New Orleans’ Big Top offers an early, family-friendly Fourth

CIRCUS ARTS

When Adele Borie, Kirah Haubrich and Tracy Kennan founded their New Orleans arts organization in May 1999, they came up with a name that proved prophetic.

Because there were three of them, they called it 3 Ring Circus. And, like a circus, it has evolved to offer myriad entertainment options under a single roof.

Appropriately enough, that single roof at 1638 Clio St., two blocks uptown from Lee Circle, became known as “The Big Top.”

After 14 years of art exhibits, live musical and theatrical performances, independent films and classes for children and adults, The Big Top has become a mecca for arts aficionados and an incubator for emerging talent.

With the conviction that art is for people of all ages, the Big Top also offers family-friendly live music events. Coming up, the “Olde-Fashioned Pre-Fourth of July Indoor Picnic,” Saturday at 2 p.m., features the music of the Invincible Czars from Austin, Texas.

The indoor event at The Big Top is free; tips and donations are encouraged.

Attendees are encouraged to wear costumes and bring hula hoops, picnic baskets, blankets “and other fun, summery stuff.”

Prizes will be awarded for the best-dressed old-fashioned girl, boy and adult.

But the highlight of the day, in addition to displays of American patriotism, will be the Invincible Czars’ performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

The Invincible Czars released their rock rendition of the 1812 Overture last year for the bicentennial of the event that inspired it: Napoleon’s defeat at Borodino by the Russian army in 1812. This year, the band will keep that tradition and add instrumental material from their recent silent film projects, as well as compositions by Sousa, Ravel, Mussorgsky and the experimental rock band Ween.

Mindy Rayburn, The Big Top’s new manager, explained that the family-friendly shindigs were born during the 2012 holiday season at an event organizers called “Napoleon’s Picnic.” The Invincible Czars played music ranging from rock to classical, and a dancer was on hand to teach “Nutcracker-style” ballet.

“It was so much fun ... we wanted to do something like it again,” Rayburn said. “The Fourth of July just seemed such a great opportunity for it.”

This summer The Big Top also offers a dozen six-week workshops for children ages 6-10, in art, dance, poetry, origami and more.

In the songwriting workshop, “They get to write their own rock operas, build their own sets and perform in the sets that they’ve built,” Rayburn said. “It’s so much fun watching it evolve from nothing to something special, and then seeing them perform for their parents at the end of the camp.”

The dates for the camp are July 8-Aug. 16, five days a week; registration is still open.

In addition, The Big Top features monthly art exhibits on its walls, with traditional first Saturday of the month opening nights.

July’s show will be an exhibition of works by members of the Krewe of Chewbacchus, which stages a downtown walking parade before Mardi Gras with handmade costumes and throws.

The relatively new sci-fi-oriented Carnival krewe started at The Big Top and is headed by one of the three founders, Kirah Haubrich.

The art show opens July 13 and runs through the first Saturday in August.