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Taming a Raucous Circus

Spiegeltent goes multigenerational.


When the European producers of Spiegeltent set out to bring their Moulin Rouge–style festivities to Manhattan, they were savvy enough to add a kids’ component—a new angle for this century-old institution that traditionally centers around beer and burlesque, and whose acts have included Marlene Dietrich. (Despite that newfound wholesomeness, the giant tent itself nearly didn’t make it into the U.S., says Tommy Kriegsmann, Spiegeltent’s director of programs: Customs required that every crate be X-rayed.) Now reconstructed at the South Street Seaport, the teak-and-mirror structure (Spiegel is German for "mirror") opened on August 3 with such acts as a Lenny Bruce impersonator and Lypsinka performing an ode to Joan Crawford. But about that family fare: Kriegsmann and Bronx-born storyteller David Gonzalez have joined forces to find local performers for the venue’s morning "Funhouse." One particular standout, Allynn Gooen, fills the stage with props and backdrops all made from balloons and invites kids from the audience to become characters in his narrated tales. Theatre Sports, an audience-participation improv group, brings teams onstage to compete in the spirit of Whose Line Is It Anyway? Now that Spiegeltent has made it here, Kriegsmann hopes to keep it in the country for a while. "Having to bring it back into the U.S. would be an event unto itself that we’re not eager to pursue again," he says, laughing, adding that he’d like to make Manhattan an annual summertime stopover for the venue. "We thought about building a new tent, but we wanted the grandma."

Wednesdays and Saturdays, 8/9–8/30, at 10 a.m. and noon; South Street Seaport, outside the former Fulton Fish Market (212-279-4200 or; $10.


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