Off the air: ‘Orbiting Circus’ podcast lands on a Greenpoint stage

Hopeless dreamer: Julian Koster plays a hapless janitor who sometimes meets strange musical animals in the surreal podcast “The Orbiting Human Circus,” which will have a live show in Greenpoint on June 4.
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He’s got a show that’s out of this world.

A hapless Parisian janitor will bring his surreal comic adventures to Greenpoint next month, in a live staging of the bizarre podcast “The Orbiting Human Circus.” The show, playing at the Brooklyn Bazaar on June 4, will whisk the audience into an ethereal realm that leaves mundane troubles behind, said its creator.

“It’s always been very special to me to create these worlds for people to get completely lost in,” said Julian Koster, who writes, stars in, and plays music for the show. “I think this is sort of like a secret hideaway for me and gives people another place to escape and have an adventure.”

The podcast uses a sound collage of narration, dialogue, songs, and ambient noise to tell the story of Julian, the quirky custodian of the Eiffel Tower. Julian, infatuated with a popular radio show that broadcasts from the top of the French landmark, stumbles into an escalating series of backstage shenanigans, all narrated by an imaginary, argumentative carnival barker.

The show exists outside of time, in a world that simultaneously suggests the 1930s and the present. To evoke that feeling, Koster’s band the Music Tapes records otherworldly music using vintage and modern techniques, including 1930s-era wire recording, a tape machine from the ’60s, and computer programs for a sound all its own.

“It kind of feels like it’s coming out of the past and the future at the same time,” said Koster.

The result is a music-theater-radio mash-up that is perfect for a podcast audience, which has an appetite for the unexpected, said Koster.

“There’s such opportunity to create something brand new with podcasts,” he said. “And the audience is so adventurous right now and it’s so direct — there’s nothing between them and the art.”

The Greenpoint performance will adapt the show to feature the janitor sweeping the after-hours Brooklyn Bazaar. Viewers will be thrown into the character’s imaginary world, in an evening that translates the podcast and its previously audio-only elements into physical form.

“I’m all about creating the architecture of a special night,” said Koster. “With the live shows we wanted to create a moment in time — and you don’t have to listen to the podcast to go — I want people to have a really special and unusual time.”

“The Orbiting Human Circus” at Brooklyn Bazaar (150 Greenpoint Ave. between Manhattan Avenue and Franklin Street in Greenpoint, June 4 at 9 pm. $20 ($18 in advance).

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.
Updated 5:58 pm, July 9, 2018
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