Job Envy: Ivor David Balding
73, Artistic Director/Producer/Co-Founder, Circus Flora
Ivor David Balding is literally the man who ran away with the circus—and he hasn’t stopped enchanting since. He’s made a living creating and sharing the magic of the circus for years—and he’s about to add one more starting this month, with the opening of his 26th season at the one and only Circus Flora.
How he got into the biz
I knew at a very early age that I wanted to be a producer. My first real job was at The White Barn Theater in Connecticut, where I worked under the famous actress Miss Eva Le Gallienne. It was Le Gallienne who advised me to go to Paris to start working in circus. Later on, I apprenticed under Joe Papp at the New York Shakespeare Festival and founded the New Theatre in New York. To this day, my theater roots greatly influence my circus productions.
I left Harvard to join Cirque Medrano in Paris. My parents were horrified, but most of my friends were jealous. My father was appalled and disapproved heartily, but my mother used to secretly send money for fictitious French lessons.
Best work day ever
The very first Circus Flora premiere in 1986. It was at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC, and Circus Flora had been commissioned by Gian Carlo Menotti. My dream of having my own circus—one that told a story—was finally coming true.
Why his job rocks
It is the best of all possible jobs! Who else gets to present the magic of circus to standing-room-only audiences and 1,400 smiling faces? Who else gets to take an elephant on long walks? Joe Papp always told me that a producer’s job was to create an environment in which great artists could do their best work. The circus is my opportunity to follow his advice.
I’m up at 5:30am, my wife lets our rescue dog in, who has spent the night keeping the coyotes away from our chickens, and the three of us cuddle for half an hour. I’m at the computer and emailing by 7:30am. Then, it’s meetings, promotions and (most importantly) lunch. Starting in April, I spend as much time as possible at Three Creek Farm, my wife’s family farm, where we rehearse the animal acts for the show.
It’s been a lifetime of proud moments and awards in the theater, circus and personally. The most recent is collaborating with the St. Louis Symphony in Powell Hall. But, a moment I’ll never forget is our elephant Flora’s swimming scene in “Big Top Pee-Wee.” At that moment, it was clear to everyone on the set that Flora was the real star of the movie.
Best job perk
Not having to wear a tie and working with animals.
One thing people would be surprised to learn
How little I am paid. But, like everyone in the arts, the paycheck is not why I do what I do.
Most outrageous anecdote
Losing my pants when presenting Flora at Caesar’s Palace, and having shared a girlfriend with the legendary Harold Pinter in 1968 while he was directing “The Man in the Glass Booth” for me on Broadway.
Goals for the future
More circus touring, more circus shows, more collaboration with symphony orchestras…more, more, more
Photo credit: Attilio D’Agostino