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Performers Biographies

KAREN GERSCH’s love of circus and art began as a child, inspired by the small tented shows that passed through the rural areas of her home in Rockland County, N.Y. She won a fine arts scholarship to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn when she was 16. Minoring in theatre, she pioneered the school's first Independent Study Program in order to learn mime and juggling. A prolific artist, she received a BFA with Honors from Pratt in 1973. She then studied ballet with Diana Byer of New York Theatre Ballet, and circus arts with Moscow Circus acrobat Nina Krasavina.

In the late 70's, Karen was the first Producing Clown of Great Adventures Amusement Park and a solo performer for the private parties Warner Bros. Records threw their recording artists. A founding member of both the Big Apple Circus and Vermont's Circus Smirkus, she has toured with one-ring & three-ring circus shows throughout the U.S., Canada and France. For 7 years - at the height of Jim Henson's award-winning HBO show "Fragglerock"- she played "Merkle," an acrobatic Fraggle, in promotional appearances around the country.

In 1981, Karen co-founded (with partner Niki Swarthout) ACROBRATS, Inc., a non-profit physical arts theatre company specializing in educational and family shows. For the past 32 years, ACROBRATS has developed a myriad of successful programs for young people's concerts with philharmonic orchestras, medieval festivals, ballet and theatre productions, theatre festivals around the world, as well as library and school assemblies across the country. ACROBRATS has appeared in film, television shows and MTV music videos. Karen has been the feature of a documentary film for Japanese television and appeared in several PBS specials.

In addition to Acrobrats, Karen has been the Artistic Director and Ringmistress of the acclaimed Circus/Vaudeville series: "CIRCUSundays" and "Showboat Shazzam!", that ran for sixteen years aboard Brooklyn's popular Waterfront Museum in Red Hook.

 

CARLO PELLEGRINI was born and raised in California. He began his circus career with the Royal Lichtenstein Circus, receiving college credits and an education beyond any classroom. His diverse skills have earned him performances for the Shah of Iran, the Queen of Siam, and for elementary school children in Appalachia.

As a professional dancer, he toured the world for many years with Nikolais Dance Theatre, then returned to New York to appear in numberous TV commercials and movies. He joined the Big Apple Circus in the early 80's, where he served as both Ringmaster and White Clown. An accomplished actor, author, and voice-over artist, Carlo was, for six consecutive years, the Emcee of "Enjoy Japan: Festival of the Arts" series at Carnegie Hall. For thirteen years, he was also a sales and marketing manager and vice-president of an advertising agency in NYC. He launched his own company, "The Juggling MATRIX," as a means to help corporations improve their organizational skills. He is now a professional speaker and performance consultant who designs and facilitates executive development seminars and team-building programs for corporate events throughout the United States.

Carlo is also the Artistic & Executive Director of "Amazing Grace CIRCUS!," the only year-round, all-youth circus troupe in the tri-state area. Founded in 2001 as a unique means of giving back to the community after the tragedy of 9/11 , the company serves over 4,000 children and youth each year, including performances for St. John the Divine Cathedral in NYC, Riverspace Arts Center in Nyack, and numerous in-school programs. Its graduates have gone on to continue their artistic studies at the National Circus School of Montreal, The Circus School of Quebec, San Francisco's Circus Arts Center, and the Performing Arts Program at Hunter College.

Carlo has been an integral part of ACROBRATS, Inc. since its inception.