The juggling community as a whole knows Thom Wall as “the Vaudeville Sensation.” But more and more people are discovering this Cirque du Soleil alum is also the catalyst of a publishing sensation called Modern Vaudeville Press (MVP.) The company is dedicated to scholarly books about the circus and variety arts. Wall is the founder of the company and works with a group of academics supporting this endeavor – perhaps evidence of his own academic background and belief in rigorous scholarship and peer review.
Though the company is young, MVP has already published three successful books. Here is a brief review of each of them-
This is MVP’s “flagship” title. Written by Wall, Antiquity sets the stage for the vision of the company-bringing to life books that are educational and entertaining. This book is the result of two and a half years of research and writing. The eBook version won “Best Nonfiction title of 2019″ by the Next Generation Indie Books, the largest nonprofit publishing organization in the world.
The book takes even casual readers on an exciting journey through the history of juggling across time and cultures starting with Ancient Egypt. The book spans many countries and time period.
Here are just 3 examples of juggling history I was made aware of:
In the Chapter ” The British Isles” I learned that jugglers were denied communion.
The chapter ” Ancient Greece” informs us of a female dancer who flung 12 hoops in the air with Socrates in the audience.
In The chapter ” Turkey” I learned during the Byzantine Empire under the rule of the Roman Marcus Aurelius from 161-190 CE, had coinage featuring jugglers.
This scholarly work is comprehensive and fun to read. Unlike other books about juggling history that fall short on the academic barometer there are 25 pages of works cited making this THE resource on the subject. Within a month of publication two PHD dissertations used this as central reference material. Enough can’t be said how enjoyable the read is as you are learning more than you ever knew existed about juggling’s past.
Juggling- Or How to Become a Juggler by Rupert Ingalese with annotations by Thom Wall
This title, which was first published in 1921, is old enough to be in public domain. Though the body text can be found online for free, hard copies of the original are often sold for over $150 online. Rather than simply churning out a facsimile of the original, MVP has added annotations which both highlight the information as it was used at the turn of the century in Britain and also bring a modern examination of how it is relevant to jugglers of today. MVP recognized this was a vibrant way to bring this work back to life and give the book the honor and respect it deserves.
I have read this annotated version many times. You can just open the book anywhere and immerse yourself in the information. Kind of like you have a time machine and are making the best use of it from a jugglers point of view.
Body Talk- Basic Mime by Mario Diamond
This is the third and most recent title published by MVP and the first to place its attention on a different variety art other than juggling.
Mario Diamond is a famous and a revered mime and physical comedian. If you’ve never heard of him well that’s one of the reasons MVP chose to publish this title. There are many photos and less text than you might expect. But anyone who has an interest in using their body in an expressive way will gleam much from this tome. And your preconceived notion of what a Mime is will be refined.
Modern Vaudeville Press has more titles on the horizon including “how to” guides on plate spinning, toss juggling, a Spanish language edition of Antiquity and an academic text on sideshow history.
Modern Vaudeville Press is changing the game – they are setting a new standard for circademics around the world. Committed to writing entertaining books that don’t sacrifice academic scrutiny. Wall and his team are the new face of nonfiction in our artform and the most powerful legitimizing force for juggling as contemporary circus continues to grow in popularity
MVP welcomes proposals from the community but has high standards and are selective in what they publish. If you’re interested in learning more about the company, submissions, and their catalogue, head to www.modernvaudevillepress.com
Richard Kennison is a juggling book collector and a juggling coach. This past IJA all three categories in the stage competition were won by acts he coached. FB page – Juggling Coach Richard