Image courtesy of ETHEL
As part of the string quartet’s 20th anniversary season, ETHEL returns to BAM with “Circus: Wandering City,” a multimedia musical journey into the history of the iconic Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus that explores and honors the complex relationship between circus troupes, their performers, and the audiences they inspired. Combining original music composed by the quartet with projected images, films, and interviews mined from the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, ETHEL puts on a multimedia stage work that is both big-hearted and clear-eyed about the scintillating and debilitating sides of the circus industry and its denizens. “Wandering City” made its world premiere in January 2018—the 250th anniversary of the modern circus. “Circus: Wandering City” conveys the spirit of circus artists who have brought excitement and mystery to one of America’s most iconographic popular culture experiences. Circus is one of the oldest and most popular entertainments in human history (with different names and forms across civilizations). Roaming from town to town, its performers lived peripatetic lives, exposed to natural and human exploitations. But beneath this travail, circuses also provided food, lodging, and gainful employment for their members, many of them marginalized by societies without social safety nets.