Before his show on Friday afternoon, Roby Gasser took time from his busy schedule to answer some questions about Conelli, his job as director, his artists and his new program “East meets West”.
A few days after the Première on the Bauschänzli island in Zurich, Roby Gasser was happy about the performance and how it went. The guests were delighted.
Vivamost: How many people work here at Conelli?
Roby Gasser: 145 this year, 130 last year, we always have about the same number.
Vivamost: How long did it take to have the tent ready?
Roby Gasser: It took six days. It was complicated because of the trees and the space is narrow. Trucks had to come and leave. Normally to set up a circus tent it takes two days. Sometimes we finish at 12:00 p.m., other days at 6:00 p:m. Every day a task has to be done and we can’t continue the next day unless it is finished.
Vivamost: You are since 2008 Director of Conelli, how did it change your life?Roby Gasser: more work and more responsibilities (he laughs)
Vivamost: What was your work before that?
Roby Gasser: I worked in the manège with sea lions until 1995. Then I did some work with the lights. The last three years before I became director, I did some work in management and production. My father was taking care of my mother, who was sick, so I slowly took more responsibilities. I worked with my father on the program.
Vivamost: How many people are responsible for the program?
Roby Gasser: I, but when I am not sure of something I ask my wife or the people in the office. It is always nice to hear others reactions and to have someone to go to when I am not so sure.
Vivamost: What is more stressful preparing the program or the shows and the galas?
Roby Gasser: It is about the same. Preparing the program is not easy. We have shows with no breaks. We have to find the artists, travel. There are three days of rehearsals. During the shows, I meet the guests and greet them on the way out…
Vivamost: How did you come up with this year’s title “East meets West”?
Roby Gasser: A part of the artists is from the East and the other part from the West. Almost fifty fifty. We have 27 Chinese here at Conelli. It is the first time in Switzerland that we had so many Chinese in a circus at once.
Vivamost: When and where did you find the artists of your actual show?
Roby Gasser: Some we got three years ago. We went to festivals, circus of Monaco, Paris, Moscow, Budapest and to China. We looked at DVDs, you Tube videos and there is also circus agencies. We receive everyday at least one DVD, but there is only 10% we can use for the type of circus we offer.
Vivamost: Are there any artists which come back every year?
Roby Gasser: No, they are all new. Every ten years we have the “Best Of”.
Vivamost: What do people like about your shows?
Roby Gasser: the intimate atmosphere. What’s important is that people say when they leave “the show was good, it was again a good show”. It has to be the entire packet, not only one act, it would mean something is not working well.
Vivamost: How does Conelli differentiate from the other Christmas shows? Is that more difficult than in the past?
Roby Gasser: it is a Christmas circus, we come only for the holidays for six weeks. Some say than “when the stars of Conelli shine, Christmas is here”. It is important to find the artists early. There are so many circuses in Germany. I already reserved almost all the artists for next year. When my father started in 1982, he could get the artists and chairs and tables rented all in three months. Now this is impossible.
Vivamost: Next year is your 30th Jubilee, are you planing something special?
Roby Gasser: We will have our “Best Of” from the last 1o years.
Vivamost: How long do you still want to stay on the Bauschänzli island?
Roby Gasser: So long we can stay here and the people keep on coming. In 2015 the rent is up, but I am pretty sure we can renew the rent for ten years. (He appears confident). Conelli practically belongs to Zurich.
Vivamost: How would you describe your life in three words?
Roby Gasser: interesting – never boring!
After the interview, Roby Gasser went to get dressed to meet his guests. The first ones started arriving 45 minutes before the beginning of the 2:30 p.m show.
When Roby Gasser is not in Zurich working at Conelli’s circus, you can find him in Connyland in Lipperswil, managing the business.