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Clowns: Lead-A-Band

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Glen Heroy performs Lead A BandClowns: Lead-A-Band

Follow the clown and take control of the band. It's easy if you believe in yourself.

It's never easy being a new performer in the circus, but multiply that butterflies-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach feeling times 10 when your gig under the big top is to reprise an iconic clown role that the founder and creative director of the circus began nearly 30 years before. Yep, that's pressure.

While Glen Heroy is a seasoned performer and clown, he's never hammed it up in a circus ring before. He readily admits to fits of terror and glee as he practices the Lead-A-Band clown act and follows his own instincts to make the act his own.

This Lead-A-Band Act, which features a clown who discovers he has the power to stop and start the circus band at will, was born during a serendipitous moment of crisis. In 1981, during a Big Apple Circus show staged in New York, the production was having technical problems, and Big Apple Circus Founder Paul Binder, then performing as a clown, was sent into the ring to stall for time and entertain the audience. When Binder stepped into the ring, the circus band stopped playing. It was an electric moment.

"We (he and the band) decided right then that I had the power to stop the band with my body movements," he says. From there, Binder and the band concocted a popular clown act that grew into a staple of the Big Apple Circus. Several years later, in the mid-1980s, Binder performed his Lead-A-Band clown act with Boston Pops. "Here I was conducting an 80-piece orchestra," he says. "It was an enormously satisfying experience."

Through the years, the Lead-A-Band act has morphed to include children, hand-picked from the audience, to help the clown direct the musicians. "It's a delicate and complex piece," says Binder. "The contact with the audience makes the act unique," he says. Today, Binder has stepped away from the role, allowing other actors to step into his big clown shoes. The act requires the Lead-A-Band clown be able to work well with kids, something at which Heroy excels.

"Glenn has a magnetic quality when it comes to kids. They fly to him, they love him," says Guest Director Steve Smith.