Freaks and Fire

The Underground Reinvention of Circus

By J. Dee Hill; Phil Hollenbeck (Photographer)
(Soft Skull Press, Paperback, 9781932360523, 200pp.)

Publication Date: February 2005

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Beyond the historical confines of Ringling Bros. and the über-kitsch of Cirque du Soleil, tightly knit alternative circus troupes like Yard Dogs Road Show, Flam Chen, Circus Contraption, and other over-the-top groups bring thrill-starved audiences sometimes disturbing, sometimes exhilarating riffs on the classic circus. From the sick shockfests of the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow to the anarchic burlesque of the Bindlestiff Family Circus to the obscure but elegant puppetry of the Cloudseeding Circus of the Performative Object, Freaks and Fire celebrates the world of the underground circus. The voices of the performers themselves describe the grit and glamour of their art — from chaos-inducing performances to paying the rent. J. Dee Hill's provocative text and Phil Hollenbeck's lurid images explore the role of these self-styled freaks in society, along the way giving a snapshot of society itself, of the large audience these neo-vaudevillians seek to dazzle and challenge.

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