played a few bad venues—but we've never played a bad show."
Tickets to the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus are $15 in advance and $20 on the day of the show; doors open at 7:30 p.m. The Lincoln Theatre is located at 126 E. Cabarrus St. in Raleigh, and can be reached by phone at 821-4111 or online at www.lincolntheatre.com.