Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

Richard Dalton, a member of Stilt Circus, towers above the Los Angeles skyline while entertaining the crowd at Edward Sharpe's Big Top festival at Los Angeles State Historic Park.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Spencer Bakalar / Los Angeles Times

Jacqueline Suskin of Poem Store waits for festivalgoers to approach. Suskin, who writes short poems on request, was one of the many vendors and performers featured outside the big top.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Spencer Bakalar / Los Angeles Times

Peering down from above, Brady Spindel of Cirque Berzerk walks around the big top on stilts, entertaining the crowd before a performance at Edward Sharpe's Big Top festival.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Spencer Bakalar / Los Angeles Times

SuzE Q of Cirque Berzerk dances high above the crowd at Edward Sharpe's Big Top festival, held at Los Angeles State Historic Park.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Spencer Bakalar / Los Angeles Times

Christopher Wonder, ring master of Edward Sharpe's Big Top festival, takes his time with each safety pin, getting ready to take the stage under the big top.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Spencer Bakalar / Los Angeles Times

Alex Ebert, left, and Mark Noseworthy of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, finish a Big Top festival performance at Los Angeles State Historic Park. The idea for the festival originated in August, after the performers sought to create a more intimate and interactive way of touring.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Spencer Bakalar / Los Angeles Times

Christopher Wonder performs magic tricks with audience members during the family matinee of the Edward Sharpe Big Top festival.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Spencer Bakalar / Los Angeles Times

Audience members look on as Torque Method, an acrobatic performance group, dives across the stage during Edward Sharpe's Big Top festival.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Spencer Bakalar / Los Angeles Times

Lauren Machanis, left, and Whitney Hentzen, right, get their tarot cards read for the first time by Joe Daddy "Gypsy Fortune Truthsayer" at Edward Sharpe's Big Top festival. Machanis and Hentzen, both longtime fans of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, knew they wanted to come to the festival as soon as the band announced the idea in August.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Spencer Bakalar / Los Angeles Times

Linda Borini, a member of the Lucent Dossier Experience, stretches before the start of a performance.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Spencer Bakalar / Los Angeles Times

Hillel, a.k.a. Mr. Balloon Man, makes an appearance during the family matinee portion of the festival.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Spencer Bakalar / Los Angeles Times

Parents and children dance during the final song of the Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros performance at Los Angeles State Historic Park.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Spencer Bakalar / Los Angeles Times

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Stepping back in time under the big top

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Stepping back in time under the big top

By Spencer Bakalar

Kicking up dust with every step through the wood shavings, you make a colorful cloud that rises and twirls above the stadium seats, first blue, then purple, then pink. You look down at the ground so you don’t trip in the darkness only to find stilts walking toward you instead of feet. The call of the cotton candy vendors is masked only by the laughter of the audience after the ring master pulls a chicken out of a pot on stage. You walk toward the tent door and pass acrobats in sparkly outfits, stretching and practicing before they hit the stage lights.

Lifting the tent flap, you suddenly see the Los Angeles skyline on the horizon and are reminded that you’re not in the Midwest in the 19th century and the circus hasn’t come to town. You’re in downtown Los Angeles, present day, in Los Angeles State Historic Park and instead, Edward Sharpe’s Big Top festival has come to town.

The idea for the festival originated after Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros wanted to create a new, more intimate and interactive way of engaging with audiences. Running from Oct. 17 to 20, the festival featured a farmers market, interactive performance artists, vaudeville comedians, acrobats, contortionists and puppeteers. Each day culminated in a performance by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros under the big top.

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