INTERVIEW: Viveca Gardiner

Marzi got the chance to interview Viveca Gardiner, who works at Big Apple Circus, founded the NYC AYCO festival, has directed the youth program at Bindlestiff Family Cirkus for the last 14 years, and runs her own company, Playful Productions.


What are you working on right now?
I have a lot of different roles right now, for example with the Big Apple Circus I work on a program called Circus To Go that provides circus performers and performances for events outside of our ring, for example, special events, school assemblies, theater shows, or workshops. We book events for outside clients, people who pay us to come and put on a show in their town, and we also serve internal constituencies, so if the marketing department wants to book a performer for a special event, or if the development department wants to send performers to a fundraising event, then I coordinate all of that.


Are those performers from a separate cast than are in the touring Big Apple shows?
Mostly. We do use performers from the touring unit now and then, but the unit is in Boston and they have two shows a day and aren’t available often. So we usually use performers from our community programs, especially from our Clown Care program. We have 80 clowns in our Big Apple Clown Care program whowork in children’s hospitals around the country. I also coordinate our adaptive shows. This year we did four shows for children who are deaf or hard of hearing and/or blind or vision impaired and four shows for children on the autism spectrum. I also am a teacher in an after school circus program for children with incarcerated parents.


When did you get involved with circus?
I graduated from business school in 1993 and moved to New York, and I got a job in strategic planning and development for Big Apple Circus. I really came into circus backwards from everyone else I know; everyone else started as a kid with circus as a hobby or came from a circus family and learned the skills and started performing and moved from performing to management. I started in management and went the other way.


Since you came into the circus community later than most, like you said, what aspects of the community and circus arts appealed to you as an adult?
There are many things I like about the community. For example, I started juggling at 29, and it was very hard for me to learn since I had never done anything that was just up to me to do that way. Obviously some people are more talented than others, but nobody can do juggling or circus without putting work into it and nobody can be prevented from doing it if they do that. There’s no amount of money you can pay to be able to juggle five balls. It’s up to you how much work you want to put in and how much payoff you get out of it. When I work with children of incarcerated parents, in impoverished communities, or in special education, I like being able to give the kids control of their own outcomes, because they may not have control of many other aspects of their lives. I like that in circus, they can determine what they want to do with their own effort. That’s what I love about teaching and circus skills.


What’s different about working with youth versus working with adults?
I don’t know if much is different. Kids don’t know what’s hard, I suppose, and I think adults will say “I can’t do that, I can’t do that,” and they won’t bother to try, but kids will say, “I can’t do that,” and then they actually will.

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