The Flea Circus Goes To The Academy
Low culture meets highbrow academics as the flea circus comes to Brown University on Saturday, April 2.
This is no April Fool’s joke: next weekend, Brown University will be hosting a most unusual professor, and his even more unusual performers: Professor A.G. Gertsacov and his authentic Victorian flea circus will be gracing the stage as part of the eleventh annual Performance Studies International Conference.
The show, the Acme Miniature Flea Circus, is an authentic Victorian flea circus that features trained fleas Midge and Madge (stars of the show) who perform spectacular circus stunts as seen before (and on top of) the crowned heads of Europe.
Details Magazine called the show "One of the top alternative circuses in the country." The New York Times said "The appeal is irresistible... Gertsacov is every bit the fantastical impresario, in his purple top hat and cash-register voice, introducing us to the wondrous insects itching (sorry) to perform" And the Los Angeles Times says that "Professor Gertsacov holds the audience (and the stars of the show) in the palm of his hand."
According to Gertsacov, ringmaster and proprietor of the Acme Miniature Circus, flea circuses were popular entertainments during Victorian times, but had nearly disappeared since the advent of television. The last popular American flea circus was Professor Heckler's of Time Square, which left New York in 1957. The rumor is that Heckler thought that the nude shows were giving his fleas a bad name.
There are now only a handful of flea circuses still performing throughout the world. Gertsacov's is arguably the most famous. The Rhode Island native and his amazing insect stars have performed throughout the country, and in Canada, Chile, and Brazil. He recently spent three months performing in Times Square, less than two blocks from where Professor Heckler once had his fleas. Gertsacov has also been filmed for documentaries on the History Channel, the Travel Channel, and numerous news programs. He's even been a question on Jeopardy.
Gertsacov's educated insect stars pull chariots, dance on a tightwire, and perform other circus-like stunts. While he does not reveal his method of training (a proprietary secret, he explains) , he assures the curious and the civic minded that he uses only methods of positive reinforcement to teach the insects their routines. "I treat them as if they are my own flesh and blood," Gertsacov says. "And in some ways, they are."
Says Gertsacov of his participation in the Performance Studies Conference, “I feel very fortunate and honored to be included in this conference. It’s an amazing and rare moment when the top scholars and the top performers are both assembled together at the same time. I’m really looking forward to learning a lot.” Other performers at the conference will include Fred Curchack, Double Edge Theatre, Split Britches, Pig Iron Theatre, and many other very well known national and international performers.
In addition to his performance at the conference, Gertsacov, who is also the director of Bright Night Providence, Rhode Island’s largest New Year’s Eve Celebration, will chair a panel titled “Popular Entertainment and the Carnavelesque.” This panel will take place on Saturday morning on the Brown University campus.
The flea circus will be performed at the Trinity Rep Theatre, 201 Washington Street, on Saturday, April 2, 2005 at 9:30 pm. Admission is free (donations accepted)
For more information about the conference, visit the PSI website: http://www.brown.edu/Facilities/Theatre/psi/or call them at 401-863-1510
For more information about the flea circus, visit www.trainedfleas.com or call 401-351-2596.
(High resolution photographs are available on the website athttp://www.trainedfleas.com/pressimages/ )
WHAT: Acme Miniature Flea Circus
WHEN:Saturday April 2, 2005 9:30 pm
COST: Admission is free (donations accepted0
WHERE: Trinity Rep Theatre, 201 Washington Street, Providence
MORE INFO:http://www.brown.edu/Facilities/Theatre/psi/ or call 401-863-1510