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The ‘bubbe’ of the circus bids farewell

After 25 years, Barry Lubin, aka ‘Grandma,’ says goodbye to the Big Apple Circus in latest tour

Barry Lubin, aka 'Grandma' (photo credit: Jointmedia News Service)
Barry Lubin, aka 'Grandma' (photo credit: Jointmedia News Service)

(JointMedia News Service) — Over the course of more than 30 years, the Big Apple Circus has been delighting young and old with its old-fashioned but always exciting mix of up-close magic and far-out fun.

For 25 of those years, fans have come back season after season to see one (Jewish) performer in particular—master clown Barry Lubin, aka “Grandma.”

Grandma and his crew are staging their farewell tour, “Dream Big,” in Boston through May 13 and the Queens, New York, from May 22-June 17. As Lubin prepares to put on the wig and handbag one last time, he looks back on decades of delicious fun.

“My Big Apple Circus career has been 25 great and memorable seasons as Grandma,” Lubin tells JointMedia News Service. “It has been a lovely ride!”

According to Lubin, the “ride” began while he was working for another famous circus.
“While on Ringling Brothers Circus, I worked in the seats for a half an hour or more each show,” he recalls. “I did 600 shows per year, improvising and learning what works about Grandma and what does not. I am still learning.”

Apparently a quick study, Lubin brought Grandma to the Big Apple Circus, quickly becaming a beloved icon of the show.

‘It is my honor to be called the icon of the Big Apple Circus’

“The icon thing was something that seemed to happen naturally,” Lubin observes, noting that, in a 2000 contract, it was agreed that Grandma would in fact become the public — and painted — face of Big Apple Circus. “It is my honor to be called the icon of the Big Apple Circus.”

Lubin says it is always an enjoyable challenge to come up with new ways to use the Grandma character. “The guest director of the show, in partnership with the artistic director, Guillaume Dufresnoy, collaborate on the theme each year,” Lubin explains. “Then it is up to the designers to bring their artistic sensibilities to carry out the theme.”

When asked to pick out a high point of his career, Lubin says instead that, “Every day is my pleasure…I get to make people happy on a daily basis and get paid to do so, and it is incredible fun to interact with the audience.”

As he prepares to say a silent “farewell” to his fans, Lubin looks forward to a possible television show and other potential productions. “I am also writing my memoirs,” he says.

In the meantime, his fans will just have to “Dream Big.”

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