In New York City, the folks at the Big Apple Circus have pitched their tent and begun performing, becoming a part of the city’s festivities and traditions. We caught up with “ringmaster” and Buffalo, New York native, John Kennedy Kane, who’s back for his third season in this year’s show, METAMORPHOSIS. The show’s theme is about “magic and the unexpected,” and JKK (as he’s known behind the scenes) even gets to perform some magic tricks himself.
Kane has been in the business for thirty years and easily recounts how often he’s found himself traveling at night, never knowing where he might end up stopping along the way–a truck stop or St. Louis’ Gateway Arch? “You always have to be ready to take in the sights,” Kane explains. “You have to make yourself get into town…otherwise you could easily spend all your time under the tent. ”
With clowns from Paris, “quick-change” artists from Ukraine and Russia, aerialists from Mexico, and many more international artists,this non-profit circus troop has clocked plenty of travel time. They play five towns typically along the east coast over the course of thirty weeks.
So what are some of Kane’s tips while traveling?
“My ‘magic case’ is compartmentalized. I’m a big believer in rolling all my clothes. I learned this when I was a clown, back in the 80’s.Rolling things allows you to get more into a small bag, and things tend to stay in better shape.”
What can’t he do without on the road?
“Honestly? My eyeglasses! I’m looking to get a pair of those magnetized ones…”
“We’re actually lucky compared to some circuses because we play a limited number of towns,” Kane says. He recalls their major challenges getting stuck in Atlanta during an ice storm last season. “People there were having major trouble driving,” and he went on to admit that he showed off his driving skills in the bad weather. After all, he hails from Buffalo!
What are some of his favorite sites he’s seen while on the road?
“The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. In Washington, the Smithsonian Institute, and in Boston I enjoyed our set up by City Hall. In New York, I love that we can perform and still do an 8pm Broadway show!”
He also admits a special feeling for the city of Chicago. It’s likely linked to the fact that his nephew, Patrick Kane, plays for the Chicago
Blackhawks. When visiting there, JKK transforms from Ringmaster to “Patrick Kane’s Uncle.” He says he loves the feeling of going from Center Ring to Center Ice, and that Chicago has a great theater scene. “It’s a great town—I’ve never had a bad cab ride or a bad waitress,” Kane remarks.
What does he make sure not to forget while traveling during wintertime?
“Always bring extra money when it gets cold. Just in case you forget your hat—you’ll have the cash to get a new one then and there!”
This non-profit circus, in addition to bringing joy to attendees under the big tent, also reaches out via community programs to more than 300-thousand children, seniors and their families, many who may be in hospitals, senior centers, nursing homes, schools or community centers. The circus adapts the show for those with special needs, which range from hearing and vision impairment to those on the autism spectrum scale. Tax-deductible contributions can be made by going to www.bigapplecircus.org/join-and-give.