All but animals in the circus today

Sammy Yamrose, Contributing Writer

At 7:30 p.m. Sept. 20, the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus is to perform two sets of their unique blend of traditional circus, sideshow oddity and vaudevillian novelty at the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center.

Bindlestiff offers its audience the experience of participating in acts, as exposure to the variety arts is one of their main goals as an organization.

Through performances, workshops and outreach, Bindlestiff artists hope to preserve, contemporize and enrich the variety arts’ cultural heritage.

In 1994, in the Lower East Side of Manhattan Borough, New York, Keith Nelson and Stephanie Monseu founded the fire-eating duo then known as FirePlay, which soon grew to incorporate more artists.

Their first national tour took place in 1995, and over the years, the circus has amassed more than 400 performing artists including fire eaters, aerialists and contortionists.

Bindlestiff’s knack for mixing and incorporating performance styles is part of what makes it unique.

The circus is versatile in where they can perform and what they can do within a given performance space.

“We perform in everything from beautiful theaters to the dirtiest punk-rock dives you could ever imagine,” Nelson said.

Monseu said they’ve done it all—everything from typical outdoor festivals, to unusual ceremonies like dog christenings.

Once, in Los Angeles, they performed in an attic bedroom.

According to Nelson, Bindlestiff is appropriate for many ages.

“To us, the crucial part [of performing] is…inspiring an audience of any age,” Nelson said.

Monseu said she agreed.

“This show is family friendly but not dumbed down. Adults will get subtle humor and double entendre, while kids will enjoy bold visuals and the direct, authentic warmth of the artists,” Monseu said.

The circus is to display a wide range of talents Wednesday night, including aerial acts performed by Susan Voyticky; mesmerizing feats of balance including plate spinning and sword swallowing performed by Keith Nelson; and swift, precision whip-cracking done by The Ringmistress, Stephanie Monseu, who will also act as a guide through the show.

Monseu said there is one thing she wants the Johnstown community to know.

“We [the circus members] have a great time together—and we all love what we do. There’s a warmth and magic that radiates from the stage and fills the theater in a way that’s hard to describe.

“It feels real, it’s transformative, and it’s memorable. Circus is an art of the people.”

Tickets are available through the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center website, at, under the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus link.

Regular tickets cost $22, and an additional $4 will buy a seat closer to the center of the theater where the view is better.

Pitt-Johnstown Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center Executive Director Michael Bodolosky said Pitt-Johnstown students can purchase tickets for $10 with their university ID.

“Bindlestiff is different. They present diverse acts; vocal, dance, bands, a little bit of everything, which is what the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center is all about,” Bodolosky said.