Hovey Burgess, one of the cornerstone figures of the American New Circus Movement, was born in Middlebury, Vermont, in 1940. In 2016, Burgess completed his 50th year of teaching circus techniques for actors at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. The summer of 2016 he hits the “sawdust trail” for his 26th season with St. Louis-based Circus Flora.
Burgess is author of Circus Techniques (1976), with photographs by Judy Finelli. Circus Techniques is notable for defining what circus is, and presenting an historical and technical overview of circus arts from antiquity to today, emphasizing the importance of Russian and Chinese techniques.
He has written for TDR (Tulane Drama Review) and Spectacle. He served as circus choreographer for Robert Altman’s “Popeye,” starring the late Robin Williams. From Juilliard’s Drama Division to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, Hovey’s teaching career has spanned the United States, from Maine to California and from Washington State to Florida, as well as Canada and Israel.
His honors include City Lore’s People’s Hall of Fame; International Jugglers Association’s Excellence in Education Award; Red Skelton Award for Teaching and Mentoring Clowns; Golden Nose Award for Lifetime Achievement; and Burlesque Idol’s Best Dressed Award. In 2016 Burgess received the Circus Now Lifetime Achievement Award.
HOVEY BURGESS, Board Chairman
Leonard Pitt was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1941. After a brief career in advertising design he sailed to Europe, and landed in Paris in January 1963, staying for seven years. He studied mime in Paris with Etienne Decroux for four years, becoming his assistant and performing in his company.
Pitt returned to the US in 1970, settling in Berkeley, California, where he opened a school of physical theatre, attracting students from around the world. Pitt's one-man shows have received critical acclaim from around the globe. Besides performing, Pitt has taught at theatres and festivals throughout the United States, Europe, Brazil, New Zealand, and Australia. He was also a member of George Coates Performance Works and traveled widely with the company.
In 1973 he traveled to Bali where he studied Balinese mask theatre. While there he was invited by his teacher to perform with him in local village and temple festivals. He returned to Bali in 1978 to study mask carving.
In 1986 he co-founded Life On The Water, a contemporary theatre in San Francisco presenting new work.
In 1991, Pitt created Eco-Rap, an environmental education program combining ecology and rap music as a way to educate inner city youth about urgent social issues, and operated the program for five years.
Pitt has written three books on Paris, a biography of Valentine Greatrakes, A Small Moment of Great Illumination, and most recently, My Brain on Fire: Paris and Other Obsessions (Soft Skull Press, 2016)
Michael Davis was born in San Francisco in 1953. His creative efforts began early. In high school, he was a published poet, and won the school acting award. In the early ‘70's, he was handpicked to attend Clown College, and upon graduation, he landed a job as a clown with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
After several years of circus life on the road, he returned to San Francisco and began to creating his act. He established a fast-growing word-of-mouth reputation. Davis street performed for three years, receiving various performance offers. He next branched out to perform at conventions, fundraisers, corporate events, benefits, schools, and local nightclubs.
Spotted by a talent agent in 1979, he was hired to perform on HBO's “The Young Comedian's Show,” his first major television appearance. Next came “Broadway Follies.” “Sugar Babies” followed, and soon his notices brought him to the attention of “Saturday Night Live” producers, resulting in six guest appearances.
Davis has been featured on “The Dick Cavett Show,” “The Tonight Show,” “Merv Griffin,” “20/20,” and “Night of 100 Stars,” among others. “A Command Performance at the Ford Theatre” found him in the company of Liza Minnelli, Ben Vereen, and Natalia Makarova. He has been honored by his peers with a Drama Desk Nomination and a Theatre World Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical for his performance in “Sugar Babies.”
Citing Jack Benny, Fred Allen, and Charlie Chaplin as his greatest comedic influences, Davis best appreciates humor that he can perform for any audience, a type of "new vaudeville."